What is the Metaverse
The concept was coined in 1992 by science fiction author Neal Stephenson. He described it as a large virtual environment where each user, represented through a 3D avatar, can create what he wants (shops, offices, parks, etc.) and interact with other users.
What was a futuristic vision of the internet has now become reality.
How did we get to the rise of the Metaverse?
First, we have reached sufficient technological maturity to make a Virtual Universe. This type of virtuality, which makes the boundaries between physical and digital increasingly blurred, is facilitated by the convergence between different Internet technologies and Extended Reality (XR). There are several degrees in which the XR integrates with the physical and the digital reality:
- Augmented Reality (AR): the physical environment is enriched by virtual data
- Mixed Reality: the user moves in an environment where real and virtual data coexist
- Virtual Reality (VR): the physical world is completely replaced by virtual data
Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, 5G, cloud, digital twin, etc. also contribute.
The second important factor is the integration between digital technology into our daily life. The IoT (Internet of Things) has now become part, not only in the industrial processes, but also into our day to day lives. Another example is Smart Cities which, provide digital services to improve the quality of life of citizens through Artificial Intelligence.
Last but not least, government funds for the research and development of hardware and software were fundamental. In particular, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) funding and the creation of the military program SIMNET (Simulator Networking), the first example of the virtual universe in question, contributed to the Metaverse.
Like many other inventions made in the military, this technology then entered the lives of individuals through investment and research and development within companies such as Meta (formerly Facebook) and Microsoft.
Cyber Policing in the Metaverse
There are many opportunities that lie ahead in the Metaverse. However, there are also dangers. In fact, by recreating our reality in a synthetic and digital way, we also carry the negative aspects with us.
Not surprisingly, for years, some video games and virtual environments have been studied and monitored by the intelligence of various countries. In 2013, documents were made public that showed how the NSA (National Security Agency), SIGINT (Signal Intelligence), GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters) had infiltrated video games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft27 because they were considered terrorist planning sites.
The Metaverse, as an environment of interaction, could become the basis of criminal and terrorist activities and as more immersive than its predecessors, it could lead to more serious psychological consequences.
In fact, it has been shown that people react to experiences in virtual reality in a similar way to those experienced in the “real” world. Let’s think about the impact of harassment or reproductions of terrorist attacks in the Metaverse.
Cyber Policing: the new frontiers of the police
The rapid expansion of cyberspace and new virtual realities entail the need for new regulations and new ways of doing security.
The first challenge to be faced is the absence of borders. Criminal law rules are considered a matter of national sovereignty, while the internet has no borders. Therefore, in addition to new regulations, it will be necessary to provide for a Cyber Policing body.
The second challenge is to develop new monitoring and prevention tools. Artificial Intelligence and Data Intelligence can be the right allies to manage the huge amount of data that the Metaverse contains. For example, through Audio Recognition technologies, identity theft and fraud could be prevented; with the implementation of NLP (Natural Language Processing) criminal conversations could be automatically identified, etc.
These are just a few examples. The opportunities and developments are unimaginable.
Obviously, the need for new forms of security will have to work in synergy with the resulting privacy and ethics regulations to offer users and companies that populate the Metaverse a valuable and above all safe experience.