Digital virtual reality environments such as metaverses could help the Department of Homeland Security communicate information about disaster preparedness, according to a new Rand Corp. study.
Researchers say the use of such technology could reduce injuries and the cost of damage by helping citizens anticipate the likely impact of natural disasters.
“Preparedness is likely to be a particularly rich area for DHS engagement in metaverses,” the study said. “Current materials on earthquake and tsunami preparedness, for example, use mostly text and static images to communicate the hazards of these phenomena and encourage people to keep appropriate sup- plies of nonperishable foods and fresh water, as well as go bags and other points of preparedness.”
It added: “A metaverse-based preparedness simulation could allow people to experience a simulated earthquake and see the damage it can cause, as well as examine the contents of a go bag.”
In the study, Rand defines a metaverse as being virtual, networked to facilitate interaction between users, persistent and accessible, dynamic, informed by real-world data, and defined by people involved in its development. It found also that the the technology may also help the agency with certain types of qualitative research.
However, alongside the benefits of virtual reality environments, Rand researchers also noted that the technology presents a host of challenges that DHS must overcome. These include the use of the technology to spread misinformation as well as abuse and harassment.
Furthermore, the use of such environments also bring the potential for heightened cybersecurity threats and equity and inclusion concerns, according to the nonprofit.
It said: “For technologies to be impactful, they must align with objectives and goals, and we contend that metaverses do, in fact, align with DHS mission sets (and certain specific needs) in many ways. The metaverse is relevant to DHS.
“However, as with any organization facing emerging tech- nologies, DHS could benefit from being proactive rather than reactive. DHS could consider further analysis to leverage opportunities and mitigate threats before metaverses become more prevalent and mature.”