A Guided Tour of the Metaverse

Rabindra (“Robby”) Ratan / Michigan State University

The metaverse—an immersive network of virtual worlds where people will work, socialize and play—has been discussed widely as the future of the Internet since the COVID-19 pandemic, but did you know the term “metaverse” is three decades old and the concept is even older? So why all the fuss now? One important factor has changed: the technologies that will support the metaverse, from high-quality virtual-reality (VR) headsets to digital-asset ownership (via blockchain), are becoming affordable and accessible to the public. The time is ripe to dip your toe into the metaverse.

In this class, you will take a tour of a few different virtual environments that foreshadow the impending metaverse, guided by Dr. Rabindra Ratan, Associate Professor of Media & Information, who has been studying virtual reality, avatars, and online socialization since 2004. Dr. Ratan will discuss the history, psychology, and societal implications of these metaverse technologies and also describe the undergraduate course he teaches about VR, in VR. This class will be broadcast via video, like a traditional online course, but students will also have the option to simultaneously join virtual platforms using their computers, phones, or even VR headsets (if available). Simple instructions of how to connect to these platforms (e.g., via one link in a web browser) will be provided during the class, so students will be able to interact with Dr. Ratan and each other through their avatars in real time.

Rabindra (Robby) Ratan is an Associate Professor and AT&T Scholar at Michigan State University’s Department of Media and Information as well as Director of the Social and Psychological Approaches to Research on Technology-Interaction Effects (SPARTIE) Lab. Ratan received his Ph.D. from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, his M.A. in Communication from Stanford University, and his B.A. in Science, Technology and Society, also from Stanford University.

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