Marriage in the Metaverse and Other Technological Reflections

It would seem that those scary days are a thing of the past. Noticed in the markets. Last week marked the end of the worst month on the tech-heavy Nasdaq since 2008. On Friday April 29 alone, this index fell more than 4%, extending its losses for the month to more than 13%. . Netflix, one of the lovers of “FAANG” just a few months ago, saw its shares drop more than 30% after a revenue report showed that the movie streaming company lost subscribers. On Friday’s execution, Amazon shares fell 14%, the biggest single-day drop since 2006 after the company reported their first quarterly loss in 7 years. FAANG group Facebook, Apple Amazon, Netflix and Google lost more than $ 1 trillion in market value in April alone.

Big Tech is starting to change. The former Facebook Inc, which has now changed its name to Meta Platforms Inc, is trying to change all things virtual, but is struggling to get off the ground. He made virtual reality goggles called Nazare, but the project was hampered by difficult efforts to develop a custom chip and a bill of materials amounting to thousands of U.S. dollars. However, the hype around the “metaverse” is already underway, as there is serious research in this evolving space. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (also called FIG or Future Interfaces Group) have discovered how users can sense the sensations on their lips, tongue and teeth that mimic a real-world kiss. .

Even if it’s weird, there are early adopters of it all. Futurism.com reports that a Japanese man who married a hologram can no longer talk to his life partner due to a software glitch. Instead of liking the words in a gentle tone, he got a “network error.” Akihiko Kondo married a hologram in 2018. The hologram is a depiction of a famous Japanese virtual star called Hatsune Miku. Gatebox is a machine that allows users to interact with fictional holographic characters and chat with them. According to the Japanese newspaper The Mainichi, the startup that made Gatebox only produced a “limited production model” by Hatsune Mike. At the height of the pandemic, it was announced at the start that Miku’s virtual service was shutting down, leaving Kondo without a life partner.

Nazare, the Miku hologram, and Carnegie Mellon’s new FIG “fuck machine” are just too early, crazy versions of what the Metaverse has to offer. I shudder to think of what could happen as the metaverse evolves and scientists and large technology companies come up with other ways to introduce us to such uses of virtual reality.

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have long tried to use the alibi that they are “free speech” platforms. Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover would further strengthen this alibi. He has come to call himself a “free speech absolutist”. I think he will have a hard time dealing with his new toy. Managing free speech on a platform is a very different (and even more difficult) proposition than making drums. And then there’s the question of whether its funding will continue. If last week’s equity rout continues, the debt funding he used by giving his stock to Tesla as collateral could suddenly become more expensive for him (assuming, of course, the financing is accomplished).

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have no journalistic standards. Any user can say anything at any time on any topic with little attention to fact. All an opinion, but not clearly marked as such. Therefore, most of the “news” available on these platforms is biased. Unscrupulous sale of users ’personal information and interference from opposing foreign regimes may even influence the election result. Worse still, the spread of false and harmful news can encourage imminent violence.

With Facebook and others now betting on their future in the metaverse, that “we’re just offering a platform” defense can’t cut it. Now, just freedom of expression. Metaverse virtual clothing, as already mentioned in kiss contraption, will inevitably expand. What is the problem with hate messages on social media platforms can be a world where users can commit acts of physical violence against other users. Anyone can guess what its effects will be.

In my opinion, Big Tech companies have proven, over and over again, that they can’t control themselves properly. Even if they make a lot of public announcements, such as the removal of facial recognition technology in 2020 in response to protests that technology has consistently discriminated against people of color, it is a response to public pressure. In any business, profit is always the motive. It’s clear to me that virtual reality regulation is necessary, and fast. Physical interactions cannot be robotized without strict control.

Siddharth Pai is the founder of Siana Capital, a venture capital fund management firm focused on in-depth science and technology in India.

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