In the series of open seminars “Innovation and Society” organized by the Society Pole of the National Family and Society Service of CEF, on December 2, 2022 a meeting-debate on the news and challenges of the metaverse(s) took place. .
A fundamental question about the future of digital technology for some, including Meta (Facebook), a chimera and critical object for others, already familiar with the first achievements, what about this new technological phase that has been the subject of last October of one in-depth report to the French government?
The two speakers, Serge Soudoplatoff and Dominique Boullier, presented their analysis of the technical, anthropological and social issues and issues related to these “new virtual universes”.
Serge Soudoplatoff, graduated from the polytechnic school, he started his career in the field of image analysis and automatic speech recognition. He headed the research center at Capgemini, before becoming director of innovation at France Telecom. He then participated in the creation of several start-ups and was an expert with Hadopi Labs until 2012.
He is a speaker known for his ability to analyze and explain technology trends and contextualize them.
Dominique Bouiller, doctor in sociology, is Professor Emeritus University of the 19th Section of CNU (Sociology), Professor of Sociology at Sciences Po Paris, Researcher at CEE (Center for European Studies and Comparative Politics) and former scientific coordinator of Sciences Po medialab with Bruno Latour (2009). -2013).
He has published many books, including ” Digital Sociology » Armand Colin, 2019, and ” How to get out of social media control »Le Passeur, 2020. He recently wrote an article in AOC: “Metavers, Vers l’exploitation virtual”.
Serge Soudoplatoff They mainly featured the two elements that, in his opinion, could allow for the real emergence of a metaverse or metaverses, in contrast to the relative failure of Second Life which was its predecessor more than fifteen years earlier.
These two innovations are:
- Virtual reality headset that allows for real and total immersion, but to date has little or no compatibility with extended use
- Blockchain which makes it possible to establish, through “NFT” (Non Fungible Token), a unique and reliable existence of virtual objects, making possible the development of business models.
We can classify existing efforts as follows:
Dominique Bouiller clearly suggests the distinction between four debates:
1°) Virtual reality as an immersive, aesthetic, playful tool. This is included in the straight line long opened by video games. They will still win in aesthetics and functionality, but they will remain programs written by designers and played by users.
2°) Simulation as a tool for training or experimentation. Help for surgeons or pilots already exists. These are ultra-professional tools, and the road that Metaverse has to travel seems a long way to go, especially since these professional tools will continue to evolve in parallel.
3°) Metaverse as a permanent virtual world. It is this theme that is most often referred to as the future of the metaverse. Like Serge Soudoplatoff, Dominique Bouiller does not believe in the permanent use of virtual helmets that our brains will not be able to support for a long time. On the other hand, beyond the opening of virtual spaces to advertising, the economic construction resulting from NFTs, even if it is above all speculative, will allow a variety of players to develop, without being able to predict their sustainability. A clear example is Roblox, which has its own currency, Robux, more than 150 million users, half of whom are under 13, and which allows tens of thousands of contributors to create “experiences” or virtual objects, which they they make money…donating a commission to Roblox. The meta, whose “Horizon World” metaverse is in its infancy, is more about federating metaverses than developing its own universe.
4°) Metaverse as an operating system for the mobile Internet and connected objects. This is the goal of the company Meta, which seeks to free itself from its dependence on Google with Android and Apple with IOS. This attempt to become the reference protocol and “browser” would make Meta inevitable. This approach, which would probably make it the leading provider of Web3 infrastructure, could also allow it to be freed from new European regulations, either the DSA (Digital Services Act) or the DMA (Digital Marketing Act). This progress towards Web3 includes the arrival of 5G and the host of connected objects that will be connected to it. We focus a lot on the point of the previous paragraph, Horizon World or Sandbox-type metaverses, with strong criticism of the offer proposed by Meta, while its investments mainly focus on this ambition of “meta-meta-verses”. Will it get there?