Two years ago Facebook announced that it's rebranding to Meta to "focus on the metaverse and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses". Many companies are working on VR and AR social platforms, involving AI, but what is Metaverse exactly? While the concept of Metaverse is still evolving, we dig into this brand-new term and try to understand what is it and how it works.
What is Metaverse in simple terms?
Metaverse is a virtual world/digital universe that exists in parallel to our physical world where people can interact, work, socialize, and create things using technology. It's a huge, collective, shared, and immersive (AR and VR) online space that offers various activities and experiences. It's like a combination of social media, online gaming, virtual reality, and the internet all in one. Think of World of Warcraft, where players can buy and sell goods, or Fortnite with its virtual experiences like festivals, concerts, skins, etc. Although, even those are not yet a complete Metaverse, since Metaverse would unite everything in it. At the same time, some experts call the collection of metaverses a multiverse. Even though the term is still not 100% explained, there are some key characteristics that define a Metaverse, including:
- Immersive Experiences: The metaverse offers immersive experiences using technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to make users feel like they are physically present in these virtual worlds.
- Persistence: Unlike regular video games, the metaverse is always there, and it continues to evolve even when users log off. Changes made by one user can impact the experience of others.
- Interactivity: Users can interact with each other and the virtual environment, engaging in various activities such as socializing, gaming, working, or collaborating on projects.
- User-Generated Content: Many metaverse platforms allow users to contribute to the content, shaping the digital world by designing virtual items, and creating interactive elements.
- Economy and Trade: The metaverse often has its own economy with virtual currencies and assets that can be bought, sold, and traded. Some people and businesses earn real-world money through activities within the metaverse.
- Cross-Platform Access: The metaverse aims to be accessible from different devices and platforms, ensuring users can connect regardless of their hardware or software choices.
- Diverse Applications: The metaverse isn't just for entertainment; it finds uses in education, work, healthcare, art, and more. It has the potential to change how we socialize, collaborate, and lead business.
AR glasses or Apple's revolutionary headset Apple Vision Pro are also part of the metaverse future: "The two main realities are reality virtual and augmented reality. Virtual reality is the one in which we are completely locked up. These are screens only. Augmented reality is what we see through transparent glasses, a bit like Google Glass. With information projected superimposed on what we see naturally. Mixed reality is primarily VR at its core but with an integrated augmented reality mode. I call it a false augmented reality because instead of using your eyes directly, through transparent glasses, you use cameras, which reproduce what is in front of you and this is what characterizes mixed reality , this possibility of switching from VR to AR, at any time", explained Mark Gurman, guest of the iWeek podcast The Apple Week (episode 135 of May 4, 2023).
When did the Metaverse begin?
The historical concept of the metaverse represents a gradual evolution from early text-based virtual spaces to the immersive and interconnected digital environments we are beginning to see today. The term 'metaverse' was created back in 1992 in a sci-fi novel "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson. Before that, a science fiction writer William Gibson popularized the idea of 'cyberspace' in his 1984 novel "Neuromancer." This term referred to a virtual space where people could navigate and interact. In the 1990s and early 2000s, virtual worlds like "Second Life" and "World of Warcraft" gained enormous popularity. Users could create avatars and interact in shared virtual spaces. Then, social media and the development of AR and VR moved things even more forward. Today, the metaverse includes almost everything, including NFTs, blockchain, gaming, digital healthcare, augmented reality, digital clothing, digital food, internet communities, and groups. Anyway, we'll know more gradually, and at some point metaverse won't seem such a futuristic and unrealistic concept because it might be a huge part of everyone's daily life soon.