Long before Facebook rebranded to Meta, only a few of us had probably encountered that term. “Metaverse,” It’s, however, getting real and close by day. Humanity’s reliance on technology is increasing, and we can’t deny that we now demand more sophisticated technologies in every sphere. That word “metaverse” is shaking up the entire tech industry. Multi-billion dollar companies like Google, Nvidia, and even Amazon are all rushing for a piece of it. Besides, Facebook wagered its future by changing the mother company’s name to Meta to align with the Metaverse concept.
What is the Metaverse, anyway?
Unsatisfying, the Metaverse comes out as a place, an evolution of the internet, a part of the Web3, and many other squishy forms. But what exactly is it? It’s often defined as an online space where humans can interact in the form of avatars. This includes working, playing games, relaxing, and learning. That space can only be accessed through an internet connection and never disappears. Pretty much like zoom, except participants are represented by avatars that perform different tasks.
We define the Metaverse as a projection of the real world into an interconnected digital space. The word Metaverse is a combination of two Greek terms, Meta, which means beyond, and (Uni)verse. So you can safely define the Metaverse as an elongation of the cosmos in virtual reality. Now think of everything that happens in the real world. Politics, school, manufacturing, battles, healthcare, transport, day and night, weather seasons, banking, entertainment, etc. All these take place in the Metaverse too. So it’s a world beyond the real universe. It’s 3D in nature and looks like an upgraded version of 3D virtual experiences. Players can own assets, transact, build houses, create businesses, and even invest. The Metaverse blends with social media, live streaming, gaming, and virtual reality. You can acquire a product from one company and use it across all the other ecosystems. This world can be theoretically accessed through smartphones, wearable tech, and PCs. Some people argue that the Metaverse has been here in games like Roblox and Fortnite, which allow players to interact in 2D and 3D settings. Of course, this is subject to discussion, but it just shows that the Metaverse has such a broad description.
Corporate bigwigs like Facebook and Microsft see the Metaverse beyond our scope. To them, this is supposed to be a fully immersive space marrying together a host of technologies like VRs to facilitate participation. Whether VR and AR will be a must-have for the Metaverse is, however, not cast in stone, but they go hand in hand. Meta, Sony, Apple, Samsung, and a couple of other tech companies are already working on VR sets in readiness for the Metaverse.
The prevailing theme amid all these definitions is that the Metaverse is a virtual world that reflects our day-to-day real lives. The difference is that it’s digital. So you will have digital neighbours, clubs, cars, pets, and even real digital workplaces where you can earn real money for use in the real world. Barbados has suggested that it will set up an embassy in the Metaverse.
Will there be one Metaverse? Or many metaverses?
It’s still unclear whether there will be many metaverses like we have the earth and other planets, or one. Arguably, the Metaverse should be one interconnected space, but for now, that remains to be seen. There are no specific guidelines or standards of the Metaverse as of writing this. Developers are stretching their creativity to come up with the best model of metaverse products according to their knowledge. As the initial companies such as Meta, Sony, and Epic Games lay the ground, others will follow, so maybe we will eventually have a metaverse wave based on the trend set by early entrants. So we can’t yet give a precise comment on whether one firm’s VR headset like Meta will be compatible with another company’s ecosystem. Most developers promise a cosmos that allows interaction with other companies, but we have not seen this being implemented yet.
Mark Zuckerberg believes there will be no metaverse without interoperability. Therefore, if you have a Facebook avatar, you should be able to use it across other platforms like Microsoft too. If that is the case, then no doubt there will be a single metaverse. It’s, however, difficult to put a bet on a single metaverse. The internet pioneers also had a utopian vision of one big internet space. When they figured out how much money would be made, they quickly stepped back and developed independent networks. Of course, technology has made it possible for these networks to work together, but the compatibility is not always seamless. That could easily happen with the Metaverse too, considering how much money companies will be putting on the line.
Our best idea- and it’s just a thought- is that different competing products will roll out, with each claiming to be the ultimate Metaverse. Just the way we have Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all claim to be social media, but it was initially impossible to share content from one platform to the other. Standards may emerge over time, and eventually, participants will use technology to find a way of creating partial interoperability with different products. Think of how you can send an email from Gmail to Yahoo, yet these are differently built and owned products.
Notable Metaverse Companies
Many companies are working on their own idea of the Metaverse already. Here are the three prominent big corporations that are investing billions of dollars in that space.
Mark Zuckerberg staked claims on the Metaverse in 2021 after announcing a name change of Facebook to Meta and an investment of up to $10 billion in Facebook Reality Labs. Facebook Reality Labs is the division tasked with AR and VR development for Meta. The CEO has also claimed that Facebook is metaverse-first, a statement that has been interpreted to mean that Facebook accounts will be useless soon. As of writing this, the company has already developed and sold millions of virtual reality headsets for the Metaverse. The company, through Mark Zuckerberg, expressed in the past that it will accelerate research and development on the necessary tool for making the metaverse dream a reality. In the meantime, Facebook users can navigate as avatars in Horizon Worlds, a VR space owned by Meta. Developers can also get in build additional resources.
Fortnite’s developer officially launched a metaverse project in 2021 after a successful fundraiser rounded up $1 billion in funding. One of the key names that contributed to Epic Games was the Sony Group Corp. Epic Group’s potential in the Metaverse is vast, considering they have over 350 million users for their Fortnite series and numerous developers working with their Unreal Engine too. Do you ever get bothered by endless ads interrupting your YouTube playlist? Or maybe you’re browsing, and suddenly a huge banner pops up and covers whatever you were looking at. Epic’s vision is to create an open communal space where community members can interact with zero interference from ads and news feeds.
Microsoft, the software giant, is not being left by the metaverse train. It’s among the first companies investing billions of dollars in coming up with unique projects that will be part of the Metaverse. The tech world is excited about 2022 as Microsoft Teams is set to roll out a Mesh. This mixed reality cosmos lets users collaborate in virtual spaces through their 3D glasses and VR hardware. Mesh combines unique features like holoportation, 3d solid rendering, audio cues, and workplaces like the Nth floor to provide teams with an immersive collaborative experience. The service will mean that users can create a virtual presence using avatars and share holographic experiences while conducting virtual meetings. Accenture is already supporting Microsoft to create Mesh-enabled immersive spaces by hiring and onboarding over 100,000 employees annually through Mesh.
Somnum Space is one of the many metaverse projects that are not commonly mentioned, like Facebook’s or Microsoft’s. The open-source project runs on the Ethereum blockchain and focuses on giving users an immersive VR experience. In Somniium Space, you can buy land, build homes, hotels, and even amusement parks. Entrepreneurial ventures can thrive in this space, just like in the real world. Attend live concerts in Somnium space, watch high-resolution movies and play engaging games. Somnium Space users have the autonomy to create their imagination of VR and learn whenever other users visit their space. It’s meant to be accessible via PC and VR headsets and is currently available through the main website. The main goal is to make the metaverse project compatible across all platforms.
What Makes the Metaverse Work?
Much of the talk about Metaverse today focuses more on virtual reality, immersion, and multi-devices like VR headsets. These are, however, just a tip of the horn. To understand what makes the metaverse work, we need to analyse three essential aspects of online role-playing games. Here are the three key features that run the Metaverse.
- Community: Developers must put in place vital social dynamics that build a stable community. Communities drive growth and loyalty. Players will not just come to the universe to spend their time and money. Keep in mind that most people are unaware of what will happen in the Metaverse. Early adopters will arrive as curious souls trying to discover what kind of a place the Metaverse really is. They are likely to stick around if they find a “cool community” vibe and sense of belonging.
- A Functioning Economy: The Metaverse will mainly depend on decentralized finance. Value creation in the Metaverse will rely highly on a functioning economy that seamlessly integrates digital and traditional finance. For example, the transferability of funds between Web3 and Metaverse must be possible with little or no hurdles. That means the different tokens and digital currencies in the Metaverse must be easily convertible, and payment systems should bridge the flow of money between the Metaverse and real-world cost-effectively.
- Real-time Persistence: Persistence in development and content creation is key for the success of the Metaverse. As the community grows, needs will arise. Developers must be willing to meet them without lifting their support off early functionalities that attracted the first members. Remember that the Metaverse is not just a place but also an experience; it needs to be continuous.
What’s All the Hype About the Metaverse?
Fortune 500 companies like Facebook are not misinformed to take big bets on the Metaverse. No wonder the entire idea is generating so much buzz. Our researchers set out to find out what the metaverse hype is all about, and here is what they had to say.
The Metaverse fuses AR and VR to create a 3D space where they can meet, have fun and even work. Imagine a future where we can work from home yet feel like we are in the real traditional physical office.
One of the most exciting things about the Metaverse is that it will not be limited to a select few. We have seen some NFTs being limited to specific community members. The Metaverse will be different. Information will be exchanged seamlessly, and anyone will be able to enter easily through the right software and supporting technology.
The Metaverse allows users to live their full lives online. You won’t have to physically visit certain parts of the world to get the experience. For example, there will be a Disney land in the Metaverse. Big concerts like tomorrow land will also take place in the Metaverse. Players will be able to travel, work, game, and stay connected with loved ones. Everything that makes your life what it is will be possible in the Metaverse.
The metaverse economy, powered by cryptocurrencies, will be real. Users will be able to earn money from working as well as selling goods and services. There will be marketplaces for everything you need. Avatars, clothing, and even event tickets will be sold as NFTs. Estimates project that early metaverse revenue from different segments like advertising and e-commerce will hit $1 trillion. Don’t forget that participants can own and monetize different assets such as land. Companies like Decentraland and the Sandbox are already offering metaverse land as NFTs through the OpenSea marketplace.
The Metaverse is likely to come with a huge shift in the way we work. It may rearrange the way people work and introduce other more effective work models. Covid 19 lockdowns taught us that we can comfortably work from home and still remain productive. Facebook has already rolled out Horizon workrooms, and Microsoft teams are introducing Mesh. VR will soon be used in many jobs across the world as the Metaverse becomes implemented. Shared standards and protocols that bring disparate virtual worlds and augmented realities into a single, open Metaverse could help people work together and cut down on duplication of effort.
Blockchain technology has a strong track record of efficacy in all industries where it has been implemented. Metaverse is another project that relies on the blockchain network to enable digital ownership, transfer of value, governance, and even interoperability. Blockchain enthusiasts can’t wait to see how this turns out. A technology that was initially used to simply facilitate a digital currency is now responsible for what may be the most significant innovation of the century.
No one owns the Metaverse, so there will be no central authority dominating and controlling the entire Metaverse. This means that absolute power will be in the hands of users. This is because there is no apparent creator for the Metaverse, unlike the world wide web, which is closely linked to Tim Berners-Lee. Instead, different companies will come up with spaces and find a way to create interoperability.
Does the metaverse already exist in gaming?
Some people argue that the metaverse already exists in some games. But to make things clear, based on the definitions on this page, the metaverse is not yet here. What we have currently are just prototypes, as we will explain below.
- Virtual reality: Do not confuse virtual reality for the metaverse. While VR and AR will be important in giving the metaverse shape, they are not the metaverse. VR sets make players feel great and experience a level of immersion. However, the metaverse will be much bigger than just 3D renders. It’s an entire universe with functioning communities and economies interlinking seamlessly with the real world.
- Fortnite and Roblox: Fortnite and Roblox players use personal avatars in the game to battle and interact with other participants. They can also collect virtual tokens, which act as a currency for unlocking different merchandise for customizing their avatars. However, these projects stand independently and lack the interoperability characteristic of the metaverse. Try taking out Roblox currency to Fortnite, and good luck if you succeed. The main reason why it may take a little longer before we see the metaverse is because it’s a network. It’s not a single service such as Meta’s Horizon, but a whole collection of services. However, all the work happening now across different metaverse projects are necessary preparations to suer the world into a future of a functional, interoperable metaverse.
Metaverse - everything you need to know
Neal Stephenson first introduced the term “Metaverse” in 1992 in his sci-fi book, “Snow Crash.” The next clear idea of the Metaverse was seen in “Ready Player One” movie in 2011, based on the concept of an open universe where users can be anything they want via avatars. Facebook’s Oculus Rift is based on the same concept. As already discussed, games like Minecraft and Roblox have also exhibited certain aspects of the Metaverse where players can create different worlds and interact as avatars too. These are the building blocks of the Metaverse.
The Metaverse got heightened attention during the pandemic. Covid 19 lockdowns prompted people to get more socked up into the internet, consequently creating demand for better internet products. From virtual worlds, to live casinos for gamblers, increased usage of products like zoom, all these motivated developers to put in more work into making the Metaverse a reality. The word “metaverse” is now being mentioned more often than before, and it will get even more common. It will however take at least a decade before we can actualize the metaverse dream. Achieving interoperability, which is the main objective of the Metaverse, requires companies to work together and invest massive funds. Different Fortune 500 companies are currently developing their products, but it might take a long time before they are even tested as independent products, meaning that interconnectivity might come last. For now, Meta’s VR headsets may not be compatible with other metaverse products like say Decentral land of Microsoft teams. A technology overlay for seamless integration might be created after the launch of several successful metaverse projects. NFTs are the only concept, so far, that makes the dream of interconnection appear real. With proper means of verifying and validating ownership, it will be possible for a participant to use one NFT across different metaverse platforms.
Think of all the laws of physics that make life possible on earth. Combine that with biology, natural chemistry and even geography. Factors such as light reflection for vision, force of gravity and inertia. The Metaverse too, depends on a combination of cutting edge technological factors. Virtual Reality, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Spatial Technologies, Augmented Reality, and 3D reconstruction technologies are key. Extra support tools like user generated content, apps, and hardware will be needed for a successful metaverse too.
Value transfer, credibility and data storage will be functions on blockchain technology. Augmented Reality will merge the virtual and real-world, while Virtual Reality will give users an immersive feel as if they are in the real world. 3D reconstruction will create realistic and natural virtual spaces to give the Metaverse an ecosystem that is similar to the real world. All these technologies must merge strengths to provide us with the Metaverse.
In terms of hardware, technologies such as AR might require a simple camera. On the other hand, VR is more demanding as it needs expensive modal screens and HMDs to run. 3D reconstruction is not possible without special 3D cameras. Furthermore, users will need different hardware depending on where they are placing their wager. Facebook requires you invest $300 in their Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets. Although the hardware is all you need, it comes at a cost that not everyone might afford. Other companies like Sony and HP are also developing VR headsets which might connect with both phones and PCs. When it comes to AR, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Magic Leap are leading in developing sophisticated AR glasses. Unlike VR, that’s already a reality, AR glasses have remained experimental, showing that much investment is still needed to produce reliable hardware products for the Metaverse.
Blockchain technology is the major foundational software for the Metaverse. It provides security, reliability and transparency. A decentralized and open environment is key for the Metaverse to be successful. Since blockchain is an open-source technology, developers will be free to add unique functionalities for value transfer, accessibility, governance and interoperability. Additionally, cryptocurrencies are vital for transactions in the Metaverse. For example, buying NFT real estate in metaverses like Decentraland will require digital money. Blockchain network will come in to secure ownership after purchase.
The other key software requirement revolves around Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI has been successful in facial recognition, decision making, and creating of faster computing systems. Metaverse engineers are now using to process data at supersonic speeds and facilitate automation. AI can scan both 2d and 3D images and render realistic avatars. Ready Player Me is already using this function in their metaverse project. Concepts such as digital humans, who can speak, listen and act like real-world humans, are AI-powered. If we are going to have a valid extension of the real world in the Metaverse, then AI will play the most significant role in making this a reality.
Criticism and concerns
Beyond technology and interoperability, there are key concerns that the Metaverse spurs. Moneywise, blockchain technology guarantees safety and immutability, meaning there will be clear and safe transaction records. However, some social and ethical concerns have been left untouched. Does anyone care to talk about age restrictions? Will the Metaverse be open to all and sundry including the underage group? And if so, what measures will be in place to stop bullying and more critical issues like children being exposed to porn and metaverse games that inspire them into drugs and crime? Cybersecurity is another basis for criticism and concern about the Metaverse. As a matter of fact, the Metaverse will increase opportunities for hacking and fraud. Critics argue that identity theft will be on the rise too. In addition, avatars will be susceptible to hacking, manipulation, copying or even being deleted. Al these are concerns that metaverse companies should start addressing as soon as possible.
Is the Metaverse feasible? Will the project really take off? If you ask Mark Zuckerberg, the answer will be a reverberant yes! But who wants to live in the Metaverse? That is the question Elon Musk posed to Babylon Bee when he was asked to comment about the Metaverse. Will people really want to spend all their time in the Metaverse as they do on social media? The Metaverse faces many challenges, some of which may not necessarily need technology to solve. Regulatory authorities are also monitoring it closely. Meta’s idea of the Metaverse is an interconnected world with free movement and freedom to work, play, interact and get entertained in a super-realistic virtual world. Even after billions of dollars have been invested in the project, the Metaverse today still falls short of a lot. First, interoperability remains an illusion. Movement is limited and avatars barely react like what they represent in the real world. What if companies continue to pile dollars on this dream and eventually fail to hit the price? Some critics believe that the idea of having to walk around with wearables will discourage many people from the Metaverse. Compared to social media, accessing the Metaverse seems expensive. Apart from the high amount of data it will take to have an immersive experience fully, users still need to invest in purchasing VR headsets. Of course such hardware should be standardized to give a memorable experience to all metaverse community members. Comparing this with a free social media, it may take a long time for most people to accept the Metaverse. This is not to say that it’s not feasible. It may or may not be. The next few years will tell.
Privacy is an issue that needs to be addressed before the Metaverse gains widespread adoption. With all technologies such as augmented reality and VR comes privacy hurdles. VR headsets will have eye-tracking technologies, which can of course collect data on what exactly users are giving more attention. Marketers can take advantage of such information to create ads. While it sounds good to an advertiser, that is a serious breach of privacy. The Metaverse and its supporting technologies will be able to collect enormous data that has always been protected under personal privacy laws. Collecting data on user reactions and certain body changes will be easy when using metaverse wearables. According to a research by NordVPN, 87% of potential metaverse users are concerned about the privacy. In America, 66% of people think that the Metaverse will eventually replace social media. Half of this population’s greatest fear is that hackers will have a playing ground to impersonate anyone.
Most metaverse games have an aspect of battles. So most people will be engaging in violent games which could erode their values. The flip side is that this immersive experience could feel reel causing society to become desensitized in real life. Playing immersive games where you are constantly shooting avatars that look like real people and strangling them could be argued to make one replicate the same in the real world. As already mentioned, hackers can steal one’s online identity by hacking their avatar. This is dangerous because a hacker with such information could impersonate you and wreck havoc within your virtual community.
What Does The Future Of The Metaverse Look Like?
The future of the Metaverse is pretty much squishy based on our findings. There’s too much hype with little progress. The entire projects is surrounded by challenges that are making it hard for Metaverse projects to lay basic foundations. Meta and Microsoft among few others appear to be making the baby steps, but this is still insignificant compared to the ultimate dream of the Metaverse. The immediate future of the Metaverse will involve companies building individual metaverse products. Looking at the size of the entire project, one company may not be able to pull even 10% of it single-handed. So before we start thinking about interoperability, first there will be many independent projects mushrooming from different developers. It’s not only until these are successful that it will be possible to consolidate them into one immersive and seamlessly integrated ecosystem.
Even before consolidation, the Metaverse could transcend social media. Feature such as play-to-earn games may be the biggest attraction for the Metaverse. The gaming and gambling community is huge and always ready to invest in new technologies. So there’s a chance that the Metaverse could take off as a gaming space as well as in form of Metaverse Casinos before other communities take it up. Tech companies could also create utility by requiring their employees to start working through remote workstations. These are mere speculations and will only be possible if the current challenges are addressed. As for now, let’s prepare our minds and wait for the future.
The vision of the Metaverse can only be understood from the major contributors’ point of view. So far, Meta is among the firms putting in the most work. Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the Metaverse is an immersive virtual hangout space with limitless possibilities. He envisions a metaverse that will be a digital twin of the real world. Decetraland vision for the Metaverse is a virtual world with natural-like cities and towns. People can own, buy and sell real estate. Like in real life, you can purchase land, build a flat and rent it out to tenants. Maybe your 3D avatar will need food and housing. For Microsoft, a vision to bridge gaming spaces and applications seems feasible. Interoperability is, however, the largest vision of the Metaverse. Having one massive virtual cosmos that’s not only connected but also well integrated with the real world is the Metaverse’s vision.
- The word Metaverse originated from two words, “meta,” which means beyond in Greek, and “universe.” The Metaverse is hence an extension of the real world.
- The Metaverse is not yet here with us. However, we have independent predecessors laying the ground for what is to come.
- A successful metaverse needs people (community), software, hardware, and a high-speed internet connection.
- Users might need VR headsets to access the Metaverse, even though this is not yet standardized.
- Implementation processes are underway. They, however, face several challenges ranging from technological factors to social and ethical concerns.
- The Metaverse may be as far as a decade away. Even if several individual companies launch their projects, the Metaverse will only be made real by interoperability. Without seamless movement and connectivity, all we will have will be competing upgraded VR products.
It’s a 3D virtual reality space where humans can interact in the form of avatars. You can also think of it as an extension of the real world into an interconnected digital space.
Well, the Metaverse is still a grey area. From the most common definition, it’s clear that the Metaverse is not yet here. Several VR games and platforms claim to be the Metaverse but are not. Instead, they are simply predecessors with a few features of the Metaverse.
AR glasses reflect the real world in the digital form, while VR, on the other uses the digital data from AR and other aspects to create an immersive 3D experience with a feel of the real-world environment.
No one owns the Metaverse. So far, superiority will be on a first-come basis. Early participants might benefit from the first-come advantage. There are already hundreds of developers building metaverse projects. The most notable ones are Facebook (Meta), Sony, Microsoft, Nvidia, Somnium Space, Decentraland, and Niantic.
There is no metaverse crypto. The Metaverse, like the real world, should be able to use different currencies. There will be a free transfer of value across platforms, including competing ones. Currency exchange will be possible too.