10:21 AM

The Metaverse: A New Frontier Opens at UST

My-Meta -Intro the Metaverse For students pursuing a career in the communication field at University of St. Thomas-Houston, the fall semester of 2023 will be like no other. That is because these young men and women will be given a behind-the-curtain look inside a realm that, in the future, will exist everywhere and nowhere at the same time, all the time. Does that sound like science fiction? To many, it may, but not to Dr. Cesare Wright, UST's Director of Digital Media and professor of the University’s first metaverse class called My-Meta-Intro the Metaverse.  

Interconnected Virtual Universe Will be Serious Business

"The interesting thing about the metaverse is that it is essentially an interconnected virtual universe,” Wright said. “It is taking our physical reality, digitizing it, and putting it into an experience within a digital environment. It can connect you to everybody else out there who is doing the same thing!"

The metaverse is serious business, and global tech giants are already doing significant work in the field. Just last year, Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta, and Microsoft started a version of the metaverse in Teams chat, where users' avatars can interact with one another. However, besides the interconnectivity aspect among users, there is another monumental aspect that cannot be ignored: its economic scope. Experts anticipate that by 2030, the metaverse market will be worth between $8 and $13 trillion.

Wright said, "To put that in perspective, there are only two countries in the world that have an economy that big — the United States and China. Within seven to eight years, the metaverse will become the third largest global economy."

In this new digital universe, consumers will be able to purchase an array of virtual commodities such as fashion items, real estate property and even automobiles. Wright predicts that in a few years, luxury carmakers like Ferrari will sell a digital twin to customers who already own a vehicle. That will be a virtual version of a Ferrari for people to drive on the highways of the metaverse!

"Once people see you are cruising around in your Ferrari in the metaverse, they know you have a Ferrari in real life,” Wright explained. “It is virtual, but it has a high value because we believe it does. For many, it is a testament of wealth and prestige."

Essential Considerations Prompted by the Metaverse

However, one of the most important goals of this class is for students to learn about other essential considerations of this new technology: licensing and engagement.

"Because now that you have all these virtual commodities and products, how do you protect them?” Wright wondered out loud, just as he might in an academic setting. “What happens if someone steals them? Where do you prosecute them? And what are the legal and political boundaries?"

UST: Ideal University for a Metaverse Class

UST, according to Wright, is in an ideal position to offer a bold course about this new frontier. First, because of the unwavering support of UST President Richard Ludwick toward academic fields using emerging technologies like this one. Second, the concepts taught and discussed in this class will help to form and equip the future leaders who will make decisions in this industry.

"UST is looking at how we position our students to be leaders in the global economy and how we position them to be successful,” Wright said. “We want our students to be profitable and have good careers. But we are also interested in humanistic questions about how this is going to impact who we are as human beings.”