The tech world is abuzz with news of the metaverse and how it can open up a world of opportunities. It promises a more immersive digital experience for users, and it’s poised to become the internet’s successor.
This vast network of virtual worlds is the stuff of science fiction brought to life with today’s technology. If you’ve seen Ready Player One or The Matrix, engaged in crypto or non-fungible tokens (NFT), or played games like Roblox or Fortnite, then you already have a glimpse of things to come.
What Is the Metaverse?
The term was first coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. In the novel, the metaverse is a shared digital place that people visit to escape their dystopian reality. They use avatars to interact with other users and explore an online world where they can be who they want to be and do whatever it is they want to do.
Today’s vision of the metaverse isn’t a far cry from Stephenson’s vision.
A Network of Virtual Worlds
Tech companies are building their own versions of the metaverse, which users can access online or through VR headsets and AR glasses. One of its most popular applications is in gaming. However, this is only a small scope of what’s possible with the metaverse.
When talking about the metaverse, the term isn’t exactly referring to technology per se.
Instead, it describes a digital world that goes beyond the internet. It’s like a digital copy of the physical world, where people are free to create experiences that cover both digital and physical worlds, interact with other users through avatars, own, purchase, or sell a piece of virtual real estate, and have access to a fully functioning digital economy.
Experts define the metaverse as a virtual space that’s persistent and defined by its users. It’s also described as a limitless virtual world with interconnected elements that mirror components of the real world. It’s a space where you can use real-world technology, such as AR and VR, in digital worlds to augment reality.
Interoperability is at its core, which means users can access their experiences, identities, and possessions across all platforms. This means you can use an item that you purchased on, say, Warcraft and use it on Horizon Worlds.
However, its exact definition can be hard to pin down—there’s no one way to define it—because a fully realized network of digital worlds doesn’t exist yet. No one has an idea of its scale and what it will become in the future. What we have now is only a small glimpse of things to come.
Applications in Today’s World
Given its massive scale, it can be challenging to know what opportunities the metaverse can bring. The good news is that there are early real-life applications that can give some context to this expansive concept.
Meta (formerly Facebook) acquired Oculus in 2014 in a bid to bring virtual reality experiences to the real world. Its vision is to create a virtual world where users, through avatars, can connect with each other using VR headsets.
Fortnite has been hosting virtual concerts by big names such as Ariana Grande and Travis Scott. Epic Games, Fortnite’s developer, has collaborated with Balenciaga to create outfits that avatars can wear. These in-game outfits also come with a limited edition run of real-world counterparts.
Virtual Real Estate
Real estate is huge even in virtual worlds, with users forking over a lot of money for virtual properties on platforms like Decentraland.
Today’s technology has greatly changed how we build relationships. Platforms like IMVU enable users to build a connection and create networks that allow players to get to know each other more.
The Future Is Now
While the vast network of digital worlds isn’t here yet, we’re already seeing glimpses of it, as well as what it can potentially offer. As technology continues to evolve, we’re getting closer to seeing and experiencing a more fleshed-out version of this expansive and immersive virtual world. The metaverse is more than “just a game.” From the way things are going, it’s bound to become something bigger than that.