Both Facebook and Microsoft claim control of the metaverse, which has recently been a major issue of debate. But what is the metaverse, exactly? When will it be delivered?
In his 1992 science fiction novel "Snow Crash," author Neal Stephenson invented the term "metaverse," in which he foresaw lifelike avatars meeting in realistic 3D buildings and other virtual reality scenarios.
Since then, a true metaverse, albeit, an online virtual environment that integrates augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D holographic avatars, video, and other means of communication, has emerged. People will be able to live in a hyper-real alternate world as the metaverse expands.
What exactly is the metaverse?
It is a technology hybrid that combines virtual reality, augmented reality, and video to allow users to "live" in a digital realm. Supporters of the metaverse envision its users working, playing, and staying connected with friends through activities ranging from concerts and conferences to virtual world travel.
Mark Zuckerburg's version conjures up images of virtual reality: You attend work meetings as an avatar using the Quest VR headset, and you secretly text friends using a device on your wrist. When you go outside, you'll be wearing smart glasses that provide augmented reality and record what you see and hear. The metaverse will be accessible via phones, computers, wearable technology, and headsets (or a combination of these), and it will be where you work, shop, exercise, socialize, watch movies, and play video games.
What is the point of the metaverse?
Despite its newness, the metaverse already appears to be everywhere.
The recent rebranding and investments by Facebook, er, Meta, have sparked renewed interest in the metaverse. It's everywhere: in headlines, corporate news, memes, gaming platforms, and on social media. The term's increased ubiquity creates a sense of impending doom as if our physical lives will be engulfed incorporating pixels and paywalled interactions at any moment. However, Fortnite and Roblox have been hyping up the metaverse for quite some time, and the term itself is decades old. "Beyond or beyond," "more extensive," or even "transformative" are all possible meanings for the suffix meta- (like metamorphosis). The -verse part of the word is derived from the word "universe" and refers to either a specific sphere or area (such as the Twitterverse) or a fictional world (such as the omegaverse (sorry! ), a speculative alternative universe literary genre known for classifying characters into alphas, betas, and omegas).
The term "metaverse" refers to a virtual world that exists beyond, on top of, or is an extension of the physical world. The Metaverse, according to the book Snowcash, is the sum of virtual and augmented realities concentrated on a super long "Street" through which people walk as avatars and can access using goggles and plugging into terminals. Users of public terminals are represented by blurry black and white avatars, whereas those who pay for private terminals are represented in full colour and detail. Since then, the term "metaverse" has been used to describe a wide range of initiatives aimed at creating a more permanent virtual reality that pervades our everyday lives. Since the 1960s, people have been attempting to create immersive virtual worlds, a pursuit fueled by the world-building efforts of both the film and video game industries. Second Life, an alt-reality computer game where you play through an avatar and may do almost anything — like buy a house or get married — was launched in 2003 and is one of the most-cited examples of the metaverse. It was such a realistic world that it had a thriving kink scene – it doesn't get any more realistic than that. There were enough serious metaverse enthusiasts by 2006 to organize a summit.
What is the metaverse and how is it different from the Internet?
After the Internet, there will be a digital life. Not in the sense that our digital infrastructure will be destroyed. Rather, a social invention will emerge that, believe it or not, outperforms the Internet. The Metaverse, it appears, will be that invention – a synthesis of the Internet and the limitless possibilities of augmented and virtual reality technologies.
Much of the grunt work in bringing information, services, and experiences online has been done by the internet. However, there are more efficient methods for delivering, discovering, and interacting with everything on the Internet.
I'll use an analogy to explain how the Internet will evolve into the metaverse.
To get travel information for a future vacation or a place you were visiting before the Internet, you had to go to the library, phone a travel agency, or look through brochures at a rest stop. It was inefficient, and finding all a city has to offer would be tough.
The Internet then gave us TripAdvisor, a lovely website that crowdsourced reviews and pricing on everything a place has to offer, from restaurants to lodging. It expanded the amount of travel information we could access while also eliminating anyone authority on the issue.
In the metaverse, you'll put on your Magic Leap goggles or Oculus headset and be transported to the city you wish to explore. You'll be able to take virtual city tours, browse the attractions, and see what's cooking at the best restaurants – all while adding your favourites to an actionable itinerary for when you visit one day. It's a combination of information from the travel agent, the Internet, and personal experience.
This is only one illustration of how the metaverse will alter the Internet.
A wide range of experiences, services, and data have been digitized. They are, however, all strewn over the web in their own separate buckets, with only sporadic links, Google Search, and the occasional social media post connecting them.
Nov 24, 2021