Facebook recently rebranded its parent company name as meta to develop the metaverse. Since that, everybody seems to be talking about metaverse and many companies are investing heavily in this.
But what exactly is the metaverse? It does sound like a fictional universe like the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), DCEU (DC Extended Universe), Wizarding World (Harry Potter universe) and others.
Well, it is kind of a separate universe that exists virtually where you can interact with other people. Yes, it is in a way like virtual reality but it’s much more than that.
In this article, we will tell you all about the metaverse, what it is, why does it matter and how it’s being implemented.
Ready? Let’s begin.
What is Metaverse?
First of all, metaverse currently doesn’t exist. Yet. It is the future version of the internet that combines various technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, digital currency and a lot more to build an online universe.
Confused? Let’s simplify it for you.
Suppose your friend lives in the US and is attending a concert by your favourite band. Right now, you can watch it on your laptop and mobile screens or through your VR headsets. But you will be just watching the concert – alone.
Imagine if you could see your friend standing next to you via a holographic projection and your friend can see you similarly. Not just seeing each other but you can actually interact by hi-fiving. How awesome would that be?
This is what you can do when metaverse will be in existence and fully operational. But it’s not limited to attending concerts. You can do a lot more like trying out clothes in online stores, taking part in sports, playing video games, performing transactions, travel, education, defence, aerospace and a lot more.
The word “meta” is a prefix that means something beyond, transcending, changing or operating at a higher level. And the word metaverse means a universe that is larger and transcending the current one.
The origin of the word metaverse dates back to 1992 from a science fiction novel “Snow Crash”. Written by Neal Stephenson, it depicts a futuristic society where people interact in a virtual world through avatars. And this virtual environment was called the metaverse.
And yes, like most of the technologies today, even metaverse is inspired by science fiction.
Even though the word has its origin from Snow Crash novel, the perfect example for metaverse would be Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One and its 2018 film adaptation.
Image source: Wikipedia
Misconceptions about the metaverse
One of the most common misconceptions about metaverse is that it is something that Facebook is creating. It’s not. It is a futuristic technology that Facebook is highly investing in and developing.
This is what Facebook tells about their role in developing the metaverse – “The metaverse isn’t a single product one company can build alone. Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not.”
Like we already said, it’s not here yet. But we are definitely moving in that direction and it will be here sooner than later.
Although it is a larger virtual world that will be a network of many virtual sub-worlds, you won’t be needing a separate VR device to access it. It would be as easy as connecting to the internet through your smartphones, tablets and laptops. How exactly? Only time will tell.
Why should you bother about metaverse?
Now, you might be wondering why should you bother about metaverse and why to try to understand it.
It’s pretty simple – it has a range of applications that you can’t just ignore.
On the outside, metaverse might look like another advanced way of entertainment with gaming and virtual concerts. It’s not just it. It will be part of your day-to-day activities too.
Just close your eyes and think about all the new technologies and how they changed the world – right from the industrial revolution to the internet.
Metaverse is going to be the next iteration of the internet which will change the way we perform our daily activities like social media, online shopping, online transactions, payments, video games, education, sports, watching movies, attending concerts, and many more.
It will be a world without physical boundaries and with unlimited interactions. You can probably run head-on into a moving train and not get hurt, strap a rocket to your back and fly away from the earth to view outer space, jump through a metropolitan city like spiderman and a lot more.
It will be a world where all virtual worlds, augmented reality, digital currencies, 5G networks, social networking will be blended into one single platform.
Concept art of Nth Floor, a virtual office space. Image source: Wikipedia
How metaverse is being implemented?
Even though the metaverse is yet to be fully operational and accessible to everyone, most of its aspects are already here. One of them is the VR headsets.
You probably have used one. It is a head-mounted device that helps the wearer immerse and interact in a virtual world. They sometimes have extra accessories like eye-tracking sensors and gaming controllers that let you interact in the virtual world.
Some of the leading devices are Oculus, Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear, HTC Vive, Microsoft Hololens etc. But metaverse is not just the VR headsets.
Extended Reality (XR)
XR is nothing but the integration of both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). With its Microsoft Mesh Platform, Microsoft is planning to integrate mixed-reality by adding holograms and virtual avatars to Microsoft Teams.
Image source: Roblox
A huge gaming platform, Roblox is not just a game. But a platform that houses a lot of user-generated games. Apart from creating and playing games, you can build homes, work, shop for dresses and accessories or just hang out.
Another similar virtual world is the popular game Minecraft, owned by Microsoft. You can create your own digital characters and build anything you want.
Second Life is another online virtual platform where you can create your own avatars and have a second life – digitally.
Future of metaverse
Image source: Oculus-HorizonWorlds
Now let’s see how various companies are trying to develop metaverse.
Horizon Worlds, formerly Facebook Horizon is a VR online game that was released on December 9th, 2021 as an invite-only beta phase. Facebook is also developing Horizon Workrooms where you can conduct online meetings using VR headsets.
Apart from taking AR and VR to the next level, Facebook (Meta) is also partnering with other industries, governments, academic institutions for external research and investments.
Other players include Epic Games (creator of Fortnite), Roblox, Unity 3D (game development platform) and even the graphics Nvidia which is building its omniverse.
And it’s not just about gaming. Other tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Apple are also part of the race.
Apart from IT companies, brands like Nike and Adidas have entered the metaverse by opening their digital showrooms on Roblox and POAP respectively.
Metaverse will also integrate cryptocurrencies and blockchains to track digital goods. Not to mention the NFT(Non-Fungible Token)s as well.
So, that was our humble attempt at explaining the metaverse. It is still in development and once it’s fully functional and commercially available, it might look entirely different than we expect.
If you want to be a part of its development, you can learn more about AR, VR, XR, Cryptocurrency, Gaming and join any of the companies that are developing it.
But, it is a long game and would take at least a decade before it is easily accessible for us as the internet. As Facebook says “It won’t be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years”.
So, what are your thought on the metaverse? What are you expecting it to look like once it is fully developed? Tell us in the comments below.