Following the announcement that Facebook’s parent company was rebranding in a Metaverse conversion, many projects have launched similar initiatives to immerse themselves in virtual space, from buying real estate to testing the limits of what this universe has to offer has.
Digital cities: Santa Monica and Seoul
The downtown Santa Monica neighborhood, west of Los Angeles, was one of the first real-world areas where users could access the Metaverse through the FlickPlay application. Branded with the Metaverse, roaming the neighborhood seems like a limited augmented reality experience rather than a virtual one, where people collect Pokémon GO-style digital tokens.
Instead, Seoul’s entry into the Metaverse is expected to be a 100% virtual environment once it goes live in early 2023 for business, culture, education and civil lawsuits. In addition, the Korean capital planned to create virtual versions of its main tourist attractions and hold festivals in the Metaverse.
Does Meta have a “women problem”?
After launching Horizon Worlds, the virtual reality game, and Meta’s online community platform – before Facebook – at least one user reported that the virtual environment allowed sexual harassment. In a December 16 MIT Technology Review report, one of Horizon’s beta testers said that her avatar had been tampered with by a stranger. While there is a function that can enclose an avatar in a protective bubble to seemingly stop such an attack, the user was not able to activate it in time or was not aware of it.
“After all, the nature of virtual reality rooms is designed to trick the user into believing that they are physically in a particular room, that all of their physical actions take place in a 3D environment,” says Katherine Cross, an online bullying agency Researcher at the University of Washington. “It’s one of the reasons that emotional responses can be strongest in this area, and why VR triggers the same internal nervous system and psychological responses.”
In November, another woman reported that her Metaverse personality had been attacked, this time without the use of avatars and with what appeared to be a more real impact on her business. When Facebook changed its name to Meta, the Australian artist Thea-Mai Baumann reported that her Instagram account had been blocked. Your name? “Metaverse”.
Given that Meta owns Instagram and Baumann’s account was relatively small – fewer than 1,000 followers at the time – many on social media suspected that the company would simply confiscate his account instead of buying it. In the end, she was banned for over a month without being able to verify her identity before Instagram gave her access again.
“This report is a decade of my life and my work. I didn’t want my contribution to the Metaverse to be removed from the Internet,” said Baumann. “It happens to women in technology, women of color in technology, all the time.”
Companies become meta
On December 10th, Chinese internet giant Baidu announced its plans to launch its own metaverse called XiRang, a universe that can handle contributions from 100,000 users and where a conference for AI developers is also planned. The Baidu Create conference is expected to take place on December 27th.
The products of the sportswear and shoe manufacturer Nike will officially go virtual this week after the takeover of the virtual sneaker and collector’s brand RTFKT. RTFKT, describing itself as “fully metaverse,” is likely to help Nike advance its own “just do it” plans.
Facebook whistleblower warns of Metaverse
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, who posted thousands of documents suggesting the company did not do what it said it was supposed to to remove hate speech and violent posts, expressed concern about the metaverse. In a December 16 newsletter published by Time Magazine, Haugen said she was “very afraid” of the potential risks of the virtual world for surveillance, socialization, etc .:
“When you enter the metaverse, your avatar is a little nicer or prettier than you are. He has better clothes than he really is. The apartment is more elegant, quieter teeth at the end of the night. And maybe you don’t like yourself that much in the mirror. This cycle … or body, which is not so nice, and say, ‘I’d rather have my headphones on.’