Is a responsible metaverse possible?

What positive impacts on the metaverse? Credit: iStock.

Will we all be metaverse users in 20 years? For firm McKinsey, the technology could have a bright future ahead, as it estimates the potential market at $5,000 billion by 2030, or 1.7 times the GDP of France.

We still have to convince the citizens, who are reluctant to use the metaverse. According to a study by the agency iligo, 62% of the French do not see the point of the virtual world.

A criticized technology

Reviled for its environmental and health risks, the technology must now prove its potential utility to society. To do this, Simplon organized on October 12 a morning #Metavers Responsible, is intended as the start of an approach that will lead, after a call for contributions, to a return in 2023.

As a reminder, the metaverse is a virtual world. It would be the future of the Internet, designed around virtual spaces that can be used in 2D or thanks to augmented reality devices.

A reduction in travel?

The event ended on possible positive impacts on the environment, especially through professional use. For Alexandre Bouchet, director of Clarté, one of the pioneers of professional virtual reality in France, this technology can make it possible to avoid a certain number of polluting trips.

Thanks to the framework proposed by the metaverse, these paths would become redundant:

If, as a company, I save the travel of my employees to go to a meeting or a project review, if I avoid doing a Paris-New York to go to a trade show, if I avoid altogether that many students I have to travel every day to take the lessons, I save much more than the production and consumption of my diving equipment,” he says.

Metaverse would allow eco-design

Another interest is the eco-design of products. Carole Davies-Filleur, Executive Director, Head of Sustainability and Technology Activities at Accenture, sees benefits in the potential development of digital twins. They are digital representations of real-world entities in the digital environment. It allows dematerialized testing of products such as cars, with the physical laws of reality.

Metaverse, according to Carole Daviez-Filleur, by allowing the development of these digital twins, can reduce the consumption of raw materials: “If through digital twins, we can do without some testing phases in the physical world, it can have a positive value” , she explained. However, she shows that she is moderate when it comes to the use of the metaverse and considers that it should respond to real issues.

Excessive energy consumption

Faced with climate issues, some are more reluctant. Hugues Ferreboeuf, project manager at Project Shift, specializing in digital, is cautious to say the least on the environmental footprint of a generalization of the metaverse : “Today’s digital dynamics cannot be reconciled with the environmental and energy constraints that we will have and that we are beginning to encounter. Any initiative that leads to maintaining or increasing this dynamic is not sustainable”, he said.

Towards the inclusion of all?

The event was also an opportunity to see opportunities for technology inclusion. This may allow, according to Philippe Cassoulat of the Observatory metaverses, to give more access to art and culture. He cites an art gallery created by Sotheby’s on the virtual reality platform Decentraland. Objective: bringing art closer to young people.

“There are really virtuous uses that will probably lead a population to rediscover some things, to have a rather significant power over education and art,” Philippe Cassoulat rejoiced.

Another aspect, the metaverse can improve the inclusion of people with disabilities. Jamshid Kohandel, project manager at the Inter-ministerial Directorate for the State Digital Information and Communication System (DINUM), blind since birth, recalls his journey: “I discovered in digital the way to overcome, to bypass the handicap and it is in this objective that I directed myself towards digital. »

It is still necessary to design products, and in particular metaverses, so that they are as accessible as possible:

Now is the time to involve people with disabilities in testing equipment and adapting it,” he warned.

Harassment, terrorism… Dangers very present

Conversely, Shani Benoualid, Advisor for Digital and Social Networks at the Interministerial Delegation for the Fight Against Racism, Anti-Semitism and Anti-LGBT Hate, pointed out a number of risks of abuse. She already identifies the danger of cyberbullying: “There are already all these women testifying that they have been cyberbullied in the metaverse, some think they have been raped, and there is a significant legal vacuum around this.” Shani Benoualid also points the finger the risk of cyber terrorism : “It is the possibility of meeting, recruiting and maybe testing, targeting countries”.

Theo Nepivoda

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