By Kevin Luarca
The metaverse, once the stuff of science fiction, is rapidly becoming a reality with profound implications for the financial services industry and other sectors, and the potential to reshape the world as we know it
While the concept of a metaverse has been around for some time, mostly in science fiction, online discussion boards, and meeting rooms of technology companies, it only started to take shape fairly recently. Many would argue that the game Second Life was the first metaverse. However, Kumardev Chatterjee, technology thought-leader and member of Interpol’s expert group on the metaverse, highlighted six key attributes of a de facto metaverse: a digital twin, social interaction, a digital marketplace, real-time translation, and with links to the physical world.
The metaverse today is dominated by gaming industry headliners Minecraft, Roblox, Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite, but while gaming is a big part of the metaverse, its applications extend to education, retail, digital payments, digital events, and more.
Jirayut ‘Khun Topp’ Srupsrisopa, founder and CEO of Thailand-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitkub, emphasised that the emergence of blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud technology, internet of things (IoT), big data, and 3D printing, have made it possible to build an infrastructure that allows new capabilities where humans can interact. This is the metaverse.
Another factor for the push for the metaverse is the pursuit of net-zero carbon targets. In theory, a fully digital world accessible from the comfort of home could significantly reduce the human carbon footprint by replacing physical meetings with virtual ones, and by using green energy to power this enterprise.
Ying Zhong Ng, vice president for products at Cake Group, is exploring the metaverse for financial payments, and digital assets. Cake is self-described as one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing digital assets innovators, helping investors to generate returns on their digital assets through decentralised finance services and applications.
Security and trust are big concerns, especially when it comes to managing money in the metaverse. Finding the right balance between rules and innovation is a hurdle.
For the metaverse to grow in the financial services sector, it will have to capture the attention of users in the way games have done with runaway success. The metaverse is not meant to be used like a banking app where the user logs off as soon as the transaction is done, but rather as an always-on, interactive other realm. Ideally, the system needs to be democratised by reducing barriers and allowing innovations to happen peer-to-peer without fees or regulations, and this is presently a hurdle to creating a sticky user experience.
As the metaverse keeps growing, it’s clear that it has huge potential. It’s not just about making money but rather about reimagining how we live and work, and to make it work, everyone, including regulators, need to work together and reimagine the way we do things.
Attributes of a de facto metaverse
The six key attributes of a genuine metaverse, according to Kumardev Chatterjee, a technology thought leader and member of Interpol’s metaverse expert group are:
1. Digital twins: These are digital replicas of physical objects or environments. In the metaverse, they enable a seamless transition between the physical and digital worlds, finding applications in urban planning, healthcare simulations, and architectural design.
2. Social interaction: Beyond text-based chats and video calls, the metaverse offers immersive experiences through technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). People can interact as avatars, attend virtual events, and collaborate on projects as if they were in the same physical space.
3. Digital marketplace: The metaverse’s digital marketplace is expanding beyond gaming goods to encompass the sale of digital assets, art, and real estate. Blockchain technology ensures ownership and provenance of these assets, enhancing security and trust.
4. Real-time translation: To foster global collaboration within the metaverse, real-time translation is essential. AI-driven translation tools break down language barriers, enabling seamless conversations across languages.
5. Links to the physical world: The metaverse isn’t detached from reality; it’s interconnected with our daily lives. This includes IoT devices, wearables, and smart cities, allowing users to control their homes or access real-world information from within the metaverse.