The Metaverse: Responsible Innovation?

Ferran Argelaguet will be present at Digital Technology Conference which will take place on Tuesday 6 December in Rennes. He will be one of the conference speakers: Metaverse, (ir)responsible innovation? which will address key issues surrounding this new technology.

Ferran ARGELAGUET, associate of Inria

Dr. Ferran Argelaguet is part of the Hybrid team atEnvy which is known worldwide in the scientific field of virtual reality. His main research interests are the improvement and evaluation of user experience in virtual reality.

The Metaverse is still a vague concept to many. What is your definition of the metaverse?

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

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

Metaverses are often criticized. However, can it be a socially responsible innovation? For which areas?

As stated earlier, the number of metaverses is potentially infinite, and each of them can serve different purposes. Metaverses can be a new step in improving communication and collaboration between citizens and professionals and have a potential impact in a large number of fields.

For example, current videoconferencing tools, although they provide a good solution for a limited number of participants, discourage two-way exchanges between participants and the perception of other participants is limited. On the other hand, immersive technologies, which allow remote users to share a virtual space in 3D, can enhance these exchanges.

Another field that can greatly benefit from the features that metaverses offer is the cultural and artistic field. Although we are still far from recreating a fully realistic experience, metaverses can allow users to cooperatively experience distant places and worlds and express themselves through new art forms.

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. However, I think telepresence might be one of the best things about the metaverse. Being able to meet and chat virtually with distant colleagues or family members can 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 can 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 other meeting members. 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 so many people still wary of this technology?

The risks associated with metaverses are not much different from the risks we already face with other technologies. Privacy exposure and harassment are already risks in real life and on today’s social networks. In addition, the metaverse is also related to another controversial technology such as blockchain and NFT. This further increases distrust towards these virtual worlds. However, some metaverses may raise potential new issues that will require specific regulations, such as data and intellectual property protection.

In your opinion, what will be the main challenges for brands to successfully launch into the metaverse?

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

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

I think the adoption of immersive technologies will increase, however, the economic success of these technologies will only be possible if they meet real demand and not all metaverses will be successful. However, given the rapid development and growth of immersive technologies, I expect some of these metaverses to be.

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