Metaverse is a term used to describe a multi-user 3D virtual world that can be accessed by multiple people using a VR headset, computer and/or smartphone. There are two main platforms used to create virtual worlds; these are Oculus and Steam. The first metaverse was Second Life developed by Linden Lab in 2003. Since then there have been many different metaverses that have been developed including OpenSim and High Fidelity. In 2014, Al Blooshi, CEO of Emirates Advanced Engineering, launched Metaverse. His aim was to build a metaverse that could be used by companies for training and simulation of complex machinery such as planes and trains. Initially the platform was only available to companies but in 2017 the Dubai government announced that they were developing their own version of the platform which would be open to the public. The metaverse allows people to interact in virtual worlds using three-dimensional representations. These worlds are populated by avatars that represent real people. They can also interact with each other and share experiences. Although there are no physical boundaries in the worlds they can still feel real because they are inhabited by people and have rules, laws and social behaviours.
The metaverse allows for people to exist in two or more worlds that allow for expression of their true self. As an analogy, the metaverse will almost be an opportunity for people to ‘reincarnate’ themselves by giving a new virtual existence to a real world persona. For businesses this could mean being able to test a product in a simulated environment before selling it in the real world. This could lead to a reduction in the number of expensive products that fail because of unexpected problems when they are used in real-life situations. The metaverse could also be used to express feelings and experiences which would otherwise be difficult to talk about. This could help people manage their mental health and wellbeing by enabling people to discuss emotional issues in a safe and controlled environment. It could also have a big impact on the way that we socialise and communicate by allowing for people to share ideas and experiences without having to meet face-to-face. This could be particularly useful for people with mental health conditions who are unable to leave the house or meet new people regularly. However, this could also lead to social isolation and loneliness as people could spend more time in virtual worlds and less time interacting with other people in real life. Furthermore, there may be some risks associated with the anonymity of the metaverse which could make it difficult to detect and prevent bullying and harassment. For example, it could allow harmful behaviour to flourish online without being identified. There are many ways in which we could use the metaverse to help us to manage mental health problems but, like everything, it has its risks as well. One of the biggest concerns surrounding the metaverse is its potential impact on children. For example, researchers at the University of Illinois have warned that the metaverse may expose children to age-inappropriate content such as pornography and violence. They could also be exposed to harmful relationships that they may not be emotionally ready to handle.