It might be two, five or even ten years until we see immersive virtual worlds reach critical mass; until users wield their high-resolution VR headsets with the familiarity of their smartphone. Right now though, critics are voicing their concerns about many elements of the metaverse tech stack, taking to the modern-day public square that is social media and shouting into the ether.
With the foundational building blocks of the metaverse currently being lain, now seems like a good time to consider these oft-voiced complaints and think about ways they might be alleviated.
Say Goodbye to Privacy
How could you not be concerned about the data privacy implications of a comprehensive digital world curated by, say, Meta? If you think Instagram knows too much about you, what happens when a centralized metaverse provider gains access to the way you move due to the wearable sensors you don when stepping into a VR world?
Everything you do in the metaverse – the avatars you interact with, the NFTs you buy, the land parcels you rent, the games you play, the quests you complete, the virtual events you attend – will be a data point for the metaverse provider to scrutinize and use to their advantage. Make no mistake, as with social media, the metaverse user is the product.
The Metaverse Could Worsen Mental Health
The overuse of digital tech is associated with a raft of mental health complaints, from depression and anxiety to psychoticism and paranoid ideation. It’s natural to wonder if the metaverse – a more immersive version of social media/gaming – could exacerbate such problems, especially if they lead to consumers spending less time in nature.
Interestingly, King's College London recently raised the curtain on its IoPPN Virtual Reality Research Lab (VR Lab), where it seeks to assess the usefulness of VR in promoting well-being and treating for mental health disorders. Perhaps the metaverse will have both positive and negative effects on our cognitive wellbeing.
VR Tech is Too Expensive
VR headsets aren’t a cheap investment: a high-end device can cost well over $1,000. Then you’ve got to factor in the cost of virtual wearables and digital accessories to upgrade your avatar. And you’re probably gonna want a super-fast internet connection to ensure the metaverse renders beautifully on your high-res lenses. Those costs quickly mount up, making participation in the metaverse, at least as things stand, an exorbitant endeavor.
The Hype is Exhausting
This isn’t so much a criticism of the metaverse as a denunciation of the hype typhoon that surrounds it. Positioning the metaverse at the center of grand visions of the future was perhaps always a touch ambitious – and many consumers are simply sick of the rhetoric.
Metaverses Want To Be Your Everything
Elon Musk apparently wants to turn Twitter into “X”, the so-called everything app that combines social media, shopping, video streaming and just about everything we do online. The least charitable view of the metaverse is that it could represent a similar all-consuming digital suck hole that compels users to abandon their skin-and-bone lives in the real world and live out their dreams in VR.
Exercise in the metaverse! Meet your friends in the metaverse! Run your meetings in the metaverse! Watch concerts in the metaverse! You get the point.
Well, there it is: five common concerns cited by consumers about the metaverse. Let’s face it, they’re all perfectly valid. It will be up to the industry’s thought leaders to win hearts and minds, to create VR environments that don’t overhaul our lives but complement them.