In simple terms, the metaverse is a virtual reality environment where real people can interact with each other within a computer-generated setting. It is not controlled by a single company; rather, it operates on the basis of interoperability standards and technologies to support activities in the metaverse.
This digital reality combines virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) so that the person accessing it also experiences it while being in it, preferably with other people. It is not intended to become the next Internet. On the contrary, it is meant to enhance one’s experience on the web.
Metaverse: A Short History
Metaverse is not a new concept. In 1992, Neal Stephenson coined the term metaverse in his science fiction novel Snow Crash. The book described a series of interconnected, imaged worlds that people could access using Virtual Reality goggles.
Even though the metaverse may sound dystopian or hyped, its future is likely to be more utilitarian than useless.
The existence and proliferation of virtual reality spaces are precursors to the metaverse. Several projects and platforms have already been developed in this area.
Existing Virtual Reality Spaces
There had been projects about metaverse and social media virtual worlds even before Mark Zuckerberg popularized the term. In fact, there are other social VR worlds besides his meta. Here are a few examples:
- Anyland – the home of your own virtual reality universe, where you can chat with others, explore and live
- Bigscreen – a popular VR/AR platform for working and collaborating in immersive worlds.
- High Fidelity – founded by Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity is a virtual reality platform and working economy built on blockchain. The software is free and open-source.
- VRChat – provides an endless collection of social virtual reality experiences that allows others to interact with user-created 3D avatars and worlds.
- Rec Room – a virtual reality video game playable on Microsoft Windows as well as gaming consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox.
- Sansar – a social virtual reality platform for self-expression, exploration, and live events.
- vTime – a cross-reality social network to meet, chat, watch content, and share your photos.
Metaverse And Mark Zuckerberg
“Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures” – Mark Zuckerberg, 2014
In 2014, Mark Zuckerberg bought the virtual reality company Oculus because he saw it as another way humans can connect. His business is connecting people with one another. It is his company’s goal to connect everyone virtually, whether it is through Facebook, Instagram, or Whatsapp.
Now, Meta Platforms (formerly known as Facebook, Inc.) has a team dedicated exclusively to building VR social apps. One example is Horizon Worlds, an online video game in virtual reality published by Meta Platforms for Microsoft Windows and Oculus Quest. It is focused on more user-generated content similar to Second Life, Roblox, and The Sims.
Metaverse is kind of like an iteration of the Internet displaced in some three-dimensional environment, accessible with a virtual and augmented reality headset. Though it is already available in limited form in gaming (think Second Life) or platforms like the ones mentioned above (Anyland, Bigscreen, VRChat), eventually it will likely be available to us in our social lives with the help of companies like Meta Platforms. Then, it will likely expand into business, education, and retail applications.
In principle, the metaverse will have the following components:
- Hardware – VR Headsets, Cameras
- Software – or the Virtual Platform to be used
- The Network
- An Industry Standard – to ensure inter-operability
- Metaverse Assets – Virtual Goods, Virtual Assets, likely could be bought, sold, or traded
- Payments – Digital Currency, Cryptocurrency, Support for fiat currency
Metaverse And The Future
Imagine this: we could all live in the Matrix.
As a whole, the metaverse attempts to have the virtual world overlap with the real world. Through technologies that can interoperate via industry standards, users will be able to communicate with one another in the metaverse.
Developing these products and platforms will be the first step. Integrating them with existing technologies people already use will come after. Finally, these can be monetized and improved continuously once they have a large following.