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Metaverse technology concepts

Modeling a New Frontier with Emergent Technologies

March 29, 2023
Technologies that make up the metaverse will disrupt and support well-being all at once.

For all the apocalyptic, digital utopian puffery, the metaverse harbors untapped opportunities.

What we know about the metaverse is that the term has hit mainstream and is used to represent a range of technologies that coalesce hyper-realistic, sensory, parallel virtual experiences.

We also know that it is enabling the development of new revenue streams. By McKinsey estimates, advanced technologies that make up the metaverse will potentially raise productivity and GDP growth to $5 trillion in value by 2030.

The term itself was coined by Neal Stephenson, whose 1992 novel Snow Crash envisioned a dystopian place where a digital reality displaced the physical. Big Tech later latched on to that idea and, since the early 2000s, has flaunted rapid growth by leveraging interactive digital innovations on metaverse platforms.

For the past two decades, we’ve observed public perceptions of the use of frontier technologies—such as the Internet of Things, advanced analytics and predictive models, automation and smart robotics—undergo regular pendulum swings from tech is good to tech is bad to tech is good...

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Then the world faced a reckoning. Through the pandemic, collaboration platforms (Slack, Discord, Teams) and communications and videoconferencing platforms (Zoom, GoToMeeting, Webex) helped to foster innovation by overturning historical notions of where we need to be to get the job done. We can thank the disruptive capabilities of technology for its contribution to workforce fluidity and the ability to redeploy resources through remote working tools.

Arguably, the pandemic’s silver lining is the positive sentiment towards an acceptance of tools aimed at stepping up R&D for healthcare, solving medical technology shortfalls and for coming to the rescue as supply chains broke down. Businesses are steadily realizing how and why tech adoption is an act of enlightened self-interest.

It remains to be seen how the industrial metaverse will fully unfold, but the important factor to keep in mind is its interoperable potential and the extent to which emergent technologies are likely to shift the way we interact across industries.

In the March/April issue of Machine Design we are introduced to Christopher Lafayette, a futurist who makes the case that technology has now caught up with the concept. Lafayette characterized the metaverse as a virtual ecosystem of interaction and communication that has scaled to the point where it has reached the brink of creating, buying, selling and trading in an emergent economy.

A natural extension of this development is the establishment of public and private sector, government laws, rules and ethics, Lafayette said during his keynote at MD&M West in Anaheim, Calif. (Feb. 7-9), where members of the MedTech industry’s power network thrummed at the possibilities for health technology development.

Lafayette was equally mindful of the idea that an unchecked vision of the metaverse won’t serve all people. His platform, Gatherverse, is built around bringing communities together to cross-examine approaches to the metaverse and emerging technologies. To talk about the metaverse in the context of MedTech development, “we must take a humanity first approach when it comes to everything that we build, because the stakes are too high,” he said.

Point taken. Beyond the economic impact, ample research focusing on measures of living standards suggest that technology adoption is poised to improve well-being more broadly. With history as a guide, however, what is foreseeable is that not all players will of their own volition respect guardrails. The architects of the future will need to ensure the highest ethical standards are upheld by factoring in the creation of guidelines around such risks as data privacy, security, ethics, physical safety, sustainability and equity.

There’s a lot of promise and potential in impending digital ecosystems, as long as risks are taken into account along the way.  

Your feedback ensures our relevance. Reach me at [email protected].

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