All You Need to Know About the Metaverse — Virtual Reality Is Getting All Too Real
The Metaverse is a virtual reality in which stories take place, value is traded, and real gains are made. However, the reality of it all is still a fairly fluid concept given the recent crypto meltdown, during which people have lost billions.
Virtual worlds are all the rage these days. Imagine living, working and shopping — all from the comfort of your couch. This is called ‘The Metaverse’.
“Metaverse” became a household term in October 2021 when Facebook changed its name to “Meta”. At the time, the social media company planned to spend $10 billion for 12 months on current and future technologies.
The Metaverse is the next iteration of the Internet, and many believe that its possibilities are almost infinite. They include play-to-earn gaming, socializing, the utilization of decentralised finance and much more.
The idea of the Metaverse isn’t anything new. There is mention of it in the 1992 novel Snow Crash, and several companies have started online communities based on this concept, with Second Life being the most successful. It launched in 2003.
The Metaverse is an ever-growing online hub inhabited by avatars of each resident who remains very real in his or her daily physical existence. Does “The Matrix” ring the bell? That’s it then, you get it. Avatars can communicate with others and collaboratively build the virtual as well as a real community. In the Metaverse, digital currency is used to buy clothes, weapons and armour in video games or even travel through the VR you yourself together with your mates build. How cool is that?
In Snow Crash, the author criticizes the somewhat dystopian future this novel portrays. Neal Stephenson was one of the creators of the Metaverse, an interconnected virtual space that resembles our world. He believed it would be nothing but evil. Status can be achieved in Stephenson’s Metaverse by attaining a certain level of technical skill. The sophistication of your avatar represents your standing in the “society”.
Ready Player One
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline helped popularize the idea of the Metaverse and was then made into a successful movie directed by Steven Spielberg. The novel is set in 2045, where people are flocking to a virtual world called The Oasis to escape the troubles on Earth. They use VR visors and haptic gloves to experience it.
The Internet is a great thing. It connects billions of devices such as servers, personal computers putting them on the same network. Once online, one can interact with people and websites, shop and mess around on social media.
The Metaverse doesn’t compete with the Internet — it builds on it creating a world that mimics aspects of the physical world. Users navigate this environment using applications like VR, AR or artificial intelligence, where they can interact with people around them or acquire goods to take back to reality. The Internet can be used for browsing, but with the advent of the Metaverse, it’s starting to feel like more than just a place you visit.
Governments are quickly catching on to the idea of the Metaverse. Especially since Barbados is about to open an embassy in it.
The rapid adoption of portable devices and the Internet has ushered in a new generation of services that are paving the way to creating the Metaverse. One company reinventing our relationship with reality is Limitless which provides VR/AR solutions for architecture, film and TV, themed entertainment, gaming and simulation.
Gaming in the Metaverse
Gaming may not seem like a field that’s ripe for innovation and improvement, but with Roblox and Zoom leading the way, digital presence is something we all need to consider for the future. TRASTRA CEO Roman Potemkin thanks that “in gaming, you see Roblox, Minecraft and other immersive video games — and even Zoom — are swiftly adapting to whatever form the Metaverse will take in the future. Will it be the open Internet? Or will it be more of a gated experience controlled by a few big companies? The big players all want to be early movers and have their ecosystem to get a headstart. And TRASTRA with its wallet, exchange, and newly listed game tokes is going to be right there for them.”
In an open letter, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would be investing in building a shared virtual world. This investment will serve as a fundamental change and represent the start of Facebook’s new vision.
Reaching beyond Facebook, Oculus has sold millions of units and has become a household name. Facebook wants to be a metaverse first, not a Facebook first company. That’s important as it means you won’t need a Facebook account for other services soon.
Inside the Meta announcement, Zuckerberg talks about Facebook’s goal to “accelerate” development in social media and add more creative tools to the Meta platform. This will lead to what he calls “the Metaverse.” Meta just announced late in 2021 that their new immersive virtual reality experience was launching, and Facebook also announced Horizon Worlds, which lets you act as yourself in virtual space. Developers can also create their worlds.
Epic Games is getting involved in the Metaverse. Back in 2021, they raised $1 billion to develop their idea behind the Metaverse, which differs significantly from that of Facebook. Epic Games takes a more open and welcoming stance. Instead of a news feed full of ads, this space was built as a communal virtual world where you can interact with others and various brands.
I am excited to hear that Sony foresees the future of creativity and technology is driven by emotional experiences as well.
The future is coming to Microsoft Teams with the release of Mesh in 2022. Not only will it help hosts share large files with participants easily, but it will also let them access Shared Folders in the virtual office space. The new feature is super cool and enables you to meet your team in the same virtual area, no matter where they are. You can also collaborate on documents or projects during these meetings.
Mesh allows users to create a virtual presence on any device using their customized avatar. This is not only convenient but also increases your engagement with services like MSN, Skype, and Office 365. With a suite of powerful AI tools for avatars, the platform promises to help developers by offering various solutions. For example, spatial rendering can improve people’s virtual experiences while multiple users from all over the world enables connections beyond anything we could have imagined.
Holoportation is a 3D capture technology that lets users reconstruct and transmit high-quality 3D models of people in real-time. The technology can project an enhanced sense of presence to the virtual world.
Microsoft has partnered with Accenture to help its employees quickly get on board with their training programs. With 100,000 employees every year, the use of Mesh will make it easier for new hires to access immersive spaces that are tailored specifically to them.
New hires are welcomed to Accenture digital headquarters with the help of AI. They get their avatar, which they’ll use while at school. Once this avatar is created, new hires will enter the One Accenture Park — a shared virtual space part of the onboarding process. The futuristic work environment is just like a space-age amusement park. It includes a central conference room, an onsite virtual boardroom and monorails that new hires use to travel around the different areas of the building.
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) will play a big part in the future of the Metaverse. NFTs are a digital asset based on the same blockchain technology as that for cryptocurrencies. Instead of cash, NFT’s can represent different things like Snapchat lenses, art pieces, an action figure or even a small business. As the owner of an NFT, you’ll be able to buy and sell them in the Metaverse (marketplace).
In the Decentraland metaverse, virtual properties can be used as real estate your avatar can purchase or rent on your behalf. Decentraland offers properties in various virtual worlds, including Decentraland and Somnium. Unique and spacious venues at affordable and flexible prices for renting: conference, commercial and residential spaces.
Adding to the attractiveness of these spaces is that they also accommodate art galleries, family homes and hangout spots.
New businesses have been popping up in the Metaverse to offer digital goods. Established companies are moving into the Metaverse too to take advantage of this lucrative new market. Learning about what Nike acquired is quite interesting. One of the startups they got, RTFKT, makes “one-of-a-kind virtual sneakers and digital artefacts”.
Nike is going full force into creating a generation of digital commerce. The Nike and Roblox partnership was a big step in that direction. After the acquisition, it’s no surprise that Nike filed seven trademark applications to sell virtual sneakers and apparel.
“Today businesses have a great opportunity to redefine digital ownership,” says Roman Potemkin. “The ownership of your real-world identity can carry over to the Metaverse and bring a new level of trust and interaction to whomever you choose as a partner — virtual or otherwise.”
While the idea of living in a virtual online world isn’t new, the concept of lifelike interactions being possible is still light-years away. Microsoft founder Bill Gates gives this example in his annual review blog post: “you don’t need to buy gear that’s extremely expensive to enjoy the benefits of VR!” Though virtual meeting spaces are not yet on par with the quality of in-person communication, Gates predicts that this will change within the next 2 to 3 years. We’ll just have to see.