Reinventing Yourself In The Metaverse Through Digital Identity

Reinventing yourself in the Metaverse through digital identity

August 29, 2022 12:20 PM

Metaverse Through Digital Identity

The Metaverse has evolved into one of the biggest buzzwords of the year as several brands, businesses, and even countries start to research virtual worlds to conduct company. Even though Metaverse's evolution is still underway, a recent report from the technology research and advisory firm Technavio found that Metaverse will hit a market share value of $50.37 billion by the year 2026.

Another report predicts that the development of the Metaverse will be driven by e- commerce, which is expected to reach a market share of $60.47 billion by the year 2026. E-commerce across social media is also expected to grow over the coming years, which may suggest that the Metaverse will increase as the next generation of social networking. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that several Millennials and Gen Zers are presently showing curiosity in the Metaverse.

Digital identity is key to the Metaverse

Research from the “Digital Ownership Report 2022” report from the Metaverse platform Virtua show that younger generations are especially excited by the potential for reinventing themselves in virtual worlds that authorize the invention of digital uniqueness and ownership. For example, the report found that 63% of American millennials expect the Metaverse to allow them to reinvent themselves, while 70% of Americans surveyed agreed that digital things like clothing and artwork are already an important part of their uniqueness.

Jawad Ashraf, CEO, and co-founder of Virtua told Cointelegraph that the capacity for individuals to reinvent themselves is a key part of the Metaverse :

“Many individuals today have reinvented themselves on social media, as they are launching an idea that is still personable and interactive. The Metaverse permits users to define themselves through an avatar, allowing each individual to be themselves without the fear of face-to-face interaction.”

According to Ashraf, people will be capable to represent themselves much more freely in the Metaverse in comparison with Web2 social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. He thinks this is the point because users will be able to customize avatars to represent themselves while leveraging digital assets that they own. He counted that every element of Virtua’s Metaverse is customizable, permitting users to make their avatars recall their “digital identities.”

Janice Denegri-Knott, a lecturer of consumer culture and behavior at Bournemouth University and a researcher behind Virtua’s digital ownership report, told Cointelegraph that there is not yet an authorized purpose for digital originality within the context of the Metaverse. However, she thinks that if digital identity is thought about pragmatically, it can be defined as “the extraordinary, identifiable data that is connected to someone when online.” As such, the idea of digital identity, in this case, raises much deeper than customizing an avatar to resemble oneself.

Denegri-Knott stated: “The Metaverse with its blockchain infrastructure affords users the chance to take more powerful ownership rights over their data, giving them more control over the data they share with others. The beauty of the Metaverse is that a user can have different digital uniqueness, such as a workplace identity, sporting identity, and personal identity, while all still being based on the user’s real-world identity.”

Denegri-Knott added that she thinks the idea of individuals developing themselves digitally is an informative one. “Rather than considering of digital identity as being separate from, but rather connected to an ‘offline/real’ identity is useful. This will permit us to see how our understanding of self may be ‘digitally’ grown in our ability ‘to do and to ‘tell ourselves,’” she described.

With this in intellect, Denegri-Knott told out that the digital objects that users own in the Metaverse will recreate a fundamental part in the development and presentation of self, just as material items allow people to achieve purposes and objectives in the physical world. This was highlighted in Virtua’s report, which found that 70% of consumers feel their digital things help make the perception of who they like to be. Moreover, 75% of surveyors said that they were emotionally connected to the digital items they own in the Metaverse.

Echoing this, Chris Chang, co-CEO of ZepetoX — an Asia-based Metaverse initiative — told Cointelegraph that similar to how real-world things encapsulate a person’s physical space, digital assets in the Metaverse provide clues about a person’s tendencies. “The Metaverse is a phase wherein one can examine connections and identity separate to the physical attributes that one is born with,” he said.

This part is particularly significant, as Denegri-Knott further demonstrated that avatars within the Metaverse can help people achieve purposes that are perhaps impossible in the real world.

“One of the first problems I noted for Virtua was that of an avid Second Life member who lived in squalor, but who in Second Life led a booming life and lived in a palatial home. In our digital avatars, we can learn the blocked plans in our physical lives and reach the status that is denied to us.”

Trust and privacy challenges of digital identity

Although digital identity is a key element behind the request of the Metaverse, several security problems are still associated with this image. Andreas Abraham, project manager of Validated ID — a project cooperating with the European Commission on their blockchain identity initiative — told Cointelegraph that reinventing who you are means reconsidering deals, activities and possibly modifying behavior. Given this, he thinks that the Metaverse will let every individual determine from scratch who they are and who they wish to be.

Yet, this could lead to numerous problems including trusting if an avatar is who they declare to be. Fortunately, there are answers to combat these challenges. Fraser Edwards, CEO of Cheqd, told Cointelegraph that self-sovereign identity, or SSI, may come to the recovery. According to Edwards, SSI is often known interchangeably as “decentralized identity,” which permits individuals to have rights and authority over their data.

In the case of avatars within the Metaverse, Edwards stated that these are driving data issues capable of forming decentralized prestige. “Avatars in the Metaverse will operate online social evidence, depicting the links between them can act as proof for determining which ones signify good individuals (or not) while staying anonymous,” he said. In other words, this permits anonymity while making an element of trust: “Even if an anonymous creator exists only in a Metaverse they could make social evidence through interactions and hence standing with SSI.”

Moreover, Edwards told out that while some Metaverse s authorize users to customize their avatars based on fictional 3D characters, some are leveraging “photo- realistic” avatars. For instance, Union Avatars, a Barcelona-based virtual identity Metaverse platform, is applying real-life images to denote a user’s avatar in the Metaverse.

Cai Felip, CEO of Union Avatars, told Cointelegraph that a photo-realistic avatar is a 3D virtual denote of a user’s real-world self-based on their actual profile: “By leveraging computer vision technology, we have made a solution that can create a full-body avatar from a single selfie taken with your webcam or uploaded to our web app.” Tina Davis, a chief innovative officer of Union Avatars, added that photo-realistic representative avatars are used in industries where it is important to give oneself as they are in real life. “These fields are generally those of medicine, education, business, and travel,” she stated. However, Davis noted that the gaming enterprise is starting to witness more general use cases as more people adopt their virtual individualism.

While creative, protecting user data also becomes a problem in the Metaverse. Dawn Song, founder of Oasis Labs and a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley, told Cointelegraph that apparently, anonymous Metaverse platforms may still be able to gather user data. “As an instance, in our research, we have shown the new privacy threats of the Metaverse. We require new technical solutions to better protect users' privacy,” she said. To fight this, Song described that she assisted to develop a decentralized unknown credential system with an on-chain confirmation to enable users to verify the properties of their individuality while maintaining privacy.

“This system can deliver practical on-chain confirmation for the first time, achieving both privacy and responsibility. It can authorize users to present and know your consumer certificates while remaining private by using zk-SNARKs and smart contract capabilities to verify anonymous credentials," she defined. Song added that her U.C. Berkeley research group made a new solution called “meta guard” to provide an incognito mode for users in the Metaverse.

How digital identity will advance

Despite challenges, digital individuality in the Metaverse will continue to advance in significant ways. For instance, Sebastien Borget, co-founder and chief operating officer of The Sandbox, told Cointelegraph that digital identity in the Metaverse will explore to allow for interoperability within other virtual ecosystems: “Users will like to obtain more than just the visual appearance of their avatar from one virtual world to another. They will also like to take their online progression, reputation, and achievements with them.”

According to Borget, digital identity will continue to make as users pay more time within the Metaverse, whether that be within gaming conditions, through virtual events, or in online workplaces. “Users should be capable to use all their data as evidence of who they are online. This will donate to determining an individual's right digital identity (or multiple ones since there can be many),” he remarked. Borges added that a user’s digital footprint will shortly become necessary within other sectors, like decentralized finance (Defi):

“Even in Defi, a crypto interaction can loan you more to purchase land if you confirm you pay time structure and playing in the Metaverse. And you don’t like that data to be held in just one virtual world — in the true spirit of Web3, users shouldn’t have to be closed in one walled garden platform to bring out their history and importance.”

Moreover, while it’s too early to tell, the priority set on a user’s digital identity may assist reduce the number of illegal movements expected to take place in the Metaverse. For example, Song noted that having a decentralized identity attached to other facts of life like bank accounts could add far more functionality to the Metaverse: “Still, we require to ensure better privacy and data sovereignty for individuals if they are to use the Metaverse truly.”

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