During the “Dare to Shape the Future” initiative, Swiss students worked with the support of KPMG coaches on bold predictions about the metaverse in 2043. The following prediction was developed by Christian Cadisch and Rachelle Häfele from ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich.
By 2043, the applications of the metaverse will be highly varied, reaching from professional and commercial industries all the way to scientific fields, including the developments necessary to make training for space travel accessible to the broader public. Since the first human set foot on the moon in 1969, numerous advancements have been achieved, such as the ability to stay at Earth-orbiting bases like the International Space Station in 2000 or the first wealthy individuals experiencing space tourism in 2021. To create an accessible and effective way to conduct space training, metaverse advancements are crucial.
Through significant research and development efforts regarding the hardware and software of the metaverse, researchers discovered ways to non-invasively manipulate the nerves that are responsible for the sense of balance. It soon became apparent that this ground-breaking discovery would revolutionize how space travelers are trained to become desensitized to zero gravity. People that plan to travel to space themselves, whether for scientific reasons or for leisure, will have access to realistic and immersive space training, allowing them to learn how to navigate around spaces and get accustomed to necessary activities such as moving around or eating in a zero-gravity environment. During an intensive six-month training, participants will be required to spend multiple hours in the metaverse-based simulation to get accustomed to the sensations, interact with various objects, and learn to deal with emergency situations. The course will not only prepare them for the changes in gravity, but will also provide interactive training and courses on well-being and physical and mental health when travelling in space. As a final step of approval for space travel, participants will be required to undergo an extensive physical strength and health test; afterwards, they will be ready for launch.
While there are already surgical methods to implant nerve-communicating electrodes, many people are unwilling to undergo such invasive procedures. By affecting the balance nerves non-invasively and creating a sense of zero gravity, space training will suddenly become not only accessible, but also attractive. As a result, in 2043, hundreds of people every year will undergo training in the metaverse to prepare for space travel from the comfort of their own homes, requiring minimal technical resources. Those people who can’t afford to travel in space will take advantage of the added realism in space travel games and movies.
Why did this happen?
During the early years of the metaverse, many people were suffering from the motion sickness that originated from the mismatch between the sensory information the brain receives from the visual nerves and the “balance nerves” (i.e., the vestibulocochlear nerve). This is the same effect that makes people dizzy when reading a book during a car ride. Though the problem had been known for years and multi-billion-dollar tech companies worked on it for almost a decade, the progress was limited, mainly since the technological limitations prevented them from manipulating nerves and only led to improved resolution and refresh rates of the VR display.
However, two major trends in research made neural stimulation of the vestibulocochlear nerve possible. Firstly, the continued miniaturization thanks to advanced electronics assembly enabled precise and non-invasive brain machine interfaces. The non-invasiveness is a key aspect, as few people would be willing to undergo a brain surgery to be able to train for space. Secondly, the use of artificial intelligence to create computer simulations of certain brain areas accelerated the research of neurologists significantly. This allowed humanity to better understand the details of how the sensory system works and how it can be manipulated.
These two advances, combined with the heated competition between privately funded companies and military-funded research projects, made it possible to invent the technology necessary to integrate stimulating electrodes into a pair of in-ear headphones – commercially known as a NAGS (neural anti-gravity simulator). The metaverse of 2043, including educational training for aspiring astronauts, is thus accessible through three hardware components: visual, acoustic, and vestibulocochlear nerve-stimulating devices.
The commercialization of NAGS technology to enhance the metaverse experience changed a lot beyond the significant improvements in space travel for people and certain disadvantaged groups in society. Quality of life improved dramatically for people with disabilities or those suffering directly from an impaired sense of balance, as this new technology helped to alleviate symptoms and allowed for experiences (e.g., travel experiences or virtual rollercoaster rides) that would otherwise not be accessible to them. Furthermore, gaming and e-sports in the metaverse have reached a level of immersion and realism that would be unimaginable without NAGS, from car racing games that include the sensation of centrifugal forces to jump-and-run games that let you feel like you are jumping on top of walls and sliding down pipes more realistically than ever before. But there are also certain dangers associated with the deeper immersion into the metaverse and the instant gratification it provides, such as overuse, addiction, and depression.
However, the application for space travel and research reaches far beyond commercialized training. The importance of space travel will continue to grow in the coming years, for both scientific and military applications. Finding new potential candidates is significantly easier, as candidates’ tolerance and ability to navigate in zero gravity can be assessed through metaverse-based assessments without the need to invite them to a space training facility. Utilizing NAGS for training allows space travel simulation and zero-gravity training to be combined, which were separate training units only few years ago; this minimizes the necessary time for space training. Furthermore, it cuts the associated costs and required resources significantly, making the development of space travel continuously more scalable.
Beyond the different above-mentioned ways NAGS has impacted the world, there are numerous other areas where non-invasive in-ear headphones have affected the global economy, markets, and politics. Going forward, ensuring that the applications of NAGS technology are met with the right regulations will be equally important as the discovery of the various ways that NAGS can be further developed for the metaverse.