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Metaverse - the Good

Have you ever been told the news that was just too good to be true? That’s how enthusiastic techies across the globe feel about the countless possibilities that the burgeoning metaverse holds.

Expanded personal opportunities. The metaverse unlocks opportunities that were once beyond the reach of many. A perfect example is climbing Mount Everest, an endeavor that is considered too dangerous, expensive, and technically demanding for most. 3verest provides the experience and thrill of reaching the highest peak within the metaverse, all without any of the real-world risks, costs, and the need for exceptional physical stamina. Climbers in the metaverse not only test their climbing abilities but also navigate the daunting mountain environment, including watching out for avalanches and deep crevasses while also contending with the scarcity of oxygen and the bitter cold.

Enabling organizational goals. In the business world, experts see numerous benefits of integrating extended-reality (XR) concepts into the workspace. The adoption of immersive video-conferencing and distributed metaverse offices replicating physical office spaces is expected to reduce reliance on traditional office space environments. AI-powered holograms will be capable of performing collaborative tasks such as presentations and meetings, enabling CEOs to interact with stakeholders and internal teams simultaneously. Accenture, Ergo Group, and Farmers Insurance have already embraced VR solutions in their operations, implementing engaging employee onboarding experiences and immersive training with real-world scenarios.

Leading brands have embraced the metaverse potential for marketing, brand awareness, and consumer engagement through strategies that directly convert to sales such as creating brand-unique immersive worlds, virtual stores, and NFT collectibles. For instance, Coca-Cola, having embarked on its metaverse journey in 2021, reported a 12% sales increase in the first year of its metaverse adoption.

As improvements in XR, combined with increased use of haptic devices, the mobility sector is expected to deploy metaverse tools and apps that will create an immersive customer experience. While virtual test drives in which customers simulate activities - merging into traffic or backing into their own garage - will shorten the sales cycle, virtual vehicle design will optimize manufacturing.

The healthcare industry is also one of the early adopters. Surgical AR of Medivis, a medical technology company, employs augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence, and advanced digital imaging systems in medical treatments and procedures. Surgical AR, received clearance for the clinical use of these metaverse technologies in the operating room from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2019. The surgical imaging platform was reported to be efficient in enhancing patient outcomes and reducing surgical complications and overall cost after being used for more than 500 surgeries, from oncology to vascular anomalies. The healthcare industry also leverages the metaverse to address phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression by crafting controlled virtual environments in which patients can practice coping techniques.

One of the decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), MdDAO, brings healthcare providers, medical technology manufacturing companies, and researchers together, creating the world's first healthcare metaverse focusing on health and wellness.

Education. Early adopters of the metaverse in medicine unveil the possibility to perform surgical procedures in conditions equal to real ones or to simulate clinical or diagnostic activities on virtual models, facilitating engaging and immersive learning experiences. The New York City-based company, Medivis, offers a revolutionary health education platform, AnatomyX, which was rated as having favorable study benefits by 87.5% of medical students.

Greater Inclusivity. Similar to existing blockchain wallets, metaverse wallets, such as Metamask and Coinbase, store the cryptographic keys that underpin Web3 security, verify identity, and grant access to digital assets and platforms, providing versatile and secure asset management. These wallets offer an intuitive user interface, along with cross-device functionality, enhanced security, and compatibility with a broad range of NFT marketplaces and blockchain networks, increasingly winning over skeptics.

In May 2022, the World Economic Forum - in collaboration with prominent partners such as Meta, Sony, Microsoft, and LEGO took an active role in developing a general framework for “Defining and Building the Metaverse”, outlining the parameters of an equitable, interoperable, and safe metaverse, with ethics at its core. The 2023 timeline focuses on two tracks of this initiative, governance, and economic and social value creation while fostering peer-to-peer learning at an immediate, cross-sector level.

The metaverse holds the promise of an inclusive community where all visitors can have a sense of belonging and overcome social barriers of real life and Web2. In an interview with Vogue, Giselle Mota, creator of NFTY Collective and a futurist, highlights the profound impact of designing metaverse with the input of a rich spectrum of global cultures, Black, Indigenous, and people of color(BIPOC), gender identities, and disabilities, who should have the choice whether or not to be seen that way in the metaverse and wherever their digital identities show up.

With an emphasis on equipping people with seen and unseen disabilities, NFTY’s “Unhidden Collection” provides the choice to embody avatars and digital identities that represent unique physical and cognitive abilities in the growing world of NFTs and virtual immersive experiences.

Increased Accessibility. Abhik Biswas, the Co-Founder, and CTO at Prakat Solutions Inc, a company dedicated to developing accessible tech solutions for all, recently shared his valuable insights with Forbes on how to create an inclusive metaverse with accessibility features such as haptic feedback, audio cues, text-to-speech, and audio descriptions for people with visual and hearing impairments.

In April 2022, the deodorant company Degree, with Decentraland, hosted the world’s first-ever Metathon in the metaverse. The event took Degree’s mission, “to give everyone the confidence and freedom to move more” to the virtual world. As part of the company’s mission to promote “progress beyond limits”, Degree partnered with experts on the topic of diverse ability to better understand the needs of underrepresented movers in the metaverse. The partnership introduced an inclusive avatar library that features first-ever adaptive wearables, such as prosthetics, running blades, and wheelchairs. The library includes landscape features such as ramps for wheelchair users.

Such existing and potential benefits make it easy to be swept away by the excitement and anticipation of the metaverse. But, just like the moon, the metaverse also has a dark side. Stay tuned for the third installment of this four-part post to learn about the red flags for the metaverse, “Metaverse - the Bad”.

Click here for the introductory look at my metaverse blog series, “Metaverse - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

Busra Nur Arapoglu

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