How Will State Governments Use the Metaverse?

March 29, 2023 NASCIO Episode 92
How Will State Governments Use the Metaverse?
Show Notes Transcript

Alex talks with Amy about the new NASCIO report she authored called Navigating the Metaverse: Potential Applications and Implications for State Government. 

Then Amy gets some help from her 7-year-old daughter to explain what the metaverse actually is. 

Episode on VR for social work job applicants:
Pictures of your hosts wearing VR goggles:

Episode 92 -- Metaverse Publication

Tue, Apr 11, 2023 10:47AM • 16:58


metaverse, states, vr, minecraft, publication, play, applications, people, government, game, world, amy, technology, accessed, understand, digital, rupp arena, question, emerging technologies, vr goggles


EG, Alex Whitaker, Amy Glasscock


Amy Glasscock  00:05

Hi, and welcome to NASCIO voices where we talk all things state it. I'm Amy Glasscock, in Lexington, Kentucky. 


Alex Whitaker  00:11

And I'm Alex Whitaker in Washington, DC. Today we're talking about another new NASCIO publication, navigating the metaverse potential applications and implications for state government. And since our very own Amy was the primary author, it will just be the two of us today along with a very special short guest interview. So Amy, let's get started. Why did you decide to write about the metaverse for NASCIO?


Amy Glasscock  00:33

Well, all of our emerging technology reports always come from a place of what do we see coming down the pipeline? Even if it's not quite here? How can we think ahead and help to prepare state CIOs for this technology, whatever that technology may be. So with increasing talk of the metaverse, or metaversus however you want to say it, with Facebook, actually changing the name of their company to Meta, even though it still seems kind of out there. And far fetched there are, you know, major companies investing a lot of time and money in the concept. And we can see that even if it's mostly used for, you know, like gaming or socializing. Now, eventually, state governments might find it useful as well. And in addition to that, in the report, we talk about how states have really moved in the direction of digital government in the wake of the pandemic. And while that's great, in most cases, sometimes you just need to talk with someone, you know, especially if you have a specific issue where you're having a specific problem online, or you know, you have a special case, and you just can't figure it out, just by looking on the state website or something like that. So what if we combine the ease of conducting business from home with the personal touch of human interaction? And that's kind of how I see the metaverse working when it comes to Citizen Services anyway, down the line. 


Alex Whitaker  01:53

Yeah, for sure. No, I think it's a really good idea. I know I've got tons of questions myself. And so I love that we're starting to explore this. And so while the idea of the metaverse is still pretty new for states and myself, some states have been using virtual reality applications for a few years now. Can you give us some examples of what they've been doing? 


Amy Glasscock  02:10

Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to devote a portion of this report to the more accessible technology because it is part of the metaverse, but also something that states are using right now. So I'll give two examples of how states are using virtual reality. Some of the applications we're seeing are around social workers. So you know, we had Kevin Jones on the podcast back in 2020, talking about how the Indiana Department of Child Services was experiencing high turnover rate. And so they use VR to show potential new hires what the job would be like before they even said yes. And the result was that they were able to keep social workers longer because they understood the job before even taking it. So that's one example. And you can go back and listen to that podcast. Another good example is in the area of corrections. So the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is actually running a pilot program using VR to improve communication between children and their incarcerated parents as they prepare to reenter society. And in addition, they're using VR for virtual visitations, which as you can imagine, it might be much more of like a kid friendly thing to talk with a parent and that way, instead of actually having to visit a prison, so there are a few more examples in the publication. But those are two I wanted to highlight. 


Alex Whitaker  03:31

Yeah, no, certainly, I could certainly understand the application in a correction sense. I think that's a really cool thing. Yeah. And that all makes sense. But it's a little hard to see how the metaverse would be different than just using virtual reality. Can you explain the difference? And whether what are the differences there? 


Amy Glasscock  03:48

Yeah, absolutely. And that was my thought as well. When I was digging into the research. You know, it was kind of like, well, this, how would the metaverse be any different than just you know, VR? So some would say that using VR is the metaverse using digital twins as the metaverse. And it's true, there are a lot of different ways to define it or to interpret it. But in the report, we did want to explain the sort of commonly held differences between the metaverse and VR. So one of the biggest differences is that VR is a technology that can be used in a Metaverse along with several other technologies in a Metaverse, you can build or buy things that remain there instead of just manipulating things inside of a VR application. So if you think back to that time that you and I were at that VR conference in DC, and we had on the goggles, and we were using the hand grips to just sort of like pick up a ball that was there and throw it we weren't, you know, creating or building anything or buying balls that we could use in that Metaverse application. It was just kind of using what was provided to us, right. Yeah, I still have some photos from that. I wonder if we could put those in the show notes. looking silly with the VR headsets.  Yeah, I could link to the tweet about it.  But so and then also the metaverse can be accessed via VR goggles, but it can also be accessed with a smartphone or a computer. So you don't actually have to have on VR goggles. But that is a pretty important part of VR. And we actually have a handy chart in the paper that you can look at to see some of the other differences. But I thought it might be fun to talk about what the metaverse actually is by hearing it through the lens of someone close to me who often engages in a Metaverse, my seven year old daughter who's a big fan of Minecraft. Here's what she said. All right. Hi, sweetie. Thanks for joining me on the podcast. 


EG  05:41

You're welcome. 


Amy Glasscock  05:43

Okay, so we've been talking about this thing called the metaverse and You are the closest person to me that regularly uses a metaverse. So I want to ask you about Minecraft today. Okay. 


EG  05:57

All right. 


Amy Glasscock  05:58

So Minecraft is a game that you play at school sometimes. I'm gonna ask you some questions. The first question is, do you have to use virtual reality goggles or anything to play Minecraft? 


EG  06:10

No, you just really need like a Chromebook? Well, I mean, a device that you can get Minecraft on and then you just play the game. 


Amy Glasscock  06:21

Okay, so you could use just a computer. You don't have to have special goggles. But you could play Minecraft with goggles. I understand. 


EG  06:28

I guess so. 


Amy Glasscock  06:29

Yeah, but obviously you don't have those at school. Okay. So when you play Minecraft? Do you get to build things? Or make things in there? 


EG  06:38

Yeah, that's kind of what the game is about mining and crafting. 


Amy Glasscock  06:43

Okay. So when you shut down your computer, and you get out of Minecraft, and you go back into it the next day, or the things that you built still there? 


EG  06:52

Yeah. Also, it'd be pretty annoying to just have to rebuild it again. And again. 


Amy Glasscock  06:57

That's true. Okay, so when you are in Minecraft, can you meet up with other people? Like, are you just in your world? Or can you be in other worlds? 


EG  07:08

Well, you can join someone else's world with this special code is pictures and other people can join your world. 


Amy Glasscock  07:17

Okay, so there's different worlds that you can join and you can interact with your friends in there if you wanted to. Yeah. That's cool. All right, that was really helpful. I think our listeners probably understand a lot more now about what Minecraft and therefore the metaverse is like, at least in your application of it. Okay, well, daddy said that it couldn't let you go without a short segment that we call... the lightning round. Are you ready? 


EG  07:47



Amy Glasscock  07:48

Okay. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?


EG  07:52

I don't know. Disney World or Rupp Arena. Rupp Arena even though Rupp Arena is easy to go to. 


Amy Glasscock  07:59

Okay. Where the Kentucky basketball team plays. 


EG  08:02

Yeah, but they can play other places too, right. 


Amy Glasscock  08:05

Yeah. What's one of your favorite songs that you like to listen to right now? 


EG  08:10

Probably Audrey's Christmas rewind. 


Amy Glasscock  08:13

Oh, what's that from? Descendants, but it's not in the movie. It's like a YouTube video.  Okay. And then final question. Do you play any sports? 


EG  08:25

Yes, I am playing soccer right now. But I have played basketball and many, many other seasons of soccer. 


Amy Glasscock  08:33

Awesome. Thanks again for coming on the podcast today. Really appreciate it. 


EG  08:36

You're welcome. 


Amy Glasscock  08:37



Alex Whitaker  08:38

Wow, that was great. I'm so glad we could get such an expert on the subject. Okay, so looking ahead, what are some of the ways that states might be using the metaverse in the future? 


Amy Glasscock  08:49

Yeah, good question. So, you know, trainings within state government are kind of the first place that I see it happening. Some of the large federal military agencies are planning Metaverse training simulations right now. And I think states will probably try it out internally first like that before expanding to offering services in the metaverse. So, you know, it might be a while before you use the metaverse to renew your driver's license, for instance, which might even be more complicated than just doing it online. I don't know. Down the road, I could see states using the metaverse for things like economic development projects, you know, giving businesses an idea of what it would be like to invest in the state in a more immersive way. Encouraging tourism, tourists can get a taste of what's available, and then plan to come see it in real life. And then of course, you know, for higher education, we've had online learning for a really long time now. But learning in the metaverse could be much more like being there in person and I think that there, we did link to an example in the paper of university that's doing that already. 


Alex Whitaker  09:56

Ya know, for sure. I think there's so many applications I'm also thinking about what how This can be so great for people with disabilities or who have mobility challenges or what have you. But I think like so many of these things, we, you know, we have no idea of the hopefully good applications that can be coming. So that's, that's, that's really interesting. So for states thinking about starting down this path, what advice did you come up with based on your research?


Amy Glasscock  10:18

Yeah, well, you know, our advice isn't much different than the advice that we give for using other emerging technologies. You know, those tried and true suggestions, like have a business case. First, don't just go looking for a way to use the technology for fun, but have a reason to use it in the first place. Start by creating a Metaverse roadmap just like we've suggested an AI roadmap, things like that. So that you have a framework and you have governance around it before you get started. And of course, gather your stakeholders because there are going to be a lot of people in state government that need to be involved in something like this. 


Alex Whitaker  10:55

Yeah, for sure. I'm sure there's a lot of input that needs to happen. And so what are the some of the considerations or cautions that states need to think about? 


Amy Glasscock  11:02

Yeah, and again, none of these things are things that we haven't mentioned before in the world of NASS era publications. But of course, security is at the top of that list, it's going to be really vital, as well as getting your identity and access management, right? Because you are going to have people basically in these digital avatars or, you know, digital costumes claiming to be someone, so you have to make sure that they're actually who they say they are not pretending to be someone else, or someone who isn't actually real. I mean, that's all well and good, I suppose if you're in a game, but when you're dealing with the government, that's pretty important. In addition, you know, privacy goes along with that. So we're going to be thinking about a really personalized, immersive experience. And people are going to be sharing a lot of data. So you have to get privacy, right. And there's also a lack of regulation when it comes to privacy in the metaverse. So it's not something that current privacy legislation has dealt with. And so that can complicate things. Another thing that we are urging folks to be concerned about is safety. And online harassment is something that is already around, of course, but you can sort of imagine when you are in an immersive, lifelike experience, sort of harassment can feel more real, and you can feel unsafe in those situations. So you know, definitely wouldn't want a state Metaverse to be a place where a citizen would feel unsafe. bias and discrimination, of course, something that we are always thinking about in emerging technologies, ensuring that marginalized communities are treated fairly and accessibility something that we also think about a lot in government technology. So how can the metaverse be adapted for those who are visually impaired? Or deaf or hard of hearing? Or who have mobility impairments? And what about neurodiverse users? Will there be the ability to, you know, turn down brightness or sounds or whatever it might be that makes the person more comfortable using it? 


Alex Whitaker  13:10

Ya know, certainly a lot, a lot of considerations there. You know, Facebook has been prompting me to create an avatar for months now. So maybe this will spur me to actually do it. We'll see. 


Amy Glasscock  13:19

There you go. 


Alex Whitaker  13:20

Well, this is great. Where can listeners find the new publication? 


Amy Glasscock  13:23

Yeah, absolutely. So you can find it along with all of our other forward slash resources. 


Alex Whitaker  13:31

Great. Yeah. Well, I strongly encourage folks to take a look. And while you're there, peruse some of our other publications, too. But thanks so much. But before we let you go, you are no stranger to the lightning round. So are you ready to answer a couple of questions that are not work related? 


Amy Glasscock  13:48

I'm ready. 


Alex Whitaker  13:49

Great. Okay. So I know you're a big concert person. What's the best live show you've been to in the last year? 


Amy Glasscock  13:56

Well, top of mind is a show that I went to on St. Patrick's Day, actually. And that was Billy Strings. So he's a young he's only 30 years old bluegrass musician, but also kind of goes into jam music Jam Band music. I don't know. He's just kind of hard to describe. It doesn't really fit in like one box. But he puts on a really good show. And he plays really hard for his audience. So big Billy strings fan. 


Alex Whitaker  14:24

Yeah, I know him, but I've never seen them live. So I'm very jealous. Yeah, really? All right. So speaking of Metaverse and games, do you have a favorite video game or board game?


Amy Glasscock  14:34

Well, not too much into video games this year. I mean, we just have like a Nintendo 64 At our house that was from my husband's childhood!


Alex Whitaker  14:42

Yeah, old school. Yeah.


Amy Glasscock  14:45

But I we do play a lot of board games as a family. And really, I'm into Ticket to Ride so we have both like the kids version and the adult version, and they're both super fun. So if you haven't checked out Ticket to Ride, it's really fun. 


Alex Whitaker  14:58

I've heard good things, my kids are still too little for board games. But I am excited for the point at which we can use those to pass a rainy day instead of, you know, just TV or what have you, 


Amy Glasscock  15:08

you'll be playing Hi, Ho, cheerio before you know it.


Alex Whitaker  15:12

Looking forward to so taking it back to the quote unquote, real world, summer is going to be here before we know it. So what's your favorite act or activity to do in the summer?


Amy Glasscock  15:23

Originally, I was just gonna say eating, you know, because foods always better outside. But I think it's gonna have to be spending time at my parents place. They live on 50 acres of wooded land outside of Berea, Kentucky. And they have a beautiful little swimming hole on their property. And just one of the best things to do in the summer is just go hang out there and spend a day swimming and, you know, bring a couple of friends down. And it's just definitely my happy place. 


Alex Whitaker  15:54

That sounds awesome. I think we're gonna have to record an episode from there so I can justify an invitation! Well, great. That wraps up our episode today. But thank you, Amy, so much for giving us an overview of the cub publication. I think it's really fascinating. And again, encourage folks to take a look. 


Amy Glasscock  16:10

Yeah, absolutely. You know, the idea is still seems pretty out there. But I think it's something that we shouldn't be ignoring. So we're always happy to think ahead about things like that. And happy to talk about it. Of course the paper is out today. So definitely take a look at it, everyone and we'll also put a link in the show notes. 


Alex Whitaker  16:28

Awesome. Thanks, Amy. 


Amy Glasscock  16:29

Thank you. Thanks again for listening to NASCIO voices. Nachteile Voices is a production of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. 


Alex Whitaker  16:40

And we'll be back in two weeks with an interview with Indiana CIO Tracy Barnes. Wherever you are, I hope Spring has sprung and you're enjoying it. Talk with you next time.