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Whether it’s a digital art gallery or live concerts being streamed for the first time in virtual reality, we can’t escape the internet buzzword “Metaverse.”
What exactly is a metaverse? Is it a virtual world with infinite possibilities we can escape into or is it just a fancy way of classifying extended reality (XR) – a broad term embracing augmented, virtual and mixed realities?
While the metaverse market is set to be worth $800 billion by 2024, with big-name tech companies such as Google, Apple, Meta (Facebook), and Microsoft (Ori) investing in it massively, now is a perfect time to find out what this complex term means.
Seriously, What Does “Metaverse” Mean?
The term “metaverse” was coined by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. He mentions a digital universe – the metaverse – that exists parallel to our own. Experts are still not sure whether the metaverse will turn into something similar in real life.
Generally speaking, the technological theme of “metaverse” can include virtual reality – defined by persistent virtual worlds that continue to exist even when you’re not playing, as well as augmented reality, which brings the digital and physical worlds together. This is commonly linked with the concept of Web 3.
Many experts are also divided on whether a VR headset is required to join the metaverse. We are constantly connected to the Internet through smartphones in our pockets, Siri in our living rooms, and cameras in the environment. We could simply enter the metaverse through our smartphones, but this will likely be the most passive form of involvement.
Many of the businesses that have jumped on board often see a digital economy where users can produce, purchase, and sell items. The metaverse, in more idealistic terms, is interoperable, allowing you to move your virtual goods (cars, clothes, etc.) from one platform to another with new technologies like NFTs. This is easier said than done…
So, it’s not just a video game?
Haven’t we seen this before? World of Warcraft, for instance, is a persistent virtual world where players can buy and sell goods. This is what it’s all about? Just some new genres of video games?
Well the answer is no. To describe Warcraft, Fortnite & co as “the metaverse” is like to refer to Google as “the internet.” The metaverse will take the virtual reality experience to the next level. Even if you spend a lot of time there socializing, buying stuff, and playing games, it doesn’t mean it covers the complete spectrum of what people refer to when they say “metaverse.”
Many large companies, alongside a lot of smaller businesses and startups, are laying the groundwork for improved individual virtual worlds that more closely resemble our everyday lives. Despite this, a Ready Player One-like single unified realm known as “the metaverse” remains entirely implausible.
It’s at this point that most discussions of what the metaverse entails start to stall. We have a general idea of what exists right now, which we could name the metaverse, but a more fuzzy idea of what could arrive going forwards. We know big business is backing the concept to a huge extent but projects vary in terms of objective and likely outcome. Meta believes we will wonder around virtual houses, and hang out with our buddies. Microsoft instead believes the real value will be in virtual meeting rooms and better collaboration with coworkers.
So, what exactly is the point of the metaverse?
The metaverse will play a major role in the digital economic growth due to its high-value add potential across a broad array of industries. .
The metaverse is already being considered within the future of fashion, entertainment, gaming and even partying.. but experts say that the metaverse’s best-case application could be for education. 3D-based education is going to be far superior to, for instance, schooling via Zoom or within an amphitheater, just as you would understand dissection far better by actually performing it rather than just reading about it.
Purchasing virtual castles and mansions that do not exist in the actual world could be a profitable investment option. However, the metaverse’s true worth will be revealed when it is used in ways that would provide tangible value to the real world.
Will we be living in the metaverse anytime soon?
Some experts believe “a large proportion of people will be in the metaverse in some way” by 2030. Despite the present obsession, the concept still requires a lot of work. The first issue will be getting access to the necessary hardware. Then there’s the challenge of interoperability, which allows you to move virtual items from one platform to another as many experts believe that this is essential for any metaverse to function to it’s truest potential. Aside from determining who would operate as the police out there, there will likely be legal complications too.
It’s possible we’ll only visit the metaverse on occasion – just for some fun VR games, or using digital avatars on a Zoom call – or perhaps we’ll reflect on how naive we were to have ever doubted the ubiquitous rise of the metaverse in all our lives.