What is the metaverse?

In the last post, we talked about augmented reality and virtual reality, and on the same note, we have the internet’s new favorite word: metaverse. Although it is almost impossible that you have never heard about it, figuring out what the metaverse actually is can seems like a challenge.

Basically, the idea is to create an immersive 3D virtual world in which people can do common activities like working, studying, shopping, and even interacting with each other. But how does it work exactly? Where did the concept come from? How has it become so popular and what are the projections for the future?

The author Neal Stephenson is the one who coined the word. In his 1992 book Snow Crash, he referred to it as an alternative digital world that exists in a dystopian future parallel to reality, where rich people escape to.

Although more than 30 years have passed since it first appeared, its popularity came in October 2021, when Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of Facebook, now Meta, with the plan to invest at least $10 billion in the concept. And they are not the only ones jumping on the bandwagon: Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Apple are some of the companies that are also investing billions of dollars in the metaverse. That is why it is worth getting to know more about this new internet thing!

What is it and how does it work?

The metaverse is a different way to view the Internet. A 3D, shared, immersive, hyper-realistic virtual space where people are able to have experiences that mimic their lives, but would not be possible in the same way in the real world. From their own customizable avatars, they can interact with each other and develop their digital lives.

Mathew Ball, an investor and writer of several articles on the metaverse, as well as the book “Metaverse: and how it will revolutionize everything”, in an interview with VICE, explained the two ways of looking at the metaverse in the current context:

When these two technologies (internet and computing) first emerged, all interactions were primarily text-based (emails, messages, usernames, email addresses). Then they slowly became more media-based (photos, videos, livestreams). The next elevation of user interface and user experience is into 3D. Secondly, if we think of [a] mobile [phone] as placing a computer in our pocket and the internet being available at all times, think of the metaverse as always being within a computer and inside the internet.

However, some experts claim that the metaverse in its true form does not yet exist. This would require only one access location, which is not the case today. Currently, to enter this reality, you need to visit different platforms: Decentraland, Axie Infinity, Horizon, Sandbox, Fortnite, and Roblox are some examples.

The technologies used in the metaverse now are the ones we saw in the last post: virtual reality and augmented reality. To remind you, virtual reality is the one in which there is a completely immersive virtual world, without any contact with the real one, while augmented reality still allows some kind of contact, mixing the digital with the real space.

What is the metaverse used for?

From gaming to marketing and education, the applicability of the metaverse crosses different sectors, making it a possible important tool for future digital interactions.

A very famous example in the games industry, which already has vast experience in creating immersive virtual worlds, is Fortnite. In it, you have an avatar that represents you in that universe and, with it, you can interact with the other players. You can earn virtual money and use it to buy new clothes for your avatar, for example. There are even concerts by famous artists: Marshmello, Travis Scott and Ariana Grande are some of the singers who have performed live in the game.

E-commerce can find in the metaverse an interesting way to create immersive and personalized experiences for the customers. Nike, in partnership with Roblox, has developed Nikeland, where you can play games, run marathons, socialize with other users, and try on and buy products. Gucci also created its virtual space with Roblox in 2021, in which people could try on and buy products, as well as walk through rooms with avatars that absorbed the colors of the environment.

But these are not the only companies who collaborated with Roblox: Hyundai was the first global automotive company to develop a digital content experience. Hyundai Mobility Adventure consists of five virtual theme parks: Festival Square, Future Mobility City, Eco-forest, Racing Park, and Smart Tech Campus. Users test drive, visit car shows, drive an aerial driving device, and can even purchase an electric vehicle sold in the metaverse.

Famous people also want to be part of this. Paris Hilton has already claimed that she wants to be the queen of the metaverse. With The Sandbox, a virtual environment in which you can buy land, build houses, businesses, and even rent, she has created a virtual mansion, where she throws parties, interacts with fans, and sells NFTs. Snoop Dogg is on the platform, and a man paid $2.5 million to be his neighbor!

On the working environment, we have Microsoft’s Mesh and Meta’s Horizon Workrooms, two examples of immersive spaces that promise to improve team collaboration and make meetings more personal, engaging, and fun. With remote work gaining more and more popularity, the metaverse is a way to bring an element of realism from physical connections to the home office.

For education, the metaverse opens up many possibilities. You can create virtual environments of the most diverse topics, contributing to the learning process and putting into practice what has been learned.

What is the future of the metaverse?

For 2024, Bloomberg Intelligence believes this market will reach $800 billion. By 2030, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the number could go up to an exorbitant $5 trillion.

Melanie Subin, director of The Future Today Institute, predicts that, by 2030, “a large proportion of people will be in the metaverse in some way” and she continues, “some will simply use it “only to fulfill work or educational obligations, others will live the majority of their waking hours ‘jacked in.’”

However, the concept still needs to be improved. Apart from problems with the accessibility of the required hardware, establishing a single access platform, as we have stated, is an important thing for the metaverse’s existence. There is still the issue of cybersecurity and the environmental impact caused by the use of related technologies, such as bitcoins, which use an enormous amount of energy.

In any case, expectations for the future of the metaverse are optimistic. We need to understand how society will adapt to this new reality and if it will in fact become part of our lives or if it will remain in the past as a promise that fell through.

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