Author | Edited by Chenglin Pua (Malaysia) | Typeset by Yu Baicheng | Wang Jilongyan
In September 2022, Meta and VictoryXR (a virtual reality education startup headquartered in Iowa, USA) jointly built and opened 10 virtual campuses of the metauniverse. The investment in this project is 150 million dollars. Meta said that as part of its immersive learning project, the project aims to introduce education into a virtual reality environment.
Education is one of the biggest application directions of virtual reality and meta universe technology. Meta is implementing this idea to help 10 universities launch virtual campuses based on meta universe. Although meta cosmic education provides more possibilities and flexibility, in fact, if meta cosmic education wants to be implemented, it still needs to overcome many problems. For example, the cost of time and capital, data privacy and personal security, lack of advanced infrastructure and potential legal issues.
The meta universe is a virtual world. However, the virtual world needs a lot of time and capital costs to build (including labor, fiber costs, etc.). In addition, the late operation of the meta universe also requires a lot of resources to maintain its operation, such as the huge operating costs of the database, including electricity, water cooling resources, relevant maintenance personnel, etc.
To some extent, though, the meta universe provides a low-cost alternative to learning. For example, building a laboratory costs millions of dollars, and requires a lot of space and manual maintenance. The virtual laboratory perfectly solves this problem. However, in fact, there are many hidden costs behind the meta universe.
In addition, the related hardware costs virtually increase the cost of the school. For example, VR content licensing, digital twin campus construction, VR head display and other investment costs. A license for a meta universe course may cost at least $20000, and the cost of a digital twin campus may be as high as $100000. VR company (Meta is currently free, but it is hard to say when it is popularized in the future; even excluding this fee, other related costs are huge for many schools) will also charge a subscription fee of $200 per year for each student to visit its meta universe.
According to the current selling price, the low configuration version of each Oculus Quest 2 will sell for $399.99. This is just the cost of purchasing equipment, but in fact, there are more maintenance costs later. The school also needs to hire people to maintain the above equipment, which increases the cost virtually. Schools also need to spend a lot of time to adapt students to these devices. After all, it takes a long time to face the electronic screen, which may cause eye fatigue and so on.
Finally, there are textbooks related to the meta universe. Unlike the traditional textbooks, most of the textbooks of the meta universe are three-dimensional and dynamic. In this way, teachers need to rewrite textbooks. However, the reality is that most educators are unable to create their own meta universe teaching materials, which may involve combining video, still images, audio, text and interactive elements into an immersive online experience.
Previously, 01 blockchain wrote a "Seven Challenges of the Metauniverse", which included intellectual property disputes, data protection and privacy, legal challenges, currency and payment system challenges, technical challenges, public acceptance, high investment and commercial monopoly. With the advent of new technology, privacy data protection has always been one of the most concerned issues in the real world, and has attracted the attention of all sectors of society. The Internet we use today involves a lot of data and privacy protection issues, not to mention the meta universe. The meta universe involves more data and privacy than the Internet. In the future, the universe is likely to be a virtual space created by multiple companies. For consumers or users, how to coordinate the protection of data between companies and how to ensure the security of private data must be the most worrying problem.
The amount and richness of personal data collected by the universe will be unprecedented, including personal physiological reaction, exercise, and even brain wave data. Will these data employ a special security company to be responsible for their data security? If the user's personal data is stolen or abused in the meta universe, who will be responsible for it, and what impact it will have on users in the real world. In the construction of the meta universe, each company should strictly consider the privacy of such personal information and set up a good mechanism to prevent the disclosure of personal data.
Research institutions Centre for International Governance Innovation and Ipsos found in a questionnaire that about 57% of global consumers expressed that they were extremely (31%) or very (26%) worried about the privacy security of the network. The survey interviewed more than 24000 Internet users aged between 16 and 64 in 24 countries. In fact, at least half of Internet users in each region express their concerns about privacy.
Research results of global users' concerns about network privacy security
Source: Research report of Centre for International Governance Innovation and Ipsos
The business model of companies developing meta universe technologies relies on the collection of detailed personal data of users. For example, people who want to use Meta's Oculus Quest 2 must have a Facebook account, etc. VR head displays can collect highly personalized and sensitive data, such as students' position, students' physical characteristics, actions and sounds. However, Meta does not promise to keep these data confidential or restrict the access that advertisers may have to them.
In addition, Meta is developing a high-end VR head display called Project Cambria, which has more advanced functions. The sensors in the device will allow the avatar to maintain eye contact and make facial expressions that reflect the user's eye movements. These data information can help advertisers measure users' attention and push personalized advertisements according to their behaviors. If professors and students know that their every move, speech and even facial expression are monitored by the school and a large technology company, they may not be able to freely participate in classroom discussions. After all, schools or educational institutions should not be monitored.
In the future, people will enter the meta universe through VR/AR connection, To some extent, this technology can solve the problem of "showing" the virtual world to us. But now this technology can only provide visual and auditory information, while other perceptual abilities, such as touch, smell and taste, cannot. A realistic virtual world can let us experience other perceptual abilities, thus increasing the sense of reality. How to let people experience other perceptions is a technical problem to be solved.
In addition, we also need to input parameters to the virtual world, such as voice, gesture, action, etc. Today's VR/AR mainly relies on hand sensors (or wearing gloves) to input parameters to the virtual world. This reduces the sense of reality. Compared with the real world, we do not need to hold the sensor in hand. Although some gesture and pose recognition technologies based on machine vision have started to be applied, many practical problems have also been encountered, such as field of vision and occlusion.
VR/AR devices for handheld sensors
Tactile feedback is also a technical problem. How to let our hands and bodies feel the objects in the virtual world, it seems that today's technology is still unable to solve. Among the number one players in the movie, players mainly rely on wearing force feedback clothing to perceive objects in the virtual world and perceive. Even if you are willing to experience the meta universe with full body equipment, it is still a technical challenge to achieve full body feeling with such a suit. Whether people in the real world are willing to buy this costume to experience the meta universe is also a question.
The high requirements of the meta universe for computing power are also a technical challenge. The computer needs to run the simulation of the physical world, the rendering of the scene, and the interaction with other people (including real people and virtual people), which requires a huge amount of computation. It is also a big challenge to develop the computing power needed to match the operation of the upper meta universe. The huge computing power is accompanied by the problem of energy consumption. Higher computing power means higher energy consumption, and the high energy consumption cost will also be passed on to users, eventually leading to the improvement of the threshold for people to enter the meta universe.
Most meta universe applications, such as 3D video, are broadband intensive. They need high-speed data networks to handle all the information flowing between sensors and users across virtual and physical spaces, and have high requirements for relevant network infrastructure. Although most cities have good network infrastructure; But the countryside is not. For example, 97 percent of the population living in urban areas of the United States has access to high-speed connections, compared with 65 percent in rural areas and 60 percent in tribal areas.
Although meta cosmic education provides more possibilities for offline education. However, it may also add a threshold to people in some regions, preventing them from joining the meta universe to receive education.
Although we have entered the 21st century, it is undeniable that there are still some prejudices. Such as gender bias, race or ideology. These prejudices may be magnified in the meta universe. After all, it is unknown whether the prejudice in the meta universe can be restricted by law. For example, if a person publicly discriminates against sex in the meta universe, will he be punished?
In the real world, we dare not do this because there will be social pressure. However, the meta universe is a new world, and many people can speak freely. For example, in the Internet world, there are many prejudices or discriminatory remarks that cannot be seen in the real world, because people have less responsibility to pay. Now the Internet has deeply affected the young generation of students, and it is hard to guarantee that the universe will not bring more negative effects to students.
Then there are crimes and other problems. For example, on June 2, 2022, on the Horizon Worlds platform of Meta, a female psychotherapist once encountered sexual assault and told her own experience on the forum. This woman was harassed by three or four players with male voices in less than 60 seconds. They "gang raped" her virtual image and took photos. The woman said that it was a nightmare. She was so scared that she was frozen in place that she didn't even have time to set up a safety barrier.
The Extended Mind (a virtual reality strategic research institution) reported in 2018 that they interviewed more than 600 VR users about their virtual reality social experience. The survey report shows that 36% of men and 49% of women who often use VR technology have experienced sexual harassment. Visibility harassment and other issues will continue to exist in the virtual world and even the meta universe, even worse than the real world.
Campus violence is a social problem that is difficult to eliminate. However, there are many limitations in the real world, but not in the meta universe. Whether campus violence, discrimination, bullying and other issues will be amplified in the meta universe, this problem may need time to be further verified. How to prevent and follow up the punishment needs further consideration at the school level.