The new “Meta reality”

Nobody will be able to escape the metaverse, and this is especially true for universities or digital educational environments. John Preston, an academic at the London School of Economics, has written about this trend. Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, is betting almost all his chips on this new world. So what is this new technological temptation all about?

11 January 2022

The metaverse has become the latest trend in the technology world. And unlike its name suggests, it’s not exactly poetry. The metaverse is about a virtual world, where users participate as avatars who go about the multiple activities of daily living such as shopping, taking classes of various kinds, attending lectures, socializing with others in distant places, and partaking of different leisure activities, among many other things. This is a real revolution in the world of digital platforms. One from which no one will be able to escape, or so it seems.

How is it accessed? Users don a headset, headphones or special glasses, essentially devices designed to imbue the participants with an immersive experience of the metaverse. In fact, a number of companies are already working on developing such items which are necessary for entry into these virtual parallel worlds.

Well attuned antennas. Developing the metaverse has become a priority for companies such as Microsoft and Facebook. So much so that Mark Zuckerberg decided that Meta will be the umbrella company for all his applications (Instagram, WhatsApp and even Facebook itself). This name change will be reflected on the New York Stock Exchange as of December 1, 2021. This means that the firm that traded under the FB ticker symbol will now become MVRS.

John Preston’s blog. In recent weeks this London School of Economics professor has tackled the meaning of the FB metaverse and taken the opportunity to explain how this parallel universe is rapidly working its way into universities. These virtual campuses will “help medical or architecture students practice skills that are difficult to rehearse in real life,” he wrote on his blog. He also gave a nod to Zuckerberg, who in a recent video had stressed that education is an immersive experience that will benefit more from the metaverse than almost any other activity.

He went on to say that it has the potential to change the way university education is monetized, through a “tailor-made learning experience,” i.e. a bespoke educational suit. The rise of virtual environments such as Zoom have changed the landscape and turned all experiences into niche conferences or master classes that can be “packaged” and sold as content for different platforms that educational centers will have on offer. This has even created a debate as to who should own the rights to the content: lecturers or universities. In this blog, you can find more information on what Preston has to say about this.

Zuckerberg’s chips. For the Facebook CEO what is being written is the next chapter of the future of the Internet. “It’s conceived as a virtual reality where we’ll be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be in the office, at a concert or at our parents’ house without having to move,” Zuckerberg has said about his company.

And following on from this announcement, the next big question that arises is this: What are the timelines? Facebook says that the metaverse is a work in progress and the development of the whole idea could take between 10 and 15 years. Quite a challenge indeed, and one that has the potential to change much of human life.