What Is the Metaverse?
What is the definition of the metaverse?
The metaverse is a concept which is hard to nail in a single definition, so we’ll use a paragraph to give you an idea. To start, it is the next generation of the internet which will allow us to create, interact with, and share content on a level we’ve never seen before. This will be made possible with the assistance of breakthrough technologies in augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR respectively) which will create an engaging and immersive environment where anything is possible. Within the metaverse everyone is free to truly express themselves, be who they really are, create anything their imagination can dream up, and share all of this with others. It is important to note the metaverse isn’t a replacement for our real-world lives, but rather a supplement which we can enjoy and use as a means of business, connection, entertainment, socialization, and much more.
From a historical perspective, the term metaverse was first used in the 1992 novel “Snow Crash” written by Neal Stephenson. The novel follows the adventures of a real-life pizza delivery driver’s avatar in the metaverse. Many credit this novel for dreaming up the metaverse and laying the foundation for it to exist today.
In short, we define it as the “door into the internet” or the tool which will allow us to fully interact with its content. Currently, we have more of a “window to the internet” where we can view content but not fully interact with it.
What is the metaverse like today?
While the metaverse is rapidly developing and can be experienced to a moderate scale, it is still in its infantile stage. Decentraland, Horizon Worlds, and Sandbox are some metaverses which are most ahead of the curve on development and allow for an excellent start experiencing it. Within these platforms you can create your own home, play games, move around in 3D space, and engage with other users. Alongside these platforms we can use video games as another example of what we will see in the metaverse such as in-game events, virtual economies, and so on.
Given the discussion around these user-made businesses and economies you may be asking yourself how payments will be made, the answer lies largely in cryptocurrencies. Many metaverses seek to be fully decentralized, which means they have no central authority, controller, or rule. The users of the metaverse are the ones who govern it and vote on all propositions. The use of cryptocurrency ensures everyone worldwide can participate in the economy earning, paying, and trading with a single, universal currency. It is important to note that the use of cryptocurrencies is not required for all features of the metaverse, many are free, the requirement to pay varies by metaverse and whether the user-made content is made free by the creator.
What technologies are needed to access the metaverse?
The metaverse is best experienced via a VR headset such as the Oculus, however, these involve a certain level of investment not every user will be willing to immediately make. Most platforms are accessible through mobile phones and PCs, allowing for a less immersive, but adequate experience. Read more contrasting the experience with each technology here.
Why is the metaverse suddenly in the spotlight?
The metaverse has been a topic of discussion within the tech industry for some time now, but recent advancements in technology and widespread awareness and adoption of the blockchain have launched it into the limelight. The most significant events furthering interest in the sphere occurred with the coronavirus pandemic, when Facebook changed their parent company name to Meta, Inc. and when NFT art (“those pictures of monkeys”) started selling for millions of dollars. While the latter may seem ridiculous, the underlying technology and uniqueness are significant to the metaverse.
Looking to the first example we return (begrudgingly) to the topic of COVID-19. While many of us look back on pandemic days with contempt, there is no doubt they reshaped our world. In a matter of weeks, we went from a “normal” life of going to the office and mass gatherings with a general laissez-faire attitude to a complete lockdown and life of remote socialization and work. Platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams suddenly surged in popularity allowing us to collaborate and retain the feeling of an office and social connection. While this seemed sufficient for a while it wasn’t as genuine an experience as we were used to. This is where the metaverse has potential, for gathering, school, work, and more. Imagine instead of staring at a whiteboard on your computer screen while listening to your manager give some drawn out speech, you were in a 3D meeting room with a perfect representation of yourself and coworkers. The whiteboard on your computer screen which was in a square too small to see is now life sized and in front of you, in real time it can be written on, you can speak with your coworkers, and have a more complete and genuine office feeling while remote. Following this, imagine how much better it would be for children attending school remotely. The fully immersive experience would be beneficial for them to learn remotely and keep their attention for longer than a flat screen would ever be able to.
These events are just a snapshot of the events factoring into the ever-growing popularity and interest in the metaverse. As humans we all crave to freely express ourselves and be everything we could ever dream of, the metaverse is what can make that possible.
What does the future hold?
The metaverse holds infinite potential and it is up to us to fully capture it. It can transform the way we work, socialize, play, and turn our dreams into reality. We can already see many NFT creators making exclusive content for owners of their work, everyday people starting their own virtual business, dream homes being constructed, and replicas of the wonders of the world popping up, allowing us to visit the pyramids from our living rooms. The metaverse has already accomplished much of what it was designed to do, be a place where the whole world can gather to share our experiences, ideas, and more.