The Metaverse: Responsible Innovation?

Ferran Argelaguet will be present at the Digital Tech Conference, which will take place on Tuesday 6 December in Rennes. He will be one of the conference’s presenters: ” The metaverse, (ir)responsible innovation? which will address the main issues surrounding this new technology.

Ferran ARGELAGUET, Inria researcher

Dr. Ferran Argelaguet is part of the Hybrid team at Inria, recognized worldwide in the scientific field of virtual reality. His primary research interests are the improvement and evaluation of user experience in virtual reality.

The metaverse is still a fuzzy concept to many people. What is your definition of the metaverse?

The definition of metaverse is complex, as there is no single metaverse, so the definition can vary depending on its purpose and context. There are a number of necessary elements for any given metaverse:

  • First of all, a metaverse can be thought of as a virtual collaboration, a place where people can meet and interact with each other,
  • Second, the metaverse must be experienced by being immersed in a virtual 3D environment, an environment that can be experienced through immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality,
  • Finally, the metaverse must be persistent, users must be able to shape it and make it evolve over time.

The metaverse is often criticized. But can it be a responsible innovation for society? For which areas?

As previously mentioned, the number of metaverses is potentially infinite, and each can serve different purposes. Metavers can be a new step in improving communication and collaboration between citizens and professionals and have a potential impact in a wide range of areas.

For example, current video conferencing tools, while offering a good solution for a limited number of participants, discourage two-way exchange between participants and the perception of other participants is limited. On the other hand, immersive technologies that allow remote users to share a virtual space in 3D could enhance these exchanges.

Another area that could greatly benefit from the features offered by metaverses is the cultural and artistic field. Although we are still far from recreating a completely realistic experience, metaverses could allow users to collectively experience distant places and worlds and express themselves through new forms of art.

Do you have examples of innovative services that could appear in the metaverse?

It is difficult to predict which solution will radiate into the metaverse. Still, I think telepresence could be one of the great things about the metaverse. Being able to meet and chat virtually with distant colleagues or family members could be just the beginning.

Immersive technologies allow participants to feel present with others, which can create the illusion that you are physically sharing the space with others.

More advanced metaverses could also be used not only to chat with family and colleagues, but also to allow the exploration of complex information. In the same way that we can share our desktop screen during a conference call, we will be able to share 3D data and explore it with the other members of the meeting. This can have many applications in data science, architectural reviews, or training.

On the other hand, what are the main risks associated with virtual environments? Why are many people still wary of this technology?

The risks associated with the metaverse are not very different from the risks we already face with other technologies. Privacy exposure and harassment are already risks in real life and today’s social networks. Moreover, the metaverse is also connected with another controversial technology like blockchain and NFTs. This further increases the distrust of these virtual worlds. Nevertheless, some metaverses may raise potential new issues that will require specific regulations, such as data and intellectual property protection.

What do you think will be the biggest challenges for brands to successfully launch in the metaverse?

I believe that the success of a metaverse will be linked to its ability to provide a high value-added service. The main problem from my point of view is that the currently available metaverses do not respond to a market demand, they provide a supply while waiting for the creation of the demand. Market research is needed to better understand how metaverse can be a game changer.

According to a study by McKinsey, the metaverse market could represent up to $5 billion by 2030. What are your thoughts on these forecasts?

I believe that the adoption of immersive technologies will increase, but the economic success of these technologies will only be possible if they meet the real demand, and not all metaverses will succeed. Nevertheless, given the rapid development and growth of immersive technologies, I expect some of these metaverses to be.

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