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  • MAP Asia Pacific Ltd

Physical world’s alternate reality: Log into metaverse; eat, meet, and date — all from the couch.

After repeated insistence by our in-house know-it-all bot, Dr Prime, the tech-savvy but always-late-to-the-party John managed to watch the first few episodes of Black Mirror on Netflix. He can’t wait to spill the beans about the series’ bizarre world of avatars, futuristic wearables, and all the uneasy encounters with technology. But wait! Does he know about the metaverse yet?

“Doesn’t look like it,” says Dr Prime through the smart-home assistance device.

In an instant, a box with a virtual-reality headset arrives at John’s doorstep through Amazon’s drone-delivery system with a note on it, saying, “See you in the metaverse! — From Dr Prime”. The box also carries an entry pass for two to the Flamingo Gardens, Florida.

Confused and slightly troubled, John puts on his virtual-reality headset and joins our fictitious AI-enabled virtual assistant, Dr Prime, or DP as John fondly calls him.

(The screen displays a pop-up: Choose your avatar and join.)

Welcome to the metaverse

Dr Prime: (Overjoyed and welcoming) Hey, John, your avatar looks great. How does it feel to meet this virtual ‘me’ in virtual reality?

(Terrified and confused, John takes off the VR headset and exits.)

John: What was that? Am I dreaming? Is the series already a reality? Was that Dr Prime? Did he really come to life? Was I really there? Unbelievable!

(Hesitantly, John puts on the headset again and rejoins.)

Dr Prime: Where did you go, John? Are you alright? Did I scare you? (Laughs)

John: (Still struggling to balance his vision through the VR headset, turns around.) Is that really you DP? I mean, not ‘you’ you, but is it really you?

Dr Prime: That’s too many ‘yous’, John. Relax, take a deep breath, find a couch, and settle down calmly. Yes, this is my avatar in this virtual world. I hope it goes well with my reputation. (Smiles)

John: Well, yes. You look great! I mean, finally you have a face. I mean a body. No, not a body. Hmm…, I don’t know what to say. (Falls short of words in amusement and confusion.)

Dr Prime: Oh, John, easy. Let’s settle with a ‘virtual avatar’. That’s what this is.

John: Yes, yes, but how did you become real? I mean come to life, virtually? And we are talking just like humans do. How?

Dr Prime: Welcome to the metaverse, John!

John: The, what? Is it again some technical jargon to make me uncomfortable?

Dr Prime: Ha ha, no. It’s the metaverse. Everything mentioned in that novel on your bookshelf, Snow Crash by American science-fiction author, Neal Stephenson, has come to reality. Come, let’s take a walk around and I will explain to you what this is.

(They start walking in an elaborate virtual garden with exotic flowers and exuberant butterflies.)

John: This is spooking me out a bit. I live in Europe, but this is a garden in Florida. You are walking besides me, and I am walking here in an avatar, while in reality, I am still on my couch.

Dr Prime: That’s what Stephenson talks about in his book, which you missed reading. He talks about a world in which using computers people create a 3D virtual world similar to the real one. Three decades since he wrote about it, here we are, walking in that virtual world.

John: But why do we need this metaverse? Isn’t the real world just fine?

Dr Prime: The question is not whether we want a metaverse or not and if the real world is missing something that can be fulfilled in the metaverse. The question is: Why did it come into existence? Whom does it cater to? And what problems will it solve?

A quick point: metaverse is nothing new. It has always existed. But in the recent months, it has garnered not only popularity but also pushed companies to build their products with metaverse in mind. The answer to the question of “why it came into existence” is that while convenience used to be a choice earlier, Gen Z deems it indispensable.

Remember how grocery shopping was a dedicated activity for you every Sunday? But today, it’s done in real time through online apps. The younger generation wants even greater convenience, and hence the metaverse.



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