Facebook and Microsoft laid claim to the metaverse not long ago, and it led to a lot of questions, some being: what the f%$k is the metaverse? What is so important about this thing that a big and well-established company is willing to change its name to fit it? Why now?
With so many questions on the internet and not so many in-depth explanations for not-highly-technical-people, we are left confused and wondering why this matters.
In this article, we are breaking it all down. We will be answering the question: what is the metaverse? And we will be taking it forward to look into the use cases, how it can or will potentially impact our lives, and more.
What Is The Metaverse?
The metaverse is a shared, virtual space where people can meet, interact, and do business.
It is an online world that exists in parallel to the physical world. The metaverse is global, open, and persistent.
In other words, the metaverse is a 3D internet where users can create their avatars or identities, explore virtual spaces, and interact with other users.
But you may say this is not new. Why then are we talking about it as though it is? Yes, we have experienced similar video games in the past, but it is not the same. The metaverse takes it further from just gaming to everything in our physical lives. Before we look into how and what, let’s go back a little to its history.
The History Of The Metaverse
The metaverse is not a new concept. The term was first coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. In the book, the metaverse is a 3D virtual world where people can meet and interact with each other.
Since then, the term has been used in many other works of fiction, such as Ready Player One and The Matrix.
The metaverse concept gained mainstream attention in 2004 when Second Life was launched. Second Life is a 3D virtual world where users can create their own avatars, explore virtual spaces, and interact with other users.
While Second Life was popular for a while, it failed to live up to its potential due to several factors, including its closed ecosystem, lack of interoperability, and centralized control.
In 2012, Oculus Rift was founded to bring virtual reality (VR) to the masses. This led to a renewed interest in the metaverse and fueled the development of new platforms such as Sansar and Decentraland.
Sansar is a platform for creating social VR experiences developed by Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life. Decentraland is a decentralized virtual world built on the Ethereum blockchain.
Since then, there has been a lot of progress in the development of the metaverse. Facebook announced its new name – Meta – with a company focus on the metaverse and such experiences in 2021. Microsoft also announced its plans to create a metaverse with its Mixed Reality platform.
How Is This Virtual World Different From The Internet?
It may seem like the concept of the Metaverse is overhyped. We already interact with one another on social media, buy things online, do video calls, and whatnot. What difference does this thing bring?
It is different because it allows us to bring everything in the physical into a virtual space. So, without being with one another physically, we can have immersive experiences and feel as though we were with one another physically.
Things we can do in the physical like purchase lands and use such lands can also be done in the metaverse. It is a world of its own, something the internet is not.
How Will The Metaverse Change The Way We Live And Work?
The metaverse will profoundly impact the way we live and work.
You know those movies that show us a hundred years from now, and things are so robotic and all that shit.
Many people expect the Metaverse to become somewhat like that in the future. Some believe that the metaverse will eventually replace the physical world as our primary reality.
In other words, physical spaces such as homes and offices will become redundant as we can interact with one another and do business in virtual spaces.
Others believe that the metaverse will augment the physical world, making it more efficient and convenient. For example, instead of commuting to work, we may be able to attend meetings and collaborate in virtual spaces. There are many potential use cases for the metaverse, and we will explore them.
How Does The Metaverse Work?
The metaverse is still in its early stages of development, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
However, we can generalize the working of the metaverse into three broad categories: social, economic, and technical.
The social dimension of the Metaverse refers to the way we interact with each other. This includes making friends, going on dates, attending events, etc. Just like you can physically, you can do all these on the metaverse.
The economic dimension refers to the way we do business in the Metaverse. This includes buying and selling virtual goods and services, investing in virtual real estate, and so on.
The technical dimension encompasses the underlying infrastructure that makes the Metaverse possible. This includes platforms such as Sansar and Decentraland, virtual reality hardware such as the Oculus Rift, and so on.
Who Is Creating The Metaverse And Why?
The Metaverse is being created by various entities for a variety of reasons. Almost every tech company seems to be pitching in these days, both small and large, and they all have their reasons.
Some companies, such as Facebook and Microsoft, see the Metaverse as a way to extend their reach and increase their user base. Others, such as Linden Lab (the creators of Second Life), see the Metaverse as a way to create new experiences for their users. And others, such as IBM, see the Metaverse as a way to change the way we do business.
But no matter who is creating the Metaverse or why, one thing is sure: the Metaverse is coming, and it will change the world as we know it.
Potential Uses For The Metaverse
The potential uses for the metaverse are endless. Here are some of them:
1. Social Interaction
The metaverse will provide a new way for us to interact with one another. Social virtual reality in the metaverse will enable us to meet and interact with people worldwide without leaving our homes.
The metaverse can be used as a new platform for education. Students will be able to attend classes and lectures in virtual spaces. They will also be able to interact with their teachers and classmates in a more immersive way.
Furthermore, events and experiences can be created in the metaverse to enable students to get a more immersive learning experience. For example, imagine if you could learn the history of the world wars by experiencing key historical moments virtually and as though you were there? You will likely remember that experience better than reading about it.
The metaverse will change the way businesses operate. There are many examples of this, and we will explore a few.
Imagine that instead of attending physical meetings or video meetings via Zoom or other software, employees will be able to participate in virtual meetings in virtual spaces. You can interact better as though you were with each other physically without the additional expenses of a physical meeting. You can collaborate even better, practice on ideas, and build prototypes before bringing them to the physical world.
The metaverse will provide a new way for us to be entertained. We will be able to attend virtual concerts, watch movies, and play games in immersive virtual spaces. This is especially nice due to the lockdown situation of 2020.
Businesses can also take marketing and shopping to a whole other level. Potential clients will be able to test products in the metaverse and see how they like them before taking them to the real world. Furthermore, those who invest in the metaverse can sell products or services on the metaverse and expand their reach.
The metaverse will change the way we travel. Instead of physically going to different places, we will be able to visit them in virtual spaces. There has been some talk on how this could potentially play out for events, networking, and retreat experiences, and it is an exciting prospect for sure
7. Real Estate
The metaverse will also change the way we think about real estate. In the metaverse, it is possible to buy lands and other real estate properties, create building plans, and build and manage properties. You could become a landlord in the metaverse and lease properties to grow your virtual wealth. This could potentially lead to a whole new economy.
We can already see some of that with NFT development and use. Check out this article for an explanation of what NFT is.
These are just some of the potential uses for the metaverse. As you can see, the metaverse has the potential to change almost every aspect of our lives.
What Are Some Concerns About The Metaverse?
While the potential uses for the metaverse are endless, some concerns have been raised about it.
1. Privacy And Security
One of the main concerns about the metaverse is privacy and security. As we will be sharing a lot of personal information in the metaverse, there is a risk that this information could be used to exploit us.
Another concern is that the metaverse could potentially be addictive. As it will provide a new way for us to interact with one another and escape from reality, there is a risk that people will become addicted or prefer that to actual physical interaction.
3. Dependence On Technology
Another concern is that the metaverse will make us even more dependent on virtual world technology. As we will be relying on technology even more to access the metaverse, there is a risk that we will become too reliant on it.
As businesses and governments will have a presence in the metaverse, there is a risk that they could use it for control and manipulation. This shouldn’t be too much of a concern because they already do that with tons of propaganda in the real world. However, it also brings the possibility of centralizing power because a few major companies or governments may have too much control over it.
5. Job Losses
Another concern is that the metaverse could lead to job losses. Because many activities can be done in the metaverse, there is a risk that jobs in the metaverse will replace jobs in the real world.
A few industries may be negatively affected by the metaverse. Two that come to mind are the entertainment and education industries. If every experience is moved to and enhanced in the metaverse, potentially, more users may enjoy it on the metaverse more, leading to certain job roles not being needed in the physical anymore.
6. Economic Inequality
Another concern is that the metaverse could exacerbate economic inequality. As those who can afford it will have access to better and more immersive experiences, there is a risk that the gap between the haves and the have-nots will widen.
7. Loss Of Touch With Reality
Another concern is that the metaverse could make us lose touch with reality. As we will be spending more time in virtual spaces, there is a risk that we will become detached from the physical world.
The Challenges Facing The Development Of The Metaverse
The development of the metaverse faces some challenges, both technical and legal.
1. Technical Challenges
One of the main technical challenges is creating a single, consistent, and believable virtual world. The metaverse will be made up of many different virtual worlds, and they must be connected and seamlessly work together. Currently, many companies are building their own metaverses; we will have to see how that pans out and connect in the future.
2. Legal Challenges
One of the main legal challenges is ensuring that intellectual property rights are respected in the metaverse. Each virtual world and entity in the metaverse must respect the intellectual property rights of the others.
Another legal challenge is ensuring that privacy and data protection laws are respected in the metaverse.
How Will The Metaverse Impact Our Lives?
As seen so far in this article, the metaverse could be used for various purposes, both personal and professional.
We have personal entertainment, such as watching movies, playing video games, or listening to music, professional networking, such as attending virtual conferences or meetings, training, such as taking online courses or completing simulations, and professional work, such as telecommuting or collaborating on projects. The possibilities are endless.
The metaverse is a new and emerging technology with the potential to revolutionize the way we live, work, and play. While some challenges need to be overcome, the potential benefits of the metaverse are vast. It is important to keep an open mind about the possibilities of the metaverse and how it could change our lives for the better.