Jaded observers dismiss it as marketing, little more than an evocative buzzword to lure investors. The initiated say it is our shared digital future: a virtual world of abundant possibilities that exists in parallel to our physical world. Most find themselves in the middle – unsure, confused… or awaiting an explanation. Welcome to the metaverse!
In essence, the metaverse is generally characterised as a growing 3D virtual universe where individuals can live their digital life as an avatar – working, playing, shopping, or just hanging out. This is not the result of any single technology, but the coming together of a number of them.
Virtual reality (VR) headsets and blockchain technology are exciting developments that each offer their own opportunities to enterprising organisations, but when put together, they open a door to an environment so immersive that it can rival our physical world. Or so the story goes.
Because this is evolution, rather than revolution, we can expect the metaverse to face many of the same legal issues as we see in the internet today. There may be nuances in their application, but our laws of data privacy, intellectual property and competition will apply in much the same way. But if that sounds reassuringly clear, then think again. The metaverse is full of new challenges.