We’re sure that you’ve heard of the ‘Metaverse’ by now. Of late, this word seems to crop up everywhere you go - whether you’re online or in the real world. But if the reports about the nature of the Metaverse are true, then it is all set to blur the boundaries between virtual and physical reality like never before.
What exactly is the Metaverse, and how does it work? More importantly, will it have real consequences for our well-being? Let’s answer these questions today.
What Does Metaverse Mean?
While the global buzz around the Metaverse is relatively new, the word itself and its building blocks have existed for decades. The word was coined by American sci-fi author Neal Stephenson and it first appeared in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash. The closest depiction of the Metaverse can be seen in the virtual community game ‘Second Life’ and the 2011 book ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline (which was adapted into a movie in 2018).
Although the Metaverse is a complex term whose true meaning is still evolving, here’s an overall gist: The Metaverse is an interconnected 3D virtual network that serves as a parallel reality to the physical world. Unlike a video game, the virtual Metaverse world will continue to exist even when you’re not ‘playing’.
From what we know so far, the Metaverse will be developed as a simulated reality where people from across the world can exist as their ‘avatars’. Once you enter this world, you will be able to interact with people who are not in the same physical space as you are. Furthermore, you will be able to conduct your personal, social and professional activities - just like in the real world.
While several technologies needed to truly develop the Metaverse don’t exist today, it is said that it might become a ‘reality’ for us within the decade.
How The Metaverse Works: Will It Change How We Live?
While announcing the change of his company’s name from ‘Facebook’ to ‘Meta’, Mark Zuckerberg shared that he envisions the Metaverse as an “embodiment internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it”.
He further goes on to say that he intends the Metaverse to replace physical items with virtual objects. So instead of watching a movie on a physical TV in your home, you will do it on a ‘virtual TV’ inside a house that you bought within the Metaverse.
As you can already see, the Metaverse is being developed as a complete alternate reality that people can plug themselves into all-day long. As this technology grows and rolls out at a wider scale, we could see the setup of virtual offices, colleges, parks, shopping malls, theatres, concert venues and more in the Metaverse.
We hope that participating in the Metaverse will remain a matter of choice. However, if all the important leisure, commercial and social activities migrate to this network, then there is potential for it to turn into the next ‘reality’ where people may have no choice but to join.
What Tech Will Power the Metaverse?
As you may already realize, the development and continuation of the Metaverse will require gargantuan processing power and faster-than-ever data speed. We shared how future cellular technologies are being designed to support these processing speeds in our blog about the 6G network. As a result, the Metaverse will be potentially driven by ultra-low latency technologies like 6G (and/or its successors) that can transmit data at near-instantaneous speeds.
The use of haptic technology and augmented reality products like AR headsets, gesture devices, body sensors and gloves will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the real-time 3D environments of the Metaverse. You will be able to meet friends, join meetings, buy and sell goods and services, attend school, participate in events, go to virtual doctor appointments and own property - all in the virtual world.
What Are The Potential Health Risks of The Metaverse?
Although there’s so much conversation around this virtual world, hardly anyone seems to be asking a crucial question - how will the Metaverse impact our overall well-being?
Just two decades ago, children were warned against sitting too close to the TV, as it may affect their health. But to interface with the Metaverse, we will be asked to wear wireless AR headsets, body sensors, gloves and other devices on our bodies for extended periods of time - eliminating any physical distance between us and radiation-emitting devices.
As we find out more and more about how EMF radiation affects our physical and mental health, it is only logical to conclude that wearing these wireless gadgets will expose our bodies to unprecedented levels of wireless radiation.
Scientific studies are already demonstrating that being in contact with wireless devices for long periods of time can negatively affect our sleep patterns, gut microbiome, and skin health (to say the least). Imbalanced manmade radiation has also been seen to cause a variety of mental health effects like increased depression, anxiety and stress levels.
There are already talks of setting up virtual ‘classrooms’ in the Metaverse, but we have to wonder - is this good news? There’s scientific evidence that younger children and teens are more sensitive to the effects of EMF radiation. If children are set to spend several hours every day attending school with their AR headsets on will this increase the risk to their well-being even more?
And we are still only talking about the potential radiation-related health effects of the Metaverse. Human beings have evolved over millions of years to be fundamentally physical beings. We require physical interaction with fellow humans and Mother Nature to enjoy good physical and mental health. Children gain crucial motor skills, as well as cognitive, physical and emotional development via physical interaction and stimulation.
By divorcing our physical bodies from real interaction with the natural world that surrounds us, the Metaverse can have untold consequences for our physical, mental and emotional health. Instead, it wants us to trade our physical lives for a virtual existence - and this is something that evolution has not prepared us for.
How the Metaverse will pan out in the coming years is something we have to wait to find out. However, we don’t have to wait to contemplate its impact on how we live and our well-being.
It is important that we stay vigilant and raise awareness of the potentially unsavoury effects of a new virtual reality. Hopefully, it will put pressure on technology companies and governments to do the requisite research and investigations before approving its wide-scale rollout.
References and Interesting Reads:
- Founder's Letter, 2021 | Meta
- What Is the Metaverse, Exactly?
- How Does EMF Radiation Exposure Affect Our Skin? A Closer Look
- Does EMF Radiation Affect Our Gut Health?
- The effect of chronic exposure to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields on sleep quality, stress, depression and anxiety
- Psychological effects of chronic exposure to 50 Hz magnetic fields in humans living near extra-high-voltage transmission lines
- The health implications of Earthing for the human body
- Educating in the Metaverse: Are virtual reality classrooms the future of education?
- Why Are Kids More Sensitive to Wireless Radiation?
- The Importance of Human Interaction