As interest in metaverse environments continues to grow, governments, companies, and consumers alike are becoming more concerned not just with what the metaverse can do, but how it will be built. Though the metaverse is still a nascent concept to most, many market leaders and innovators agree that this new digital landscape will define the future of our digital experiences.
More than just a collection of extended reality spaces, metaverse environments represent a wide variety of tools and solutions, all linked together to provide users with new ways to leverage their digital identities. Market leaders like Microsoft, Meta, and Nvidia believe this space will influence everything from the way we communicate, to the way we work, and play.
The potential of the metaverse to impact every facet of our lives has prompted researchers, analysts, and developers alike to begin focusing more heavily on the core components required to build a “responsible” metaverse. There’s even a dedicated community, known as the Responsible Metaverse Alliance, which unifies thought leaders in developing ethical and sustainable digital spaces.
So, what does it take to develop a responsible metaverse?
Why Do We Need a Responsible Metaverse?
First, it’s worth defining why it’s so important for the metaverse to be a responsible landscape in the first place. The simple answer is metaverses are environments built to help us utilize and build our digital identities. In today’s transforming world, our digital identity, from our online image to the data we share online, is just as important as our real-world presence.
Building a responsible metaverse means creating an environment where people can feel safe, supported, and protected, without losing access to critical data. What makes the challenge of creating a responsible metaverse so complex, is the lack of cohesion and structure in the current landscape.
Though the Metaverse Standards Forum has emerged to create unity among metaverse developers, creators are still building platforms on different governance models, platforms, and human-machine interfaces. This makes it extremely difficult to create a consistent experience within the metaverse.
Establishing standards for responsibility, data protection, and ethics in the metaverse will help future creators to avoid issues connected with data security, exclusion, and other threats.
The Building Blocks of a Responsible Metaverse
Innovators are still in the process of defining what a responsible metaverse should include. However, some companies have already begun to share their vision of an ethical, digital future. For instance, Accenture conducted a global consumer study of 17,500 people to gather their thoughts on the dimensions crucial to a responsible metaverse.
The study found “responsibility” in metaverse creation falls into two categories: trust dimensions, and human dimensions. According to Accenture, the components of a responsible metaverse should include:
With customers sharing more data than ever before in metaverse environments, thanks to eye-tracking tools, avatars, and AI analytics, privacy will be paramount. Companies will need to develop metaverse environments with careful consideration of how data should be collected and shared in metaverse landscapes, to keep users protected.
Though collecting information about users in the metaverse can be valuable, it becomes a problem when companies begin to use that data irresponsibly. Just as GDPR and other regulations guide the use of data in the online world, compliance standards will need to be set for metaverse data too.
Metaverse environments, just like any digital landscape, can be exposed to potential dangers, from engineering attacks, to malware, phishing, and more. Innovators will need to find ways to protect their users, and their intellectual property from damage in the metaverse, so companies and consumers can feel safe.
Business leaders will need to think about how they can defend their metaverse environments with the right access controls, firewalls, and cybersecurity solutions. It may also be important to think about the evolution of policing in the metaverse, and how spaces will be monitored.
Platforms and devices used within the metaverse need to be able to offer a consistent, robust experience to users. Increasingly, business leaders are investing in the resilience of the metaverse, by leveraging tools like cloud computing, foveated rendering, edge computing, and other tools to improve virtual interactions.
Users don’t just want to feel secure in the metaverse, they need to feel safe too. As metaverse environments become more immersive and realistic, users need to be protected against various forms of harm, from bullying to extremism and misinformation.
Metaverse creators will need to find ways of combating harmful content and experiences. However, at the same time, they need to ensure effective moderation doesn’t impact freedom of speech.
5. Inclusion and diversity:
The metaverse is intended to be an open, accessible environment where everyone can connect and experience immersive interactions. Users need to feel as though they can effectively represent themselves in the metaverse, using realistic avatars, NFTs, and other forms of self-expression.
Intelligent avatar creation systems, and more advanced tools for creating personal identities in the metaverse are already emerging to offer users more freedom of expression.
While the metaverse promises exceptional opportunities to business and consumers alike, the extensive computing power required to operate digital worlds has an impact on our planet.
Creating a responsible metaverse means building an environment that’s eco-conscious and sustainable. Using green technologies and processes to minimize disruption will be essential to the future of the metaverse.
As employees and customers alike spend more time in the metaverse, innovators will need to consider how they can protect their emotional and physical wellbeing. Leaders have already encountered problems with everything from virtual reality sickness, to metaverse fatigue.
Additionally, bullying and abuse in the metaverse can negatively impact mental health too. As such, devices, digital environments, and systems need to be built with a focus on maintaining, and even improving the wellbeing of users.
Building a Responsible Metaverse
Developing a truly responsible metaverse is likely to be a complex process which will require the input and collaboration of countless different companies, regulatory bodies and users. However, by investing in a truly responsible metaverse, leaders in the space can ensure that our digital futures are safe, secure, private, and stress free.
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