chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: January 2023

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Metaverse

Jeffrey M Allen and Ashley Hallene


  • The metaverse is a virtual universe created through a combination of technologies like eye-tracking, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) that offers a three-dimensional digital space, distinct from VR, where users can have immersive experiences.
  • Users can create accounts, often with avatars, and enter metaverses using VR headsets for an immersive experience into different virtual realms that could include entertainment, business, and social applications.
  • The metaverse is still in its early stages but holds great potential, with applications in law, business meetings, training, and more.
  • There are potential challenges and issues associated with the metaverse, including data protection, cybercrime, privacy, security, regulation, cryptocurrency use, and mental health concerns.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Metaverse Pevide

Jump to:

Enough people have asked us about the metaverse that we decided to devote an article to explaining what it is and how it functions.  The metaverse combines several technologies to endeavor to create an exceptional virtual experience inside of a virtual universe. The technologies utilized include eye-tracking, virtual reality (“VR”), and augmented reality (“AR”). 

A functional working definition of the metaverse is that it is a spatial computing platform acting as an alternative to or replica of the real world.  Participants in a metaverse can have completely immersive experiences through the use of VR and AR technologies.

To understand the concept, you need to accept the fact that the metaverse does not exist as a real place nor is there only one metaverse.  The internet offers access to numerous metaverses and more are created all the time.  Each metaverse exists independent of the other metaverses and creates a “reality” in which users can become totally absorbed.  Metaverses offer entertainment as well as business and social applications.

The metaverse offers a means of connecting to any place in the world to any other place in the world using virtual reality, which gives you the impression of standing in the same place as the others on the system in a way that a video conference cannot.  A video conference connection offers two-dimensional interactivity.  The metaverse uses AR and VR to give you three-dimensional interactivity.

Many people confuse the metaverse with VR.  Do not make that mistake.  VR technology simply creates a three-dimensional environment to serve a specific purpose.  The metaverse offers a three-dimensional digital space that employs VR technology to achieve its functionality.  The metaverse has a much broader application than VR alone.

Visiting a metaverse takes very little effort.  You have to pick the metaverse you want to access, create an account (and usually an avatar), and then enter the universe.  As existing monitors by themselves cannot present a three-dimensional image, you will need to use a special headset that provides a VR image. 

The metaverse remains in its infancy and provides the opportunity for extensive growth over time.  Existing users have created recreational, personal, and business uses for the metaverse and a growing number of metaverse creations have endeavored to monetize their structure and create a virtual economy within the metaverse selling a variety of “products” to those entering its sphere of operations.  In the metaverse, cryptocurrencies reign as the monetary units.  Different metaverses may choose to build on different cryptocurrencies and you will need to have an account for whatever cryptocurrency the metaverse you enter uses in order to avail yourself of its products.  That means you may end up with several cryptocurrency accounts and wallets, depending on how many metaverses you choose to join.  (Note: Not all have endeavored to monetize themselves.  Those that do not require payment generally require only an account and an avatar, while those that require payment will also require that you set up and fund a wallet with the cryptocurrency chosen by the metaverse creators/operators.)

The metaverse has many practical applications for attorneys and could one day become the venue for depositions or even hearings, offering a more realistic presentation than today’s two-dimensional monitors.  VR and its third dimension can also facilitate training programs and business meetings where it feels and looks like everyone is in the same room at the same time, notwithstanding that they are in geographically disparate areas all over the state, the country, or even the world.

The metaverse has sprung up as a relatively new technological evolution, but you can expect that it will grow very rapidly due to its desirability and functionality.  As a nascent technology, predicting the future of the metaverse poses many problems.  Try to imagine the growth of the internet today and how it would expand from its status back in 1975 or 1980.  That example offers an apt comparison given how unpredictable most of us would have found that growth.  In fact, many would have likely found it difficult to accurately predict the growth of the internet from 2000 to the present or from the present to 2050.  But the growth of the internet gives us some idea of the magnitude of expansion and development we might anticipate for the metaverse over the next decade or two.  Expect that hardware, as well as software evolution will feed into the metaverse and that we will use it more for virtually (pun intended) everything.  It will enhance personal and family interactions, facilitate business meetings, provide a fertile and helpful environment for education, and offer an expansive milieu for shopping and commerce, including the provision of legal and other professional services.  Expect the metaverse structure to evolve and change over time as it expands to accommodate commerce as well as social activities and as technology itself changes.

We already have major companies such as Sony,  Apple, Disney, Meta (formerly Facebook), Microsoft, Nvidia, Epic Games, and many others moving into the metaverse.  Forecasts predict that the VR market will grow from $30 billion in 2021 to $300 billion by 2024.  As more and more companies move into a metaverse structure, we will encounter it more regularly and its appeal will undoubtedly make it even more attractive and successful in the future.   Do not anticipate that you can avoid it, even if you want to do so.  Competition from others will undoubtedly push you in that direction professionally while the vendors offering products and services will likely pull you into the metaverse at a personal level.

According to eMarketer, some 58.9 million people used VR at least once a month in 2021 and 93.3 million people use AR that frequently.  Additionally. The Entertainment Software Association reports that 67% of American adults and 76% of kids are gamers.  These figures will likely fold quickly into the metaverse structure as the providers move their operations into that direction.  Be advised that you should anticipate heavy marketing pushes towards the metaverse.  We have already seen several papers on how marketers can successfully use the metaverse.  More and more vendors have either introduced VR to their marketing structure or already moved into a metaverse site.  The metaverse potential for retailers

is so significant that some brands have already created professional titles for the metaverse. Nike, for example, has a Director of Metaverse Engineering.  (Nike, incidentally, launched virtual stores for a limited line of shoes, the Air Max 720.) The brand also created a virtual House of Innovation, modeled after its New York physical location, which consumers could visit using their mobile phone and AR capabilities.

We have already seen metaverse structures where vendors sell virtual real estate plots and vendors market virtual products, including clothes and collectibles, as well as physical products.  Interestingly the virtual products have generated fairly substantial economic value, creating a very different virtual economy.

As always, technology remains a double-edged sword.  While, on the one hand the metaverse offers many positive elements, it can also have a dangerous downside if you fail to exercise appropriate caution.   Anticipate that over time the technology and the policies and procedures around it will evolve and the problems will diminish, although they will not likely ever disappear.

Problems you should anticipate and concern yourself with include:

  1. Data protection 
  2. Cybercrime
  3. Harassment/Bullying 
  4. Privacy
  5. Security
  6. Regulation and operation, including the risk of potential monopolistic abuse.
  7. Crypto currency issues
  8. Potential of mental health issues resulting from diminishing contact with the outside world.
  9. User addiction (Note: Internet addiction has already been well-documented and this may push more people over that edge.)
  10. Content moderation issues as social media moves into this environment.
  11. Environmental Impact, which is a two-way street involving positive and negative consequences that may balance each other out.

Some of the anticipated problems are social, environmental, or economic matters over which you will have little control. Others, such as privacy, security, and cybercrime have potential ethical consequences for lawyers and economic consequences for lawyers, as well as others.  As state bars and courts have started imposing upon lawyers the responsibility for learning about technology and employing reasonable safety and security measures, until more information becomes available and better techniques more particularly attuned to the metaverse evolve, the best advice we can give you is to ensure that you follow the general rules respecting security and data privacy and ensure that you have protected your data using secure networks, encryption, virtual private networks (VPN), and securely protected strong passwords.  You should also try to avoid using public networks and always use them with a VPN if you have to use one.  You should also be wary of links in emails as they could take you to a phony website, and of email attachments, as they could introduce malware into your system.  You might want to move to two-factor identification as well.  

Also, remember that if you end up using crypto currencies, they require a different set of considerations and protections than the use of government backed currencies.  While a discussion of the benefits and risks of crypto currency exceeds the scope of this article, in addition to following the preceding suggestions, you should, at a minimum, include two-factor identification, use an authenticator application, and set up a secure hardware wallet for your crypto currency.