The metaverse is considered by many to be the next milestone for the internet, kind of like how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. But what’s it really about, and what’s it going to be?
The concept of the metaverse has emerged as a transformative force, reshaping the way we perceive and interact with the digital realm. This article delves deep into the intricacies of the metaverse, providing a comprehensive understanding that goes beyond the surface level.
Think of a make-believe world where people do everyday stuff – live, work, shop, learn, and hang out, but there’s a caveat – all while sitting on their sofas at home.
In this virtual reality, the computer screens we use now to surf the internet become like magic doors to a futuristic 3D world. It’s almost like real life but way cooler. Here, our digital twins, or avatars, can jump from one adventure to another, bringing our identities and money along.
This awesome space, you guessed it, is called the metaverse, but despite all the excitement, it’s not here yet.
Now, you might be wondering, “How does this metaverse affect my business?” In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know. We’ll cover technologies supporting the metaverse, its good and not-so-good aspects, how to invest in it, a brief walkthrough of the metaverse history, why it’s kind of a big deal, and how it might change how we work in the future.
The word “Metaverse” comes from the Greek words ‘meta’ (meaning beyond) and ‘verse’ (derived from universe). Think of it as a realm beyond our reality, a universe with the potential to replace various aspects of our daily activities.
The term “metaverse” encompasses a vast virtual space where users can engage in a shared, immersive experience. Unlike the physical world, the metaverse is entirely digital, blurring the lines between reality and the virtual domain.
Many consider the metaverse to be the next big upgrade of the online universe as we know it. It’s meant to turn into a 3D video game-like world where we can all hang out together and live our lives – just virtually, though.
But here’s the fun part: the idea isn’t exactly new at all! The word “metaverse” was first used in 1992 by a writer named Neal Stephenson in a sci-fi book called Snow Crash. And even before that, smart people have been working on the tech that makes this virtual world possible for a long, long time. It’s like they’ve been planning this internet upgrade for ages – we just finally have the supporting technologies to make it possible!
Then, in the early 1990s, Sega introduced VR gaming devices like the SEGA VR-1 motion circular, seeking to offer thrilling experiences for arcade gamers – putting more fuel into the initial metaverse concept.
The Metaverse rose to prominence when Facebook changed its name to Meta in 2021 and said they’d spend over $10 billion on this cool idea. Not just them; big companies like Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Qualcomm are also putting hefty investments into this concept. Experts from McKinsey & Company even think the metaverse could be a $5 trillion industry by 2030.
But is this the only reason why everyone is so hyped up about it? Well, not really, and that’s because the metaverse isn’t just a single thing; it’s like a bunch of different online worlds rolled into one giant virtual entity. Imagine playing Fortnite, working in a virtual office, trying on clothes online, or even practising surgery in a virtual space – all of that is part of the metaverse.
With all the rumours and speculations surrounding the metaverse, some people are super excited, saying it’s going to be the next big thing. But others aren’t so sure. They’re asking, “Will it really be that much different from what we have now? And will people really want to spend so much time wearing headsets and playing in a digital world?” Even with all the excitement and doubts, many experts believe the metaverse is inevitable and is going to be a huge deal.
That all being said, what significance does the metaverse hold if it were to come together anytime soon? In essence, this network of interconnected systems, free from geographical constraints, holds substantial importance for several reasons:
Democratisation for Every User: Metaverse platforms are designed to be democratised, meaning no single entity controls its operations. Those holding the platform’s cryptocurrency can influence decisions, ensuring a decentralised nature that may require user agreement for significant changes.
The Next Internet: Referred to as an “embodied internet” by Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Metaverse is envisioned as a space where users actively engage with real-time data and 3D objects. Linked with the concept of Web 3.0, it represents a decentralised, spatially organised internet.
Revolutionising Information Engagement: Unlike the current two-dimensional engagement with internet information, the Metaverse introduces a revolutionary shift in input-output exchanges. Users can interact with displayed data as if it were real life, using hand controllers, voice instructions, and eye tracking.
Advancement in Scientific Research: The Metaverse has the potential to significantly expedite scientific research, particularly in fields like healthcare, aerospace, and manufacturing. It allows specialists to simulate complex structures in 3D and facilitates collaborative work in a virtual environment, accelerating approvals, improving error detection, and enhancing success rates.
Transformation of Daily Life: The Metaverse’s industry-neutral nature allows it to be applied across various domains, from gaming and work to social interactions and education. It has the capacity to transform both professional and personal aspects of life, hosting events like weddings and entire corporate campuses.
Virtual & Augmented Reality
VR and AR technologies lie at the core of the metaverse experience. VR immerses users in a simulated environment, while AR overlays digital content onto the real world, creating a seamless blend of virtual and physical elements.
VR immerses you in a simulated 3D world, often via a headset, offering a lifelike experience. On the flip side, AR overlays digital elements in the real world, like Pokémon Go. Several experts have hinted that what we have now might be just the warm-up for the full metaverse experience. Excited times ahead, for sure.
While not a new technology, the application of 3D reconstruction has gained prominence, especially during the pandemic. In sectors like real estate, where physical visits were restricted, organisations turned to 3D reconstruction for virtual property tours. This technology enables potential buyers to explore and purchase homes remotely, resembling the metaverse we envision.
A challenge in building the metaverse is creating a digital world that looks authentic. Utilising 3D reconstruction allows the creation of realistic scenes by capturing accurate 3D representations of buildings, real locations, and objects using powerful 3D cameras. The processed 4K HD photos and 3D spatial data result in virtual replicas, also known as digital twins, for users to explore in the metaverse.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a crucial role in various aspects of our daily lives, from corporate planning to facial recognition. In the metaverse, AI is explored for creating immersive experiences. AI’s ability to process large datasets rapidly, coupled with machine learning, allows it to learn from historical data, providing unique outputs and insights.
In the metaverse, AI can be applied to non-player characters (NPCs) for lifelike interactions. NPCs, common in gaming environments, can engage in realistic discussions or perform tasks that require AI processing skills. AI NPCs operate autonomously, serving millions simultaneously and functioning in multiple languages. AI also finds application in modelling metaverse avatars, enhancing their realism by analysing 3D scans or 2D images and dynamically creating features like facial expressions and hairstyles.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The concept of IoT dates back to 1999, connecting physical devices to the Internet through sensors. Today, IoT links various devices, from medical devices to voice-activated speakers to data sources. In the metaverse, IoT serves for data collection from the physical world, refining the accuracy of digital representations. For instance, IoT data streams can alter the behaviour of metaverse objects based on real-world factors like weather.
IoT implementation extends the metaverse’s reach by connecting the 3D environment to a multitude of real-world devices. This connection facilitates live metaverse simulations. Combining AI and machine learning, IoT processes the collected data to enhance the metaverse environment continually.
The metaverse is a colossal network of real-time 3D virtual worlds, a space where countless users can coexist with a unique sense of presence and continuous data flow, covering identity, history, and transactions.
But how will it work? That’s the million-dollar question, and opinions vary. It’s a digital ecosystem blending 3D tech, collaboration software, and blockchain-based finance tools. The success of the metaverse hinges on factors like interoperability, data portability, governance, and user interfaces. The possibilities? Well, they range from niche applications to a dynamic, open 3D internet.
That said, given the largely unrealised nature of the metaverse, a consensus on its functioning still needs to be discovered. In broad terms, the metaverse represents a digital ecosystem constructed upon diverse 3D technologies, real-time collaboration software, and blockchain-driven decentralised finance tools.
Variables like the extent of interoperability among virtual realms, data transferability, governance structures, and user interfaces hinge on the unfolding evolution of the metaverse.
During a session on the metaverse at the 2022 MIT Platform Strategy Summit, Lauren Lubetsky, a senior manager at Bain & Company, delineated three potential scenarios:
The Metaverse can be broken down into seven key components, each influencing a different aspect of the user experience. Let’s delve into each layer individually:
Experience: The Metaverse promises a plethora of 3D and 2D experiences, enriching our visual encounters beyond current capabilities.
Discovery: Within the Metaverse ecosystem, discovery methods include both inbound and outbound approaches. Inbound discovery involves individuals actively seeking information, while outbound marketing entails delivering communications regardless of user requests.
Creator Economy: Unlike earlier internet versions that required programming skills, current web application frameworks simplify the creation of tools without coding. This has led to a rapid increase in the number of web designers.
Spatial Computing: This technology merges virtual reality with augmented reality. Examples include Microsoft’s HoloLens and Instagram’s face filters, showcasing the capabilities of spatial computing.
Decentralisation: Leveraging online capabilities, developers utilise a scalable ecosystem powered by microservices and distributed computing. Blockchain and smart contracts grant producers access to their data and products.
Human Interface: Users can gather information about their surroundings, access maps, and create shared AR experiences by combining human interface and spatial computing simply by looking around the real world.
Infrastructure: The presence of other layers relies on technological infrastructure, including advancements like 5G and 6G computing, to enhance network capacity and reduce congestion.
Users in the metaverse often interact through digital avatars, customisable representations of themselves. This enhances the sense of presence and personalisation within the virtual space.
Creating digital representations of oneself to convey feelings and thoughts uniquely is a central concept in the metaverse. Avatars serve as a distinct way to express oneself, whether as original creations, recreations of favourite pop culture figures, or exact replicas of one’s real form.
The gamification element comes into play when users can customise their avatars, enhancing the experience by making it more dynamic and interactive. Imagine the 4.66 billion internet users globally creating AI-powered digital twins capable of exploring distant places, sharing information, and interacting with other avatars.
One of the metaverse’s defining features is its emphasis on social connectivity. Users can communicate, collaborate, and share experiences in real-time, fostering a sense of community.
The second most frequently mentioned component of the metaverse is decentralisation. This aspect envisions an open, shared reality where users can seamlessly move across platforms. In the metaverse, users have the ability to create and trade virtual experiences and assets with monetary value, all without relying on a central authority.
Key technologies facilitating the democratisation of the metaverse include Artificial Intelligence, Edge Computing, and Blockchain. Decentralisation ensures that users have complete ownership of their assets and experiences, making it a fundamental characteristic of the metaverse and a key determinant of user freedom. This decentralised nature sets the metaverse apart from the current internet.
The metaverse has the potential to address current challenges in remote work effectively. It enables managers to communicate more effectively with employees by interpreting their paralanguage and body language. Additionally, by tracking team productivity through each member’s avatar, recruiters can address workplace issues such as idleness and time theft.
Addressing cyber threats, a longstanding global business concern is crucial in envisioning the metaverse. Ethical considerations and privacy within this ecosystem need careful attention. Similar to the internet and current online communities, secure remote transactions and monitoring people’s behaviour to ensure ethical conduct will always be essential in the metaverse.
When we think about the metaverse, we often picture virtual reality headsets transporting us into a space of limitless interactivity. However, this is just one way to enter the virtual world. Metaverse-access technology encompasses a range of devices, including laptops, PCs, smartphones, and tablets, among others. While it’s important to consider the human-interface devices, we should also emphasise the infrastructure that will keep us connected within the metaverse.
The rising interest in the potential of the metaverse has prompted the development of various platforms by major IT firms such as Facebook, Nvidia, and Microsoft. Here is a list of some of the most sought-after metaverse platforms:
Valued at approximately $5.6 billion, Decentraland is a social virtual universe. Fueled by its DAO (decentralised self-governing organisation), it features the LAND agreement, allowing users to trade digital land.
Users can monetise their land through advertising, gaming, and other activities. MANA is the native token used to purchase items within the platform.
Bloktopia aims to create a metaverse within a skyscraper-themed development strategy. Users can engage in learning, networking, commerce, and explore various vocations within a 21-story structure. The project emphasises human contribution and creativity.
Enjin Coin is an ERC-20 token on Ethereum’s blockchain, used to purchase virtual items and enhance virtual real estate value. The platform’s native currency, ENJ, facilitates the promotion and buying of virtual products. Enjin provides a market for exchanging products and services, allowing gamers and developers to trade without concerns of exploitation.
The Sandbox, with its native currency, SAND, has seen a significant rise, surpassing Decentraland. Built on Ethereum, it features a DAO design and smart contracts for virtual land and assets.
SAND token usage has transitioned to Polygon’s layer 2 choices for lower transaction fees and faster processing times. The platform allows global users to design, own, and sell their games using the SAND Token.
Roblox, an online gaming platform, has evolved into a metaverse offering diverse virtual experiences, especially in VR. The platform recently partnered with the NFL to create a metaverse game before the 2022 Super Bowl. With millions of users, Roblox aims to unite various experiences under one roof.
Developed by Wolf Digital Realm, Metahero is a unique metaverse platform that integrates 3D scanning and modelling technologies. It serves as a portal into the metaverse, creating an immersive environment with avatars and virtual objects.
Metahero’s technology supports the creation of realistic 3D avatars and the conversion of real items into NFTs. Notably, Metahero has partnered with Tencent as a marketing partner.
Immersive Work and Study Experiences: During the 2020 pandemic, as the world shifted online, the value of remote work and study became evident. Metaverse technology provides an immersive experience, allowing participants to interact in a 3D virtual setting, offering a unique and engaging alternative to traditional communication technologies.
Develop Virtual Economies: The metaverse serves as a platform for the virtual economy, where digital goods hold economic value. It introduces new activities and opportunities in both the real and virtual worlds, contributing to the growth of this evolving concept.
Supports the Capability of Blockchain: The metaverse aligns with blockchain technology, the foundation for digital currencies and NFTs. It provides a suitable environment for NFT-based gaming and blockchain ecosystems.
Improves Social Media Application: Unlike traditional two-dimensional social media, the metaverse offers an immersive and extraordinary interface, enabling users to engage in a more lifelike manner, breaking the confines of screen-to-screen interaction.
Advanced Technical Requirements: A significant drawback is the need for complex technical equipment, including Blockchain, VR headsets, and more. Access to the metaverse requires a fast and stable internet connection, posing a challenge for those needing high-speed internet or cutting-edge technologies.
Privacy Issues: Security concerns arise due to the collection of user information, requiring organisers to take extra precautions to safeguard data. Security breaches could damage the platform’s reputation, and since the metaverse is still in its early stages, concerns about safety persist.
Closing the Gap between Virtual and Real Worlds: While the metaverse aims to bridge the gap between real and virtual worlds, it risks blurring the distinction between the two. Technological advancements may lead to addiction and impact how individuals perceive their real-life relationships.
Potential Cultural and Social Consequences: The introduction of new rules and norms in the metaverse raises concerns about its impact on culture and society. Users are navigating uncharted territory, prompting questions about the potential consequences of this evolving technology.
The future outlook for the metaverse is geared towards unifying diverse, immersive virtual environments into a cohesive whole. The ultimate vision is a vast, all-encompassing metaverse accessible through a single web browser, akin to the internet offering various websites. Imagine a user seamlessly transitioning from a virtual office with an Oculus VR headset to engaging in a Blockchain-enabled game post-work, all within the same metaverse. It extends beyond social networking and gaming, evolving into a multidimensional experience facilitated by VR headsets and glasses.
As metaverses advance, users are expected to explore 3D worlds by physically moving around using VR devices. This goes beyond the current scope of virtual interaction, potentially transforming aspects of governance, remote workstations, individual digital identities, and more. The metaverse can potentially revolutionise how we perceive and engage with digital spaces.
In conclusion, the metaverse is not merely a technological trend but a paradigm shift in how we will interact with digital spaces. Embracing this revolution requires a nuanced understanding of its components, challenges, and potential impact on various industries.
As we navigate the uncharted territories of the metaverse, the combination of technology, connectivity, and innovation propels us into a digital frontier where possibilities are limitless. It’s easy to get entangled in debates over the practicality of something or to dismiss a groundbreaking idea because its immediate value to the world may need to be apparent or easily quantifiable.
However, we must remember that sharing tales and experiences has been a part of human existence since time immemorial. Throughout history, we’ve consistently leveraged cutting-edge technology to tell richer stories, craft better user experiences, and simply have more fun.
Now with the Metaverse, we are presented with a new virtual playground, offering a universe of boundless possibilities. It’s an exciting prospect, and as we delve into it, we will discover innovative ways to connect, share, and experience the world around us. If you’d like to discuss how different types of emerging technologies can be leveraged to revolutionise customer experiences, reach out to us!
November 11, 2023