Digital Heritage
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Digital Heritage

Metaverse, the Way of the Future?

How Far Away is it?

Simplified Meta (what once was Facebook) logo | Photo by Muhammad Asyfaul on Unsplash

Along with a name change, Facebook, now Meta, announced at Connect 2021 some exciting new avenues that their company will be taking over the next several years. Meta will be diving deep into the world of augmented and virtual reality.

Rahaman, Champion, and Bekele (2019) describe augmented and virtual realities as “a combination of real and digital content.” Virtual reality is fully immersive, and the user interacts with entirely digital elements. The user is still firmly present in the real world; there are only digital enhancements. The use of the two combined is known as mixed reality.

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, presented a video that highlighted its intentions and what steps they have taken to move forward with the new technology. Called the Metaverse, the new multi-reality network will encompass all aspects of life, from social gatherings to education to health and fitness. What Zuckerberg heavily emphasized was the immersive nature the Metaverse will have. He claimed that it would be a visceral and emotive experience.

How do they plan to accomplish an emotional experience through virtual technology? According to the promotional video, the Metaverse will highlight the importance of connections, both between the user and other people and between the user and the world around them. They eventually plan to utilize hardware like headsets or glasses to view and interact with avatars and personal spaces that the user has created. These avatars and spaces will be seen as holograms in the real world. They will be able to be interacted with, and they will take into account the environment in which they spawn. The Metaverse will allow for new education methods, immersing the user into what they are learning, be it about the United States Civil War or chemical reactions. Meta argues virtual immersion will change the field of education. The promo boasted that the Metaverse might host the next art movement, interactive augmented reality street art. We will have to wait to find out whether this will be the case.

Neon lights reflected on a woman wearing glasses | Bakir Custovic on Unsplash

How close does Meta believe we are to utilizing the Metaverse in earnest? According to Zuckerberg, it will be several years before the hardware and software are available for the general public to use. Meta needs to find a format for their hardware to take that makes it realistic for daily use. The promo video highlights that in the last month, they have collaborated with Ray-Ban, a well-known sunglasses company, to create a set of smart glasses that can take photographs, amongst other things. A feature noted as being crucial for the success of the smart glasses and the Metaverse itself is privacy, both for the user and those in the area around them. Though they have the beginnings of a workable product, it will still be some time before they will incorporate augmented and virtual reality features as described in the promo. Meta plans to create a certification program to train users to develop applications using their platforms, making public use a viable option. They plan to reach out to underrepresented groups to include them in the Metaverse and create a diverse network.

Though there are many years to go before the Metaverse is available for general public use, many possibilities appear for museums and heritage sites. Most notably, the Metaverse will expand educational opportunities for museums. With the prospect of having the technology being widely available, layered approaches to exhibits can be made. The base layer can be the traditional physical exhibit, and an augmented reality exhibit can be overlayed to create an immersive experience for those who choose to have it. There must be options for those who do not have access to the new technology or decide not to utilize it to have a similar experience to those who do.

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Examines theories, methodologies, and impacts of digital technologies in heritage.

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