Hype Theme: What Is the Metaverse?
2021 can be called the year of the metaverse.
But what is the metaverse? This is a new and promising era of internet development, expanding the boundaries of human interaction and online space; another loud marketing move designed to draw investors’ attention to companies and having no real prospects.
Metaverses have been talked about for a long time, but this topic became really widely discussed after Mark Zuckerberg’s presentation outlining his vision of the future metaverse. In it, the creator of Facebook described the main milestones in the development of a new direction.
Let’s figure out what lies behind the concept of the “metaverse.”
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What is the metaverse?
Zuckerberg described the metaverse as a virtual space within which people can create, conduct research, communicate, work, and play. And to do all this together, being present in different services and products, but not being physically nearby.
Moreover, an important feature of the metaverse is the ability to feel the physical presence of another person through digital spaces.
So, the development of the metaverse is a new stage in the development of technologies (virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, and NFTs) and human interaction with the online environment.
In addition, this is a timely stage of development and expansion of the technology industry in terms of generating new sources of financial income.
The forerunner of the metaverse era was the modern smartphone and mobile internet. But the era of the mobile internet, which is also called Web 2.0, has actually exhausted itself, and another one is coming to replace it.
The era of Web 3.0 is the era of a person’s complete immersion in the online space. Such fantastic prospects form new markets and new opportunities for technology companies.
The era of Web 3.0 may be accompanied by the emergence of new IT giants and industry leaders, as well as the extinction of existing large corporations that have failed to fit into the new realities of the market.
Has Web 3.0 already arrived? Read more here.
According to Zuckerberg, the creation of the metaverse will take his company at least five years. To build the entire industry, it is necessary to develop new technological standards and communication protocols, which will require new equipment and software from many companies.
How will the metaverse function?
Imagine that a certain person (let’s call him John) creates his unique three-dimensional avatar in Meta (Facebook), Microsoft Teams (Oculus) or any other metaverse platforms.
Through virtual and augmented reality (Oculus) equipment and his avatar, John attends corporate virtual meetings and even performs a number of his official duties. He is engaged in creating some kind of architectural layout together with other employees who are on another continent and work together with John (Horizon Workrooms) through avatars. During this work, employees exchange files, create graphic objects, and so on.
After work, John visits a virtual cinema with a girl (via Netflix services). Their avatars appear among other avatars.
At the end of the film, the couple decides to look into the Amazon virtual boutique, where John’s girlfriend is looking for a new virtual sports uniform with a good discount, in which she will play virtual tennis on the roof of a skyscraper in the morning. Meanwhile, John has fun playing with friends.
Or, let’s say they buy a beautiful painting together that can be hung in a house built in Roblox. John pays for his purchases with cryptocurrency through the PayPal payment system.
This scenario of possible metaverse development includes corporate communication tools, live broadcasts of events, e-commerce and the exchange of valuable things. The main constructive elements of the creation and functioning of metaverses are hardware, cloud servers, content, and cybersecurity.
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Different types of realities
Simultaneously with the development of the metaverse, various types of technologies are emerging to make the experience more “real.” In the presence of different “realities,” this can sometimes be overwhelming and confusing.
Below, we will discuss the different types of technologies that form the foundations of the metaverse, as well as when and how to use them.
Firstly, different types of realities can be divided into categories according to the corresponding types of equipment necessary for their perception. For example, you can use a smartphone or desktop computer with augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).
- Augmented Reality (AR)
AR is the process of superimposing virtual objects on a real environment.
- Mixed Reality (MR)
MR is similar to augmented reality (AR). However, virtual objects can be “anchored” to a real object.
To experience immersive reality, you need to use specialized headsets or glasses (we’ll discuss metaverse hardware later in this article). In addition, the headsets can be adapted for AR and MR. However, phones, tablets and computers cannot (yet) use the following technologies:
- Virtual Reality (VR)
VR is a completely immersive digital environment, completely separate from the real world.
- Extented Reality (XR)
XR is a term that refers to all different types of reality: AR/MR/VR.
How is blockchain used in the metaverse?
Blockchain technology is a type of distributed ledger technology (DLT). Separate varieties of DLT technologies exist with the common goal of decentralization and the creation of a censorship-resistant internet. This technology is known as Web 3.0 or Web3, which is based on transparency, immutability, and security.
With thousands of cryptocurrencies and decentralized applications (dApps) available, there is also an international community of developers and enthusiasts presenting innovative solutions to help people gain financial independence through decentralized finance (DeFi).
DeFi technologies and protocols are easily transferred to the metaverse to create an in-game digital economy. Therefore, there are many platforms and applications in the metaverse that help users create and manage a market business. As a result, users can easily sell assets and offer services.
Another aspect of blockchain technology that is fundamental to the work of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs). They are unique pieces of information or data. Accordingly, all avatars, accessories, environments, skins, and in-game assets can be publicly available and sold on the blockchain as NFTs. So, all transaction histories are infinitely accessible and unchangeable with verifiable scarce digital assets.
What are NFTs, and why are they so popular today? Learn more here.
Which companies will benefit from creating a metaverse?
There are four business areas that can benefit from the development of the new digital industry.
Companies that are building the metaverse are: Meta, Nvidia, Microsoft, and Apple.
Meta is one of the leaders in building its own metaverse. Facebook, Instagram, the WhatsApp messenger and social networks are among the assets of the company, the total audience of which is about 3 billion users in 2021.
What’s wrong with WhatsApp? Learn more here.
Meta already has a multifunctional virtual reality device of the new generation Oculus Quest 2 in its arsenal, which is designed not only for games and entertainment, but also for solving work issues.
The company has launched a beta version of Horizon Workrooms — virtual workrooms that allow people to come together to work in one virtual space regardless of physical distance.
Nvidia (NVDA) is already developing its Omniverse universe — an open extensible platform for collaboration in a virtual environment and physically correct real-time simulation.
Omniverse’s capabilities allow its members to combine their tools and projects in a virtual environment. And the products created by the participants can be sold to other participants on the same platform.
Apple’s management has not yet made any statements about the metaverse, but there is no doubt that Apple will enter this race. According to insiders, the company plans to release a new virtual reality gadget by the end of 2022. The device will be equipped with the latest generation M1 processors.
Microsoft (MSFT) is developing the operating environment within the framework of the Microsoft Teams platform. The company entered the race to create a metaverse within Teams just a few days after Facebook renamed itself Meta.
In 2022, Microsoft is going to introduce the Mesh platform for collaboration in Microsoft Teams virtual environments, in which any user can participate thanks to animated avatars.
Artificial intelligence will be involved in the creation of avatars, recreating not only the visual part of the avatar, but also its voice functions.
Also, next year, the company plans to launch virtual meeting rooms that will work with a VR (virtual reality) or AR (augmented reality) headset. According to the developers, they will be open to users on multiple devices thanks to working with animated avatars.
The metaverse is a work in progress that has different significance for different people. For some, the metaverse is an immersion in gameplay. For others, it may be remote work meetings, social meetings, or a decentralized marketplace offering goods and services to other users.
The ultimate ideology of the metaverse is the genuine compatibility of all virtual reality (VR) platforms with reliable, contactless transactions between the parties. Moreover, blockchain technology can help realize this vision thanks to its transparency, security, and immutability.
The metaverse promises to make our digital life just as exciting, fascinating, and no less real than the one we live outside of our screens. Thus, we can consider the metaverse as the final reproduction of real life in the digital world and as the next step in the evolution of the internet.
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