Reinventing yourself in the Metaverse through digital identity


The metaverse has become the biggest buzz word of the year as many brands, companies and even countries begin to explore the virtual world to do business. Although the development of the Metaverse is still underway, a recent report by technology research and advisory firm Technavio found that the Metaverse will reach a market share value of $50.37 billion by the year 2026.

Another report predicts that the growth of 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 on social media platforms is also expected to grow in the coming years, which may suggest that the metaverse will continue to grow as the next generation of social networking. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many Millennials and Gen Zs are currently showing interest in the metaverse.


Digital identity is the key to the metaverse

The findings of the “Digital Ownership Report 2022” from Metaverse platform Virtua Report show that younger generations are particularly excited by the ability to re-establish themselves in virtual worlds that allow the creation of digital identity and ownership. For example, the report found that 63% of American millennials expect the metaverse to help them recreate themselves, while 70% of Americans surveyed agreed that digital items like clothing and artwork already belong to them. are an essential part of identity.

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

“Many people today have reinvented themselves on social media, as they are projecting an image that is still engaging and interactive. The Metaverse allows users to express themselves through an avatar, Thereby allowing each person to be themselves without the fear of face-to-face interaction.

According to Ashraf, people will be able to express themselves more freely in the Metaverse than in Web2 social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. He believes this is due to the fact that users will be able to customize avatars to portray themselves while taking advantage of their digital assets. He added that every aspect of Virtua’s metaverse is customizable, allowing users to create their own avatars to reflect their “digital identity.”

Example of a customizable avatar in Virtua’s Metaverse. Source: Virtua

Janice Denegri-Nott, professor of consumer culture and behavior at Bournemouth University and a researcher behind Virtua’s digital ownership report, told Cointelegraph that there is no official definition yet for a digital identity in the context of the metaverse. However, he believes that if digital identity is thought of practically, it can be defined as “unique, identifiable information that is associated with a person when they are online.” Thus, the concept of digital identity, in this case, extends far deeper than simply customizing an avatar to resemble oneself. Denegri-not detailed:

“Metaverse with its blockchain infrastructure gives users the ability to assume greater ownership rights over their own data, giving them greater control over the information they share with others. The beauty of the Metaverse is that the user has a distinct There may be different digital identities, such as workplace identities, sports identities and personal identities, all while still based on the user’s real-world identities.”

Denegri-Nott said he believes the idea of ​​individuals expanding themselves digitally is an instructive. “It is helpful to think of being as separate from a digital identity, rather than a ‘offline/real’ identity. This will allow us to see how our sense of self is ‘digitally’ our ability to do.” and can be expanded into ‘expressing oneself,'” she explained.

With this in mind, Denegri-Nott explained that digital items owned by users in the metaverse will play a fundamental role in the development and expression of themselves, just as physical objects help people achieve intentions and goals in the physical world. This was highlighted by Virtua’s report, which found that 70% of consumers feel that their digital items help create the perception of who they want to be. In addition, 75% of surveyors expressed that they were emotionally attached to the digital objects they owned in the metaverse.

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Echoing this, Chris Chang, co-CEO of XapetOx – an Asia-based Metaverse initiative – told Cointelegraph how real-world objects surround a person’s physical space, in the same way that digital assets in the Metaverse are related to a person’s tendencies. Provides clues about He said, “The metaverse is a setting in which one can explore relationships and identities distinct from the physical realities with which he is born.”

This aspect is particularly important, as Denegri-Nott further points out that avatars within the metaverse can help individuals achieve goals that are perhaps unimaginable in the real world:

“One of the first cases I reported for Virtua was that of an avid Second Life member who lived in filth but lived a successful second life and lived in a palatial house. In our digital avatars we One can realize the blocked goals in our material life and attain that state which we have been rejected.

The trust and privacy challenges of digital identities

Although digital identity is a key feature behind the appeal of the metaverse, there are a number of security issues associated with the concept. Andreas Abraham, project manager of Validated ID – a project collaborating with the European Commission on their blockchain identity initiative – told Cointelegraph that re-inventing who you are means rethinking values, activities and possibly changing behaviour. Is. Given this, he believes the metaverse will allow each person to define from scratch who they are and who they want to be.

Still, this can lead to a number of issues, including believing whether the Avatar is who they claim to be. Fortunately, there are solutions to combat these challenges. CEO Fraser Edwards told Cointelegraph that Self-Sovereign Identity, or SSI, could come to the rescue. According to Edwards, SSI is often referred to interchangeably as a “decentralized identity,” which allows individuals to have ownership and control over their data.

In the case of avatars within the metaverse, Edwards noted that these are dynamic data points capable of creating decentralized reputations. “Avatars in the metaverse will collect social evidence online, which means that interactions between them can serve as evidence to determine who represents good individuals (or not) while remaining anonymous,” he said. . In other words, it allows anonymity while creating an element of trust: “Even if an anonymous developer is fully present in the metaverse, they can create social proof through interactions and hence reputation with SSI.”

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In addition, Edwards pointed out that some Metaverses allow users to customize their avatars based on fictional 3D characters, some taking advantage of “photo realistic” avatars. For example, Union Avatar, a Barcelona-based virtual identity metaverse platform, is implementing real-life images to represent a user’s avatar in the metaverse.

Union Avatars CEO Cai Felipe told Cointelegraph that a photo-realistic avatar is a 3D virtual representation of a user’s real world based on their real image: “By leveraging computer vision technology, we have created a solution that can generate A full-body avatar from a single selfie taken from your webcam or uploaded to our webapp.” Union Avatars Chief Creative Officer Tina Davis said photo-realistic representational avatars are used in industries where it is important to present yourself in real life. “These areas are generally medicine, business, education and travel,” she remarked. However, Davis noted that the gaming industry is starting to see wider use cases as more people embrace their virtual identities.

Photo realistic avatar of Cai Felipe. Source: Connecting Realities

While innovative, protecting user data also becomes an issue in the metaverse. Don Song, founder of Oasis Labs and professor at the University of California at Berkeley, told Cointelegraph that the seemingly anonymous Metaverse platform may still be able to collect user data. “As an example, in our research, we have shown new privacy risks of the Metaverse. We need new technological solutions to better protect users’ privacy,” she said. To counter this, Song explained that Oasis Labs recently developed a decentralized anonymous credentialing system with on-chain verification so that users can prove their identity while maintaining confidentiality.

“In our system, we can provide practical on-chain verification for the first time, achieving both confidentiality and accountability. The system, known as SNAC, allows users to know your customer credentials while remaining private. SNAC uses zk-SNARKs and smart contract capabilities to verify anonymous credentials, she explained. Song said Oasis Labs used “MetaGuard” to provide an incognito mode for users in the Metaverse. Created a new solution called.

How will digital identity progress?

Despite the challenges, digital identity in the metaverse will continue to grow in a meaningful way. For example, Sebastian Bourget, co-founder and chief operating officer of The Sandbox, told Cointelegraph that digital identities in the metaverse will expand to allow interoperability within other virtual ecosystems: “users will bring more than just their visual presence.” Would like. Avatar from one virtual world to another. They would also like to take their online reputation, progress and achievements with them.”

According to Borget, digital identities will continue to build as users spend more time within the metaverse, whether in gaming environments, through virtual events or in online workplaces. “Users should be able to use all of their data as proof of who they are online. This will contribute to defining a person’s true digital identity (or there may be as many ),” he remarked. Borget added that the digital footprint of users will soon become important in other areas such as decentralized finance (DeFi):

“Even in DeFi, a crypto exchange can give you more loans to buy land if you prove that you actually spend time building and playing in the metaverse. And you don’t want that. Let the data just be kept in a virtual world – in the true spirit of Web3, users should not be locked in a walled garden platform to further their history and reputation.”

Furthermore, while it is too early to tell, the importance placed on a user’s digital identity could help reduce the amount of illegal activity that takes place in the metaverse. For example, Song noted that a decentralized identity tied to other aspects of life such as bank accounts could add more functionality to the metaverse: “Still, we need to ensure better privacy and data sovereignty for individuals if they Really want to use the metaverse.”