It is not uncommon for any industry to see a wave every now and then. We have heard this more often in areas concerning technology. The latest buzzword doing the rounds now is the metaverse. It is no surprise, considering that this was the mantra on the lips of no less a person than Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark Zuckerberg is so kicked up about the metaverse that he plans to rename Facebook as Meta, indicating his deep obsession with this newfound technology. This is the starting point for how his company is going to change over the next five years. The word itself is not new. It first finds mention in the 1992 Neal Stephenson novel, “Snow Crash”.
So, what is it about the metaverse that is sending tech circles across the globe, into a tizzy? Why are people talking about it, some, to the point that it is being hailed as the next wave for education? Would it have made such big news if Zuckerberg had not thrown his hat into the ring?
Getting a grasp of this technology
But, first things first. What, to start with, is the metaverse, and how has it caught the fancy of people such as Zuckerberg? You could think of the metaverse as the next step in our Internet experience. What makes it different is that it could elevate the very nature of the Internet as we know it today, to something so much more interactive, that all the videos, static text, and photos that we are seeing and interacting with today, will become history.
It is an immersive technology that goes deep enough to make you become part of what you are experiencing. If the current version of Facebook gives you the freedom to look at a page or a picture and send it or save it, what metaverse does is to hollow port you right into the page! With the metaverse, what you are going to do is not send or edit pictures and videos or text, but be a part of the occasion.
All these years, you had been sending videos or other media to your contacts. Now, metaverse enables you to go a lot farther. Rather than sending these to your uncle in the US, you will be able to hollow port (teleport) yourself to your uncle’s house. Instead of showing him that you have been sipping tea during your conversation, you will ‘sit’ beside him on his sofa, in his room thousands of miles away, and chat with him as you both enjoy your tea. In other words, it is a medium that will seamlessly blend virtual life experiences with real-life ones.
In late October, Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement about the transformation his company is going to undergo. Let us hear from the horse’s mouth what metaverse means to Facebook:
“The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place. Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology. That is why we are focused on building this.
In the metaverse, you’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine — get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create — as well as completely new experiences that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today.
In the future, you will be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parent’s living room to catch up. This will open up more opportunities no matter where you live. You’ll be able to spend more time on what matters to you, cut downtime in traffic, and reduce your carbon footprint.”
Concerns and pitfalls
All these clearly mean that we are set for a change of very high magnitude as far as our Internet experience is concerned. From the time Zuckerberg made this announcement, there has been feverish debate about what it could bring to the world, what this could entail, and so on.
More than anything else, there is a certain vehemence about the downsides of the new technology, primary among which, is whether it will make the already invasive social media even more obtrusive into our lives. And then, there is also the talk of this technology being an escape opportunity for a company that is caught in several legal entanglements concerning violation of privacy rights.
Added to all these is the standard, traditional discussion that any new development spawns: how much investment and effort will go into it, which other kinds of resources will be used to develop such a technology, its potential to address or accentuate an already bitterly divided world of tech haves and have-nots, and so on. And then, no discussion on a new wave is complete without a mention of the impact on the environment, in this case, the carbon footprint this is going to emit (Zuckerberg says it will reduce this, but we have to wait and see), and countless other perspectives.
These are genuine concerns that need to be taken up for serious analysis. However, I will preclude this aspect of this discussion from this blog, mainly because I will be taking a look at something that is of immediate concern to us: the role of the metaverse in education.
Suitability for education
An element of this debate that stands out is the suitability of the metaverse to education. That the metaverse’s deep links to education are being talked about even when the technology is at its infantile stages, is a really strong indication of the suitability it has to this area.
That the new technology is ideally suited for education and can take to it like fish to water, is as clear as daylight. What makes me say this? Simple: all the core elements of the metaverse, namely its being immersive and capable of teleporting, is just what education needs.
How would it be, if you could sit at a place, thousands of miles away from your classroom, and still actually experience being there? Remember the tea example I gave earlier? This is just one snapshot into what education could look like in the future, with the metaverse.
If this is such a fundamental shift that the metaverse could bring into education, we can only imagine what it holds for this industry, if the two could align with each other rightly.
Agreed, there are going to be the usual drawbacks. But then, which new development in human history has come about without its share of bottlenecks? We need to see if the constraints outweigh the positives. From what it appears capable of doing, the metaverse could indeed turn out to be the next big thing to happen to the area of education, given its near-total suitability to it.
Organizations with the right resilience and intuition adapt to such changes painlessly. Education platforms at the forefront of this industry, such as SimplivLearning, see this as a great opportunity. The field is wide open for enormous changes.