Living in the Metaverse. Interview with prof. Lik-Hang (Paul) Lee

The Swiss Institute for Disruptive Innovation is interested in the role the metaverse will play in the coming years.

We are developing, together with Pini Group, a School of Disruption course focused on the metaverse construction industry.

We are partners, along with many other companies – including Microsoft -, in the Metaverse Standard Forum, a project that aims to enhance the interoperability of the metaverse.

Indeed, the metaverse revolution has not yet been accomplished. It will disrupt, for example, the job market — for which we are developing an online event, which you can join at this link — and the construction market.

But it will also disrupt relationships.

For this reason, we interviewed Professor Lik-Hang (Paul) Lee, assistant professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Since 2016, he has co-authored no less than 50 conference and journal papers, as well as technical reports related to diversified types of virtual and immersive environments. He is serving as a technical program committee/program committee/ workshop organizer/reviewer in well-recognized conferences and journals, such as ACM CHI, IMWUT, CSUR, IEEE PERCOM, IJCAI, AAAI, ACM Multimedia, and so on.

The future and its possibilities always seem to be reconstructions of narratives. Looking at the Metaverse, developing its maps, potentials, and spaces, what does it mean for a scientist or an engineer?

Our spatial settings will likely become a hybrid of virtual and physical elements. Scientists and engineers will need to rediscover our “known” world. For instance, What is real in the Metaverse? How do we prepare for the new age of virtual-physical life?

What does it mean to experience sensations, memories, visual and physical alterations, and thus to live in the Metaverse? Will it be possible to speak of parallel lives or will one replace the other?

In the final phase of the Metaverse, it is anticipated that a large number of virtual things will manifest in our actual environment. All of these virtual things may act as a recall of a specific event (memory augmentation: where is my ring? ); the smart or intelligent objects can provide users with visual, audible, or haptic input to indicate a change. Alternations and our current physical environment may represent alternative lives, but the Metaverse seeks to create the potential of their integration.

The pandemic has dramatically reduced the possibility of relating to others. The Metaverse could be a tool to compensate. How?

The COVID-19 epidemic and the subsequent lockdowns throughout the globe may be seen as one of humanity’s most extensive “experiments” – can humans withstand the further migration of varied physical functions into virtual environments? Two years later, it is evident that not only can people survive transferring many everyday activities online, but some of these activities, such as remote employment, are likely to become ingrained in our culture. Thus, many virtual worlds in the Metaverse could serve as a tool to compensate.

Who are the actors involved in the development of the Metaverse?

Clearly, technological giants (such as Meta and Microsoft) are actively participating in the creation of software and hardware for the Metaverse. We have already seen the ups and downs of investing in VR/AR. We can see that the IT industry has a strong commitment to this Metaverse wave.

No one knows the addresses and boundaries of the Metaverse with all its applications (augmented reality, intelligent body extensions such as Neuralink). What does it mean to develop technologies for which the task is never entirely known? How does the market react to that? Is there much disposition to risk on the part of funders?

I agree that investors or technological companies, and even conventional businesses, may be interested in joining the Metaverse. They may consider the return on investment and, as a result, restrict their interest in investing in unknown technology.

As a result, the technology giants are attempting to merge many current technologies to produce the first generation of immersive Internet, analogous to the birth of web 2.0 around twenty years ago. They seek to leverage current technology and produce a minimum viable product to decrease investment risk and, in the meantime, assess market requirements and Metaverse user adoption.

Definitively, yes, a proper forum is required, particularly for ethical and political issues. Particularly AR/VR gadgets have a powerful capacity to collect our data and privacy. Also, AR or VR activities may easily lead to social norm breaches, as in the case of sexual harassment.
Lik-Hang (Paul) lee

Does the Metaverse in effect establish itself as a space in which every person is also a political person? In addition to technological standards (connections, software, devices, etc.) has any thought been given to an ethical-political carat for the Metaverse?

Yes, if we consider the influences in our current social network. In the case that the Metaverse permeates several facets of our existence, the effect might grow enormously. On the other hand, we recognize the need for ethical-political. Our actions with (digital) avatars, possibly as political figures, can have real-world consequences. Who is liable when a certain consequence occurs? E.g., destroying a political building in virtual environments.

Will it be possible for the individual to build a personal Metaverse even without computer engineering skills?

There will be an increase in the number of metaverse construction tools, which will facilitate the democratization of the metaverse and its activities and content production. The building of virtual or immersive space will be no different than what we have as today’s website builders (e.g., WIX).

Will we ever be able to constitute a standard (ethical, political, but also from the perspective of imaginaries) for the Metaverse? In the West, for example, a Metaverse Standard Forum is being developed. Will a standardized condition ever be possible?

Definitively, yes, a proper forum is required, particularly for ethical and political issues. Particularly AR/VR gadgets have a powerful capacity to collect our data and privacy. Also, AR or VR activities may easily lead to social norm breaches, as in the case of sexual harassment.

Our existing culture and applicable rules are not prepared for the introduction of AR/VR-powered immersive environments at a large scale. Thus, considering the wide adoption of the Metaverse, we need a computational framework to govern the environments, perhaps maintaining a standard as well as detecting violations.

What ethical-political applications might the Metaverse have? I think of its simulation-experienced nature. I am thinking of reintegration of prisoners into society, for example.

This is actually a very good idea and more research efforts we can do. I see a number of empathy applications. Also, the prisoners can get an immersive experience for professional training, learning new things/events/instances in society.

I also see the possibility of leveraging the metaverse for large-scale ethical-political experiments. A large-scale simulation for particular events.

How does the Metaverse relate to sustainable environmental development? How does it relate to the existing discoveries?

First, maintaining an infinite virtual world may impose environmental costs. However, there are some benefits:

People may spend more on virtual instances, acquire virtual instances, and use fewer actual resources as a result. Virtual reality may serve as a recall of certain manufacturing trips. For instance, it is manufactured in factories that adhere to ethical standards.

For service-oriented enterprises, augmented reality (AR) overlays may be used to depict ecologically conscious purchases. For instance, informing the buyer that the cow lives in a pleasant environment before becoming meat.

What technologies will enable a relationship between the physical world and the Metaverse without being considered extraneous, as in the case of contemporary VR or Neuralink proposals?

Contemporary immersive headsets can offer a good experience in the Metaverse, with limitations such as motion sickness and limited Field-of-view (FOV).

Neuralinks attempt to convert our thoughts into actions in virtual worlds. The key motivation is that the current user throughput rate is relatively limited to other computing devices (e.g., mouse and keyboard duo).

To deepen this topic:

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