Since Facebook made the bold move of placing all of their tech sectors in a single Metaverse basket, even changing the company’s name to ‘Meta,’ the concept has captivated the world. While some see it as the next step in the internet’s evolution, others fear it will be a fad. However, most enterprises, including Indian tech companies, want to be a part of this new technical progress. Infosys has launched the ‘Infosys Metaverse foundry,’ which would assist organisations in creating their own Metaverse environments, delivering signature experiences in existing Metaverse, and integrating strong AI-powered data analytics and simulations.
As a result, this article focuses on the Metaverse concept and how it is gaining popularity around the world. The various techniques and enterprises involved in providing vivid experiences are extensively discussed. The article will also deal with India’s perspective on the Metaverse and its legal framework for privacy and security concerns, with implications for societal perceptions of the technology.
Evolution of Metaverse
Computer science advancements have a significant impact on daily life, as they alter and enhance human connection, communication, and social interactions. Three major technical innovation waves have been recorded from the perspective of end consumers, based on the arrival of personal computers, the Internet, and mobile devices, respectively. The fourth wave of computing innovation is currently taking shape, and it revolves around spatial, immersive technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). This wave is predicted to usher in the next ubiquitous computing paradigm, transforming (online) education, business, distant employment, and entertainment. Hence, this new paradigm is termed as the Metaverse.
Metaverse is a portmanteau of ‘Meta’ (a Greek prefix that means “after” or “beyond”) and universe. In other terms, the Metaverse is a post-reality universe, a multiuser environment that merges physical reality with digital virtuality and exists indefinitely. It’s a virtual world where users can construct avatars to recreate their real-world or physical-world experiences on a virtual platform. The idea has gained traction in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak due to restrictions on physical gatherings and meetings. However, the Metaverse, a fully immersive virtual economy, requires a method of payment, just like any other economy. Cryptocurrency is the answer to this uncertain new environment. Several Metaverses have already accepted cryptocurrency as a payment method. All virtual transactions are made through the use of cryptocurrency on an ad hoc basis, and the blockchain technology that underpins them ensures that they are extremely secure and reliable. Subsequently, notions like openness and privacy, different systemic approaches and diverging strategies collide. The conclusion of this race will determine the extent to which users’ privacy rights are protected, as well as whether the Metaverse is accessible to students. Both of these concerns have significant educational consequences since they will determine whether or not the Metaverse can become a popular e-learning platform. Also, the landscape of digital twins in the virtual environment is used to influence decisions about architectural structures and future applications of the actual building. It could also be based on real-world events, such as presenting global webinars for virtual participants in the current physical world.
Metaverse Mechanism: Imagination to Virtual Reality
Anyone with a strong imagination may easily envision how the Metaverse is developing. But what about those who work as architects in the real world? Groups from various socio-cultural backgrounds are brought together. Despite the fact that the Metaverse has no physical boundaries, societal challenges may still exist. Designers will need to understand not just how societies operate in the actual world but also what threatens them, in order to develop a better virtual environment in society. Architects have long been active members of our society, and their cultural knowledge is unrivalled. Without a question, our surroundings have an impact on our moods. A good design is said to contain emotion and the ability to use it, and spaces can make us feel happy, nostalgic, sad, depressed, or energetic. Architects and other designers who understand this will be in high demand in the Metaverse. Architects are both excellent listeners and inquisitive. They understand human psychology and community needs and use that knowledge to create a well-designed and effective environment. Backing that fact, experts have said today’s Metaverse is like the early internet. Many opportunities will arise as it develops. The Metaverse is expected to have a variety of commercial uses, including ecommerce, sales and marketing, decentralised finance, crypto companies, and so on.
The Metaverse is based on technologies that allow multimodal interactions with virtual surroundings, digital items, and other people. The XR system’s (extended or cross reality is an umbrella word that incorporates a range of immersive technologies; electronic, digital worlds where data is represented and displayed) representational quality is facilitated by stereoscopic displays that can communicate the feeling of depth. High-resolution XR screens enable a wide user field of vision that can range from 90 to 180 degrees. In comparison to 2D systems, XR systems also provide greater auditory experiences. In Augmented reality and Virtual reality; 3D, spatial, or binaural audio allows for the creation of soundscapes that significantly improve realism. In the realm of virtual reality, the Metaverse is known as the 3D Internet or Web 3.0, although there is significant contrast, Web 3.0 is primarily concerned with who will own and govern the internet in the future, the Metaverse is concerned with how users will interact with it. Its earliest form was envisioned as a web of virtual worlds through which avatars might traverse seamlessly. The Metaverse’s second Mixed Reality iteration is now in development, and it will allow social, immersive VR platforms to interact with enormous multiplayer online video games, open game worlds, and AR collaborative spaces. Furthermore, blockchain technology is projected to play a significant part in the development of the Metaverse, as it allows for a verifiable claim of ownership and transferability of digital assets. The aim appears to be that by combining XR and blockchain, applications would emerge that increasingly combine our real and digital identities, allowing for new types of social and commercial engagement.
Businesses Involved in It
The Metaverse is revolutionising business norms at a rate that few could have predicted: New metaverse-related applications and projects are currently emerging, affecting and reshaping sales, marketing, technology innovation, and corporate operations. Let’s go right to the point and look at the Metaverse’s unimaginable potential for real-world, practical, and powerful commercial applications.
We can change the functionality of remote work and offer a new sort of employee contact by utilising the Metaverse. It helps with effective team communication as well as reading colleagues’ body language and thinking. Furthermore, by tracking team productivity through individual profiles, the employer may address issues like workflow time theft and goldbrick at work.
Even medical experts and staff who were previously unable to see patients due to geographic limits will benefit greatly from a metaverse. Patients can communicate with doctors in the Metaverse’s virtual reality and receive effective treatment.
The majority of these games currently follow a decentralised economic model in which game developers and publishers own and distribute in-game assets. For both developers and publishers trying to provide their audience with a live experience, virtual gaming might be a great potential exploit. For game fans, the gaming firm has produced its own version of Metaverse. It also invests billions of dollars into the creation of these games.
Blockchain or decentralized technology is essential for Metaverse’s widespread adoption across organisations. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, and other cryptocurrencies are built on this technology. It’s used to maintain and support cryptography. It can be used to generate non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and decentralised applications, as well as serve as a distributed ledger for documenting peer-to-peer asset transactions.
By fostering a sense of presence in users, the Metaverse basic platform provides an immersive experience. Furthermore, combining virtual reality with augmented reality creates a more realistic experience that goes beyond social media’s capabilities. Of course, social media has progressed beyond simple chats to include the sharing of memories, stories, and experiences, and we are now approaching the Metaverse’s virtual world. Users can become their own content creators while living in a virtual world by employing the Metaverse.
Online cooperation will develop increasingly resembling face-to-face interactions. No one needs to feel bad about not seeing their parents or children because they can just interact with them online and feel at ease. Subsequently, several schools and institutions began offering online classes as a result of the pandemic. Metaverse alleviates this restriction by providing pupils with a more engaging experience with its graphically rich virtual world and 3D features with an immersive experience. Rather than seeing life-like avatars on a screen and communicating through microphones, Metaverse allows us to move through a virtual environment with them.
Online shopping was the first platform to have a big impact on users. With Metaverse’s tracking and live experience, a user can have a real-life purchasing experience. Before making a purchase, customers can touch and feel the products as well as try them out. This is one of the best ways for shopping platforms to provide digital services to their customers.
Is India Set for the Metaverse?
India has risen nearly 40 places in the global innovation index since 2015 and is now ranked 46th in the globe. India also boasts a robust entrepreneurship culture that has recently seen substantial expansion. Last year, India had a record of 42 start-ups valued at over $1 billion, trailing only the United States and China in the number of “unicorns” created. A number of favourable consumer trends, such as rising disposable income, increased smartphone penetration, and affordable mobile data, are bolstering this environment.
The country has a history of leapfrogging to new technologies to accelerate development and economic growth, most notably in the late 1990s with the mobile phone revolution. India Stack, a collection of technology projects that includes the country’s national digital identification and payments infrastructure, has ushered in a new era of financial inclusion in the country over the previous decade.
A vast and expanding young population is fuelling the rise of digital India. A large portion of this group is well-versed in digital interaction and enjoyment. In the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) index that measures the penetration of digital payments in the country, the use of digital payment mechanisms has expanded fast, with a 75% year-on-year increase from September 2019 to 2021.
Furthermore, video streaming and gaming usage in India has been exploding, with predictions predicting that the country’s gaming business will more than triple to $7 billion by 2026. The popularity of trans-media experiences has risen in tandem with the growth of gaming, particularly as a result of the pandemic.
Several gaming platforms now offer virtual stages for concerts, exhibitions, and corporate promotion, normalising the notion that social and cultural activities do not have to be limited to in-person interactions. These advances in India are part of a larger effort by the Indian government to build a $1 trillion digital economy. It has created incentives and rules for technology and industries that could be considered the Metaverse’s building blocks. In December 2021, it released its national blockchain strategy.
A proposal for a blockchain-backed digital rupee, to be issued by the RBI from 2022-23, was included in India’s most recent union budget, in addition to the country’s intentions to utilise blockchain technologies for e-governance.
The government has also indicated that spectrum auctions will be held to help with the implementation of 5G mobile services, which should boost demand for cloud applications, such as gaming and the Metaverse. Recognizing the sector’s potential for job creation, the budget also established a task force to look at ways to improve domestic capacity in the animation, visual effects, gaming, and comics (AVGC) industry.
Overall, India is prepared to accept and accelerate its integration into the growing metaverse world, taking into account the issues that must be addressed as well as the potential growth that will channelize and aid India’s economic and technical development.
India’s Evolving Regulatory Mechanism
The Metaverse that we see today is simply a prototype. Regulatory and governance challenges that require substantial attention will inevitably arise as Meta and others construct full-scale Metaverses, operate them, and scale them up.
To give an illustration of the challenges that could arise, there is always the risk of unintentional duplication of a digital asset such as NFT. Another example is the difficulty of establishing a link between fiat and virtual currency. Intellectual property rights and data security will also be major concerns. Another issue that would arise is competition regulation. Advanced and extensive discussions with industry leaders and colleagues across economic and national venues are required to build a favourable environment. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), for example, is critical in providing the necessary momentum to these focus areas.
As Metaverse enters our daily lives, new activities with legal and compliance implications will emerge. It’s difficult to assess the broader ramifications right now. Data security, in particular, will be a major concern in the Metaverse. Users are anticipated to spend a significant amount of time in the Metaverse, and their actions will be recorded. Individuals’ movements and habits will be tracked in addition to the large-scale collection of personal data. Decentralisation is at the heart of Metaverse’s ideology; therefore, determining who is responsible for data processing and data loss is critical.
However, the Central Government has imposed specific guidelines in order to govern the data acquired by the community from users. Information Technology (Reasonable security practises and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules, 2011, notified under the Information Technology Act, 2000, control the present Data Protection System. According to the Act, an organization’s compliance with the code can be demonstrated by having documented security procedures, and information security policies must include technical, operational, and physical security measures. It recommends the international standard IS/ISO/IEC 27001 on “Information Technology Security Techniques, Information Security Management System, Requirements,” which it considers to be compliant with its recommended standards. The Act tries to protect users’ data from being shared if they have not given their consent on sharing it.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were enacted by the government on February 25, 2021, with the goal of governing and protecting consumers from various contents that could be harmful to them. For example, under the aforementioned Act, any social media platform with more than 5 million registered users is required to maintain tools and systems that can proactively identify and remove content that is harmful to the user’s mental health. It is a step toward providing users with data accuracy assurance in light of the existing and the most comprehensive Information Technology Act of 2000 and the IT (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules of 2011. On the one hand, the law promotes a safe and secure environment; on the other hand, it restricts freedom of speech and expression. A new category should be created for any content that has been removed. If the content segregation isn’t done appropriately, it could spark a discussion and be regarded as a flagrant violation of the legal process. As a result, the presence of law provides excellent guidance for the Metaverse; yet, there are still some issues to be resolved in order to take this digital era to the next level.
In India, the Competition Act 2002 regulates unfair trade practises and unfair competition. Antitrust laws are enforced by the Act, which prohibits “any contract, combination, or conspiracy in the hindrance of trade” as well as “monopolisation, attempted monopolisation, or conspiracy or combination to monopolise.” The Act, on the other hand, simply prohibits the imposition of unjustifiable restrictions. As a result, if a number of applications compete in the market and one of them unfairly dominates or attempts to establish a monopoly, the Competition Act of 2002 may be used to prosecute the case.
The issue of Intellectual Property Rights will also be a significant problem to solve. As we all know, the Metaverse will be made up of private digital places with intellectual property belonging to numerous businesses, people, and other entities. These intellectual properties must be safeguarded.
Finally, whether the Metaverse becomes an exponential or gradual transformation to the internet is entirely dependent on how we incorporate the key principles of decentralisation into future Metaverse designs. As a result, virtual world governance systems will need to be bolstered and scaled alongside initiatives to promote digital literacy, safety, and well-being so that users may participate meaningfully in online communities while deliberately avoiding harmful information and behaviours.
Metaverse to Meta-Governance
These concerns are wrapped within a broader dispute of whether the Metaverse should or even can be interoperable inside the private sector. A number of open metaverse standards have been proposed, however, the benefits of adoption appear to be overshadowed by the desire of some technological businesses to retain control.
However, there is little consideration given to the possibility that interoperability will be rendered obsolete in the absence of a unified regulatory policy landscape. Is it conceivable for a single metaverse to exist if regulations for monetising and governing the Metaverse are developed and applied differently around the world? Until recently, the policy agenda was dominated by Western firms, products, conventions, and standards. However, as software and company invention and use spread over the world, so does regulation.
The European Commission recently called for a closer look at the evolution of metaverse economic models, implying that efforts to create an all-encompassing virtual reality environment might present new issues for EU antitrust enforcers. During his remarks at the Davos Agenda 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that addressing difficulties with cryptocurrencies requires a coordinated and synchronised global response.
The Ministry of Science and Information Technology of South Korea recently established a “metaverse alliance” to coordinate and facilitate the development of virtual and augmented reality platforms. In December 2021, the China Mobile Communications Association established a metaverse industry committee under the supervision of the Chinese government. The committee’s declared goals are to improve creativity and integration among metaverse architects, organise professional training, and promote innovative thinking.
Hence, governments are frequently chastised for being slow to respond to evolving technology and its ramifications for industry, society, and politics; therefore, such advancements should be embraced. One thing is certain: the Indian digital governance and regulatory policy landscape will continue to evolve, as global best practices also inform key decisions to be taken by policymakers.
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