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Will the projected growth of the metaverse become a reality, and who will police it?

At the 2023 CES LG rolled out metaverse platforms Sansar and Oorbit for its smart TV viewers.
LG Electronics
At the 2023 CES LG rolled out metaverse platforms Sansar and Oorbit for its smart TV viewers.

More than half of 9,000 consumers surveyed want to become active users of the metaverse. But how will this virtual, augmented and mixed reality space play out this year and beyond? A recent report from Pew Research Center, The Metaverse in 2040, finds there is both enthusiasm and concern.

Metaverse was all the buzz at this year’s CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show).

LG made a series of announcements on its metaverse ambitions. Its TV users can now access the social platform Sansar. LG is also partnering with metaverse provider Oorbit. The Washington Post reports “HTC, Sharp and Canon are showing off prototypes and experiences that could give people more ways and reasons to dive into virtual spaces.”

Sansar Metaverse Coming to LG Smart TVs

Procter & Gamble has been in the metaverse for more than five years. It debuted LifeLab at the January 2020 CES. LifeLab is described as an immersive hub where consumers can learn about P&G and interact with people and products from some of P&G's most iconic brands. WVXU reported on P&G’s interest in the metaverse during the summer of 2022.

The Pew Report says “interest in the idea of the metaverse leaped in 2021-2022, prompted in part by Facebook’s decision to rebrand itself as Meta. Director of Pew’s Internet and Technology Research Lee Rainie says it’s an environment that’s interesting and compelling that allows us to pack in “more data and more information into our encounters with the world and other people.”

Some thoughts from the 624 technology innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists Pew interviewed:

What the proponents say

  • It’s likely to benefit all aspects of society — education, health care, gaming and entertainment, the arts, social and civic life and other activities.
  • More data, progress in artificial intelligence assistive systems and the creation of entirely new spaces and experiences for tech users could enrich and expand their lives.
  • It will provide expanded venues for commercial exchanges.

What the skeptics say

  • It will not be seen as useful in daily life.
  • The technology needed to reach a lot more people and won’t be ready in 2040.
  • There are any number of threatening and harmful uses of XR.

Rainie worries about bad actors and bad behaviors that can be amplified in new and frightening ways.
“There are ways in which the amount of data which will be collected — through your goggles they could be watching your eye movements; they’re going to be watching through facial recognition what your mood might be — all that information will be added to what is being collected by companies on the internet already.”

Rainie points out there’s not much you can do about it because it really isn’t regulated.

There will be people who spend too much time in it, thinking the metaverse will help them become the person they really want to be. Some experts worry users will suffer mental and even physical health issues.

Laurence Lannom, vice president at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives tells Pew, “At the good end of the continuum are things like the ability of people to interact with others as though they were all in the same physical space … the other end is also not hard to imagine — easier addiction to all-absorbing games and fantasy experiences resulting in increased isolation for many.”

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.