The metaverse is one of the hottest topics of the year so far, and many investors are scrambling to get a piece of the pie. From buying real estate in the metaverse to investing in stocks that could benefit from this movement, it's one of the most significant trends right now.
But is the metaverse really all it's cracked up to be? While some investors believe this will be the biggest technological advancement in decades, others are still on the fence, wondering if perhaps it's more hype than substance.
While nobody can say for certain where the metaverse will be in the future, there are a few reasons it could be an exciting development -- and two reasons it could be a potential nightmare.
Why the metaverse could be incredibly exciting
1. Immersive experiences
One of the most thrilling aspects of the metaverse is the potential for immersive experiences. Whether you're attending a virtual concert, exploring a foreign country, or watching a sporting event, virtual and augmented reality could make you feel like you're really there -- even from the comfort of your home.
This is especially promising as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, and many people cannot safely travel or attend large gatherings. Through the metaverse, it may be possible to enjoy immersive experiences even when you can't leave your home.
2. Improved productivity
As more people work from home as a result of the pandemic, it can sometimes be challenging to stay productive. With the metaverse, though, it may be possible to switch up your workspace, have more productive meetings, and stay engaged with your work.
If you're tired of your office, for example, you could take a virtual trip to Italy and enjoy a view of the beach while you work. Or if you and your coworkers need to meet, you could gather virtually in the office. This could potentially reduce the need for in-person meetings while also avoiding the struggles that come with video calls.
3. Commerce opportunities
The metaverse could open up a new world of opportunities for businesses and individuals. Users can buy and sell everything from virtual real estate to cars to merch to non-fungible token (NFT) artwork within the metaverse, and the commerce opportunities are endless.
The more people there are within the metaverse, the more selling opportunities there will be. Nearly everything that exists in the physical world could exist in the virtual world, too, so regardless of your craft, you could make real money by selling in the metaverse.
Where there may be cause for concern
1. It could be a privacy nightmare
While many companies stand to benefit from the metaverse, the organization leading the charge is Meta Platforms (META -0.64%), formerly known as Facebook.
Because Meta has a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to managing users' data and privacy, however, some people are concerned that we could see similar problems with the metaverse.
Companies can potentially collect even more data on users through virtual reality than they can through screens. Employers may be able to monitor workers more closely than is already possible. And advertisers can collect data not just based on our screen time and browsing history, but our appearance and bodies as well.
2. New opportunities for crime
Because our real identities and real money are tied up in the virtual world of the metaverse, it's possible that users could be victims of fraud, identity theft, and scams even in virtual reality.
Physical crime is also a real possibility. Nina Jane Patel, vice president of Meta Research at Kabuni Ventures, explained in a Medium post that she was verbally and sexually assaulted by multiple male avatars "within 60 seconds of joining" the metaverse.
Although there is a "Safety Zone" barrier within the metaverse that allows users to physically block other avatars, Patel claims that the incident happened so quickly she didn't have time to put up the barrier.
Safety concerns are especially worrisome in regards to children. Users can access the metaverse from anywhere, including the safety of their own homes. Although minors already face privacy and safety concerns through the internet and social media, virtual reality could pose physical implications as well.
How can you prepare?
The best way to prepare for the metaverse is to stay informed. This is an exciting new chapter in technology's journey, but it's not without risks.
If you choose to invest in any companies involved in the metaverse, make sure you're maintaining a big-picture outlook. It's wise to avoid investing in a stock simply because it's a metaverse stock, for example. Rather, opt for companies that are overall strong investments that also happen to be involved in the metaverse.
Nobody knows for certain what the future holds for the metaverse. While it could be a revolutionary new technology that changes society as we know it, there are plenty of concerns as well. It's still speculative at this point, but by staying aware of the latest metaverse news, you can prepare as much as possible.