Many of the examples of the Metaverse that have been presented recently, including virtual and augmented reality, have been familiar in digital environments for many years, so what’s new?
Since the recent renaming of the company that owns Facebook to ‘Meta’, along with news reports showing CEO Mark Zuckerberg moving in a 3D virtual world, the question of what the Metaverse is, and whether anyone actually wants it, has been widely discussed.
The term ‘Metaverse’ was first coined in the 1992 novel ‘Snow Crash’, and 3D virtual worlds also have their origins in the 1990s. For example, a YouTube video from 1995 shows someone wearing a VR headset shopping in a 3D virtual supermarket. Since then, these environments, whether they’re being explored through headsets or on a screen, have become commonplace, as teachers will know through the popularity of game worlds such as Fortnite and Minecraft.
However, the vision of the Metaverse goes beyond these, and is one of a new generation of internet innovations, continuing our progression from simple webpages to the more interactive Web 2.0, to the mobile Web, and onto the Metaverse, where the internet becomes its own virtual environment. Even so, although the technology continues to improve, the technical challenges of the Metaverse are huge.
Competition and movement
Another obstacle for the Metaverse is that web technologies were developed by government-funded scientists and made available for all. Such philanthropy is not likely to be seen with the Metaverse, as companies compete with each other, and perhaps try to limit the ease of movement between different virtual environments.
Where does that leave educators interested in exploring the Metaverse? While we need to be wary of using systems that are either trying to sell us something or put us at risk, giving students the chance to experience virtual and augmented reality within safe digital spaces is important. Here are some suggestions:
- Minecraft Education edition (education.minecraft.net)
- CoSpaces Edu (cospaces.io/edu/)
- Wonder (wonder.me)
None of these are really the ‘Metaverse’ but will familiarise your students with some of the concepts as they learn. Going forward, keep an eye out for new Metaverse-style technologies that you could use with your students, to ensure that they can experience these in a guided and learning-positive way.
By Dr David Parsons, National Postgraduate Director at The Mind Lab.
More at themindlab.com
INTERFACE April 2022