Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past year or so, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of or seen the term “Metaverse”. One of the largest companies on earth, Facebook, went as far as changing its name to Meta. While Google, Apple, and Microsoft are all betting big on the new technology. Microsoft even stated that their latest 68 billion dollar acquisition of Activision-Blizzard will provide “building blocks for the metaverse”.
First off, we should understand what the Metaverse actually is. In its simplest form, the metaverse is an augmented and virtual reality world. Augmented reality aims to enhance the user's perception of the real world by adding virtual objects, sounds, and other sensory input. Whereas virtual reality is just that, a virtual experience similar to that of our real world.
It is inevitable that as the Metaverse expands, new online spaces will be created where user interactions are more complex than current technology can handle. It will be possible for Metaverse users to immerse themselves in a space where digital and physical worlds merge, rather than simply viewing content.
Believers in the metaverse see it as a world that parallels our actual lives. Cities, neighborhoods, parks, clubs, you name it, all sprawled out in a virtual experience.
Virtual worlds are already in existence today, but the majority of them are not linked, and consumers cannot freely move between different virtual worlds in the same way that one can move from one website to another. Assets purchased in one game are typically not transferable to another. Digital clothing and accessories are expected to be able to be shared between virtual worlds in the Metaverse.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are on the rise thanks to recent technological developments, may make it easier for people to use items from different worlds. Virtual worlds in the Metaverse should also be persistent, meaning that they will continue to exist even if users log off or on, unlike Zoom meetings or video calls, which terminate the moment the last person leaves the meeting room. A more realistic and lived-in experience for users may also be possible in the future through changes to these shared worlds.
Rather than simply viewing an image in a web browser, creators will be able to create virtual representations of real-world places and objects. AR technology allows virtual objects to be integrated into the real world. The popular mobile game Pokémon Go is a great current example of this technology. Companies like Nike and Gucci are already investing in technology to bring their products and branding into the digital world through skins and digital clothing. Digital collectibles will allow users to express their interests and personalities in the virtual world in the same way that consumers purchase branded goods and accessories in the real world. It's only a matter of time before we see new ways of merging the physical and digital worlds to create experiences that feel more real and more integrated into our daily lives.
Many in the industry believe that the Metaverse has the potential to revolutionize how and where people connect with each other, despite its roots in gaming (key examples include Fortnite and Roblox). The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of finding ways for people to meet and engage with each other via a virtual medium. In the future, people may be able to meet, talk, and participate in activities and events together even if they are located in different parts of the world. Despite the hope that the epidemic will be over soon, it is clear that many businesses already see a future in remote work as a way to save money while also offering employees a way to avoid the hassle of a regular commute.
As travel options become more widely available, families who have been split up across continents or countries will continue to turn to the Metaverse as a way to stay in touch virtually. Virtual spaces have the potential to open up events, education, and even employment to a broader range of people by removing the physical constraints of the real world.
Many companies have already started creating and hosting virtual experiences that demonstrate how people will interact with the Metaverse in the future, even though it is still in its infancy. Marshmello's 2019 concert in Fortnite and the SXSW Online XR experience in 2021 are two examples of immersive virtual reality events. Virtual showrooms like those from BMW and Audi allow customers to shop for new cars and virtually test them out before they buy, while platforms like Decentraland and Gather let individuals design their own spaces for events ranging from art exhibitions to weekly game nights.
A new name for Facebook was reportedly in the works as early as mid-October 2021 as the social network's commitment to the Metaverse was rumored to be getting a rebranding. A recent Facebook press release stated that the Metaverse is here to stay. The company has been talking about it for some time now "interconnected virtual experiences use new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality.
Essentially, it's about creating a more "virtual presence" so that people can interact with each other online in the same way they would in person. "This could be the next big thing, and investors and corporations are starting to take an interest in the Metaverse as a potential investment opportunity. Zuckerberg told The Verge before announcing the name change that the Metaverse is "going to be a big focus [of Facebook's], and I think that this is just going to be a big part of the next chapter for the way that the Internet evolves after the mobile Internet." For our company, "I think it's going to be the next big chapter and really doubling down on this area."
Supporters of the concept see the Metaverse as the next step in the evolution of the Internet. Facebook, for example, has already invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, including the development of Oculus VR headsets as well as augmented reality glasses and wristbands.
According to Zuckerberg, Facebook will "effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily a social media company to being a Metaverse company" over the next few years, who believes AR glasses will one day be as common as smartphones.
As a concept, the Metaverse is difficult to define because it appears to be infinite. Individual users are also able to define the general purpose of the product, not just the company or group of people that created it.
The Metaverse main goal is to create a virtual, shared universe where people can meet and interact with one another. It doesn't matter if you're doing it for work, personal growth, or pure entertainment; the Metaverse exists to bring people from around the world together. Users, represented by their avatars, can interact with the world around them without having any clear goals. Meta's big reveal is based on the fact that in the Metaverse, you can essentially do whatever you want.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common things you can do in the Metaverse:
Metaverses frequently feature land-based economies, in which users can purchase individual parcels of land. As soon as an avatar purchases a piece of property, it is assigned to that avatar and cannot be used by anyone else while that avatar owns it. Just like in the real world, plots can be purchased or rented.
Some metaverses are popular with businesses as well as regular users. Advertising is possible because the universe is shared by so many people. Buying land and putting up a sign with the company's logo can work wonders to get people interested in your product or service again.
A perfect Metaverse allows you to interact with everyone you come into contact with. A new level of interaction is possible with the use of voice communication, VR headsets, and augmented reality glasses. In the Metaverse, human interaction will always be at the core of the concept — just not in person.
Do you think the Metaverse is the future? Are companies making the right move betting on such a new tech? Let us know!