The Metaverse : A New Version of the Sims, or the Future of Technology?

JPMorgan has been the first major bank to open its own lounge in the Metaverse, which they have called the ‘Onyx Lounge’ in ‘Decentraland’. Their lounge consists of a digital portrait of Jamie Dimon, chairman and executive officer of JPMorgan, as well as a freely roaming tiger. But, how big of a step really is this? Has JPMorgan simply created playful avatars in ultimately just a new version of ‘The Sims’, or is this a first step on the moon?

“Metaverse” is a word which we keep hearing in the news nowadays, but what does it really mean? JPMorgan notes that, as it is still extremely early on in its evolution, there isn’t yet an all-encompassing definition that people can turn to which dictates what the Metaverse is. It’s almost like having a conversation in 1980 about the internet, it’s bound to be speculative. However, what we do know is that the Metaverse is an interactive, extremely realistic virtual 3D world, characterised for its futuristic qualities associated with the use of augmented and virtual reality. In addition, a variety of virtual worlds can coexist inside of the Metaverse. Estimates suggest that the Metaverse could create an annual revenue opportunity in the trillions, making it unsurprising that JPMorgan decided to open the ‘Onyx Lounge’. One of the biggest sectors that will be benefited by the unfolding of the Metaverse and the establishment of a meta-economy will be that of advertising, as a virtual world presents endless branding possibilities. In-game ad spending is currently set to reach a shocking $18.41 billion by 2027. The average price of a parcel of virtual land across the four main Web 3.0 Metaverses actually doubled in the last 6 months of 2021, jumping from $6,000 to $12,000.

Society is clearly waking up to the value, the potential and the endless possibilities that the Metaverse offers our 21st century world.

The emergence of the Metaverse will also have a big impact from a corporate perspective, as retailers will be able to open stores in this virtual platform and serve millions of customers. JPMorgan in their report on the Metaverse also stated that “One of the great possibilities of the Metaverse is that it will massively expand access to the marketplace for consumers from emerging and frontier economies”. Imagine attending a virtual concert, where you don’t have to worry about parking. The same way that internet connected the world, the Metaverse may be about to unify it to an unimaginable extent.

But, what problems can we encounter in these new virtual worlds, and will they resemble those that might occur in the real world? Facebook’s (now known as ‘Meta’) Metaverse, a virtual reality platform where users are represented through legless avatars, has apparently already had several reported cases of sexual harassment. In commenting on these occurrences, Jesse Fox, an associate professor at Ohio State University, stated that “people should keep in mind that sexual harassment has never had to be a physical thing. It can be verbal, and yes, it can be a virtual experience as well”.

How will legislation cover crimes committed in a virtual world? Will they be judged as they would in real life, or will these platforms allow users get away with misconduct and inappropriate behaviour?

There are clearly a lot of unanswered questions regarding the Metaverse and what the world of technology will look like in 10 years. Whilst we cannot provide answers, the benefits and pitfalls of its emergence are certainly starting to take form.

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Article written by Sofia Daley

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