This Is How NFTs Will Transform Data Ownership in the Metaverse
As the metaverse continues to develop, the next step is for these virtual experiences to become hyperreal. Scaling immersive content experiences to billions of individuals will only be possible with automated AI tools that generate personalized content based directly on users’ biometric face and voice data, along with the physical environments they care about.
This promises that everything from work meetings to parent-teacher interviews will take place in photo-realistic virtual worlds that look exactly like our homes, schools, and offices. And that we as individuals will interact with each other while embodying photo-realistic avatars of ourselves. The idea is that the metaverse will still be filled with game worlds and stylized fictional avatars, but that many of the things we do everyday on the internet will just be easier to replicate as hyperreal virtual experiences in the metaverse.
As a hyperreal metaverse emerges and our avatars become perfect copies of who we are in real life, it is important that every person takes control over how and where we appear in virtual worlds. We also need to safeguard our hyperreal identity and own the deeply personal biometric data used by AI models to build and animate our life-like avatars.
Web1 and Web2 deliver an internet experience that is read/write. Today, we talk about Web3 adding a user-centric ownership layer – so the internet becomes read/write/own.
The more realistic the metaverse becomes, the more regular people need to consider who we ‘become’ in an internet that looks and feels like reality.
If the digital worlds we occupy look exactly like they were shot with a camera on location and are populated with photo-realistic versions of ourselves and loved ones, is it still just the internet? Or are we creating a seamless extension of reality that forces us to ‘be’ ourselves beyond the confines of the physical world? Is the hyperreal metaverse more Web3.1 than Web3.0? Could it give way to the emergence of a “read/write/own/be” internet?
NFT hype cycles come and go, but there is no doubt NFTs will play a critical role in new content and digital economies, especially those important to Gen Z. Record-breaking sales and floor prices aside, NFTs and blockchain technologies are essential elements of the tech stack that will empower regular people to create and own their own hyperreal synthetic avatars in the metaverse. In the future, every person will have an NFT in their wallet that links to their sensitive biometric data that is stored offline.
These NFTs will provide the basis for our persistent virtual identities and we will login to 3rd party services and experiences like “3D Immersive Zoom” and “Hyperreal Fifa 2025” using our wallets – just like how we use “Sign in with Google” today. This process will allow users to verify their real-world identity, control access to their biometric data, and consent to how they are rendered in hyperreal content. It’s a radical departure from the data ownership paradigm of Web2.
This format of control over our hyperreal identities also allows us to directly participate in a new wave of virtual economies.
For example, we will be able to track our participation in virtual events and be compensated for both the data we create online and for a portion of any ad revenues or brand activations that we make possible by participating in a metaverse experience. We will also be able to contribute our personal datasets to build more representative and true-to-life virtual worlds. When we become part of a content experience, it is reasonable that we share in its financial upside. This is the power of Web3.
NFTs: A new model for data ownership
Since the birth of the internet, we’ve lost control of our data in two ways: gradually, then suddenly. For a long time, the only people raising concerns about data ownership were activists who watched in horror as companies built toll booths on the information superhighway and began extracting value from individual’s personal data. With the rise of social media and Web2, it has been impossible to ignore how big tech has amassed unimaginable troves of personal information often without our knowledge or truly informed consent. Who really reads the terms and conditions?
For many people, relinquishing control of their data is an easy choice. The internet services and products we use every day are infinitely convenient and our personal data is the price of admission.
Web3 offers a game-changing window of opportunity where we can claim our hyperreal virtual identities without having to cede our personal data to centralized third-party platforms.
There are many questions that need to be answered about data security, for example, the ability to restore our identities if we lose our keys, but the concept of extending our individual sovereignty into virtual space without being beholden to corporations is a powerful idea.
If the metaverse is going to become a seamless extension of physical reality, we’ll need to enable persistent, portable versions of our virtual selves. We don’t have to change our identities when we go to the store, the office, or a friend’s party in the real world and it should be the same in the metaverse.
While we may have multiple versions of our hyperreal avatar that allow us to play with our identity, such as creating younger versions of ourselves, or rendering ourselves as a different gender, these hyperreal creative permutations are all ultimately based on our real world data and identity. It is essential that the high-resolution biometric data that personal avatars are based on does not find its way into the hands of every company or developer that builds virtual experiences in the metaverse.
When we securely store our personal data in NFTs, we are able to transport this information across virtual spaces in the metaverse. At the same time, NFTs give the user complete control over when and how this personal information is used by third parties. This allows us to prove that we are who we say we are in any context without requiring that we first reveal sensitive personal information.
Hyperreal NFTs linked to biometric data can become a decentralized and user-controlled identity verification platform built into the fabric of the metaverse.
This transition to a new NFT-powered data ownership model is already well underway. Those working to secure personal data with NFTs are plotting the course toward a metaverse where our virtual selves have all the characteristics that we value in our flesh-and-blood identities. Our physical selves are non-fungible and, in ideal conditions, we are in control of our bodies and actions. Now we finally have the technology to allow regular people to protect and control who they are and what they do in the metaverse.
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