Rising Expectations for the Metaverse to Resolve Social Issues
Users interact with the metaverse with avatars, artificial characters they create, which move within virtual spaces and chat with other avatars, either with the user's actual voice or with artificially processed voices. As there is no particular need for avatars to be human in form, users can interact with the metaverse with the appearance and gender they desire, and without disabilities.
Even for people who are exhausted by interpersonal relationships and have chosen to distance themselves from society, the metaverse could well lower the barriers to participation in social activities and provide a soothing environment. It has been discovered that people engaged in sustained efforts such as rehabilitation or study are significantly more likely to stick with their pursuits when cheered on by a virtual character, even one controlled by quite simple AI. We expect to see a growing number of metaverse users turning to AI-powered virtual characters for therapy or comfort.
Metaverse Offers a Barrier-Free Society
The metaverse could be an effective technology for attaining the key SDG of building sustainable cities and communities, allowing for greater societal engagement for disabled people and more active participation by the elderly, which is crucial to achieving this goal. We expect substantial progress in building a barrier-free society via the metaverse. Increased participation in economic activity by people with disabilities, the elderly, and those that had withdrawn from society should improve quality of life for these people and their families, while also benefiting society by providing a valuable labor force and consumer base. In order to use the metaverse to build a better society, it would be desirable to make it possible to carry out economic exchanges entirely within the metaverse, and to generate income, buy products and services, and make a living over the long term within the metaverse.
The Metaverse as an Extension of Corporate Activity
Economic activity in the metaverse can take many forms. There has been a trend of attempting to shift some social and corporate activity such as business negotiations, internal meetings, and seminars to metaverse spaces. Companies can also generate revenues by holding concerts and seminars in virtual spaces. Concerts and other events in the metaverse can offer experiences unattainable at real-world concerts, such as freedom of viewing angle, a sense of immersion, and production effects only achievable in a virtual environment. Moving some corporate and social activity into the metaverse can also make it easier for people with disabilities to enter school or find jobs, thereby lowering the barriers to social participation.
Economic Activity Specific to the Metaverse
Some economic activity within the metaverse is not directly connected to the outside world. Users are able to buy and sell avatar designs and clothes and accessories for avatars within many metaverse. While some metaverses prohibit monetary transactions, some go so far as to have their own cryptocurrencies. We are also seeing new forms of employment such as hiring part-time workers to use avatars to provide guidance and explanations at events held in the metaverse.
Would be Premature to Make the Metaverse One's Lifework
Only a few hundred thousand people currently participate in economic activity in the metaverse, and with scope still limited we think using the metaverse for one's lifework would be risky at present. As the number of users increases, we look for safer payment systems to be established and trading rules to be put in place, which should make it possible to garner income within the metaverse, and to buy products and services in metaverse shops.
Summary from Nomura report “The metaverse and the SPE industry (3): Solving social problems” (March 2022) and “The metaverse and the SPEE industry (6): Love in the meatverse” (April 2022)