From Facebook rebranding as Meta to tech giants like Google and Microsoft making billions of investments, metaverse has been the talk of the town recently. If you’re not yet aware of the concept, this article will help you know what is a metaverse and why it is known to be the future of the internet.
Whether you have come across Mark Zuckerberg’s vision to reimagine Facebook as a metaverse company or have heard of the Turkish political metaverse forum, there’s no escaping the internet’s favorite buzzword from the tech, business, and finance world – the Metaverse.
But what is metaverse? Just like many other buzzwords, the definition of the metaverse is also fuzzy and shaped by the people using it. Some call it the future of the internet, while others think of it as the enormous digital world to escape into. Or maybe it is just the extended version of the augmented and virtual realities. Well, let’s find out through this article.
While you are reading this, metaverse has already become a well-known technological phenomenon ready to shape the future of social connectivity and it’s unlike anything you have ever seen before. While 2021 proved to be immensely economical for the crypto world, it also opened up many doors for metaverse and related projects.
The major head-turning event was Facebook’s rebranding to Meta. That was when metaverse became a household term in the technological world and the new favorite word on search engines. The COVID-19 pandemic was another accelerator that sped up the interest in the metaverse as one of the major ways to connect with loved ones.
Metaverse is a game-changing innovation that indeed provides a gateway to transformative opportunities. But the technology faces inherent challenges in its road to mainstream adoption. Metaverse has been around for quite a while now. However, the term hasn’t gotten any clearer. With tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Apple investing big money in making the metaverse a reality, it is time to find out what the term actually means.
So, this article will break down the concept for you, with a clearer and more detailed metaverse definition. We’ll also break down some of the technologies powering up the metaverse trend.
What is a metaverse?
Metaverse refers to an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds where people can live, work, shop, and interact with others, all from the comfort of their couch in the physical world. It is said to have many forms including gaming, online communities, and business meetings where people collaborate through a digital version of themselves, also known as the avatars. People can be sitting miles apart, but they can have real-time interactions with each other, all through the metaverse.
As for the worldly definition, the term metaverse has been derived from two words, ‘meta’ and ‘universe’. It is known to have the first reference in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel ‘Snow Crash’, where it represented a 3D virtual world of avatars. In the novel, the metaverse is referred to as an all-encompassing digital world that exists in parallel to the real world. And today, in 2022, the context of the term is not much different whatsoever.
Metaverse is basically a place to spend your digital life. Everything’s digital in this virtual world. People use digital avatars to represent themselves, socialize with each other, and build communities. Just like the real world uses the real currency, metaverse uses digital currency to let the digital avatars do whatever they like. They can buy clothes, weapons, property, and whatnot. Or they can use the digital currency to party hard and travel with their friends, all these adventures from the comfort of sitting in one place.
How are metaverse and the internet related?
The internet is a network of communication done through billions of computers, servers, and other electronic devices. Through the internet, users can interact and communicate with each other, visit different sites, get entertained, learn about different things, and even buy and sell goods.
As for the metaverse, it doesn’t compete with the internet. Instead, it builds on it. Metaverse is considered the next evolution of the internet, more like an heir with better and newer technology.
Through the metaverse, users can explore a virtual world, a digital replica of the physical world, through technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), AI, and blockchain.
Let’s go back to the 70s and 80s when we first came to know about the internet. At that time, all interactions were primarily text-based, for example, through emails and messages. Then we saw the transition into more media-based conversations that included photos, videos, and live streams. The next evolution into a 3D user experience is marked by the metaverse. Experts are calling it “the 3D version of the internet”.
To sum up, the internet is something that you can ‘browse’ while the metaverse is where you can ‘live’ digitally. The growth of the internet is leading the way towards the creation of the metaverse. So, It wouldn’t be wrong to say that there would be no metaverse if there was no internet.
What part do NFTs play?
NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens play a big role in the advancement of the metaverse. These tokens are known to be a type of secure digital asset based on blockchain technology. These assets can be anything ranging from a digital piece of art, audio, gif, picture, song, or even a digital piece of land. What’s unique about an NFT is that it is one-of-a-kind digital artwork that gives proof of ownership to the owner and can be bought and sold in the metaverse.
NFTs are more like the building blocks of the metaverse. The elements in the metaverse can be traded as NFTs. For example, avatars, real estate, or any other metaverse element can be bought or sold as NFTs. Most metaverse projects also have an associated NFT marketplace where you can buy or sell the NFTs that are used in the metaverse.
Nick Donarski, who is the CEO of ORE system, an online community of gamers, content creators, and game developers, has clear comments on this subject. According to Nick, NFTs and blockchain lay the basis for digital ownership, and NFTs will be the vehicle to carry the ownership of one’s real-world identity over to the metaverse.
Metaverse as a Service (MaaS)
The success and mass adoption of the Metaverse heavily relies on the ability of users to build their own metaverse as a service technology. In order to make it a regular tool for people to use in their daily lives, it is necessary that they must get themselves engaged with it.
As far as the gaming industry or fiction era is concerned, the metaverse plays an astounding role as a tool or service in it. But if the users use it as a social or business tool, there must be some incentives or utilities to make them engaged, interested, and invested.
When we say Metaverse as a Service (MaaS), it means a model where brands, generally any metaverse user, can define their spaces to be whatever they want them to be. A MaaS platform allows others to create digital locations that fit each of its users’ unique needs, whatever that may look like.
Everyone has a different perspective or vision about the metaverse; some consider it as a gamified world while others think of it as an access point to Web3, the next version of the internet. Users seek the opportunity to define the metaverse space and shape it into a platform with the clearest imaginations.
A metaverse where people connect with their favorite musical or visual artists will vary vastly from a world built to engage with sports fans. With Metaverse-as-a-Service (MaaS), customization will be critical and in the hands of the creators. An esports metaverse will rely more heavily on team branding and gamified tokenization, whereas an entertainer may want to create an event space to host virtual or digital concerts.
Bridging the gap between the physical and digital world
One important thing to keep in mind is that the metaverse does not act as a replacement for the physical world but it is an added layer of engagement enhancing real-world experiences. A MaaS platform will enable users to get engaged within their own physical world as well.
The digital environment is a place to socialize and create communities where people must interact with one another and should not be locked into one metaverse or community. This ensures that any metaverse built won’t become a virtual island and that people across multiple metaverses will be able to exchange experiences and possessions.
Without MaaS as an option, the Metaverse will continue to be a gamified world that only exists digitally as a singular space disconnected from the real world. MaaS will bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds through immersive experiences and add-on layers of engagement.
Like if a person is displaying an NFT in his physical house, a visitor can scan a QR code and enter in that person’s metaverse, where the visitor can continue looking through the host’s gallery of NFTs and of course, this function is activated through Extended Reality (XR). XR and other technologies play a key role in powering up the metaverse world.
Technologies powering up the metaverse
The virtual world of the metaverse is fueled by more than one innovative technology. The basic idea of creating virtual and interactive 3D environments has been implemented by experts using different technologies. The biggest role, however, is played by extended reality (XR), which is the combination of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). But there are some more technologies that are powering up the metaverse.
Blockchain and crypto
Blockchain is one of this century’s biggest technology trends and it is also powering up the metaverse world. The metaverse lands built on blockchain will have a further advantage of decentralization. Instead of being controlled and authoritative by a single power, the blockchain-based metaverse will have distributed authority where the inhabitants of the metaverse are responsible for the decisions of the communities.
Blockchain technology offers a decentralized and transparent solution for the digital transfer of value, governance, and accessibility. Cryptocurrencies enable the inhabitants of the metaverse world to transfer value while they work and socialize in a 3D digital world.
Blockchain provides proof of ownership for digital assets involved in the metaverse. For example, Decentraland, which is the most famous metaverse, allows its users to purchase and own virtual land through the use of cryptocurrencies. Using the platform’s native cryptocurrency MANA, users are able to purchase land parcels in the form of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Blockchain technology supports the ownership and security of these virtual lands.
Virtual Reality (VR)
The terms metaverse and VR are often used side by side. Virtual reality is one of the most emerging technologies and is closely related to the metaverse. The technology of virtual reality mimics real-life situations by creating virtual environments that users can explore using VR hardware that includes VR headsets, gloves, and sensors. VR technology has existed even before the metaverse hype and has created some amazing digital worlds, with VR games being the most prominent product.
Virtual Reality disconnects you from real life while immersing you in a fictitious and virtual world that has no real element to it. Playing a VR game feels more like being inside the game instead of playing it on a screen. And VR headsets and sensors are what takes you to that fictitious world. Transitioning into the metaverse, the VR technology is maturing to expand the virtual experience and involve physical simulations as well. According to Binance, people will be able to feel, hear and interact with people from all parts of the world.
However, there is still a long way to go to end this hardware dependency to enter the virtual world. Metaverse is so much more than VR; it is a gateway to the digital world that anyone can enter any time and anywhere and this entrance should not be limited to a VR headset. Anyone with a smartphone or a computer should be able to enter the metaverse. Offering broad accessibility is the key to making the metaverse gain traction with consumers.
While this might seem like a difficult milestone, it is simply not impossible, especially when we have seen VR technology progress so much over the last few years. Just a few years ago, VR technology came with expensive and limited computer-based systems. With time, we have seen the arrival of affordable, ultra-high quality, portable wireless headsets like Meta’s Oculus Quest line that runs through a smartphone application and has quickly become a household name in VR hardware.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality is yet another important technology to create a metaverse. AR allows the insertion of virtual objects and characters into the real physical world. So it’s not completely fictitious like Virtual Reality. Rather it uses fictitious elements and puts them into the real world.
The best example would be the game Pokemon GO where users can view their surroundings with interactive digital visuals. There is no headset involved here. Users can view the digital elements in the real-world environment by opening up the camera on their phones.
Building on Augmented Reality, the metaverse could really get shaped into what the experts imagine it to be. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has also given us an insight into what AR would look like Meta which he claims to be the biggest virtual platform for socialization. 3D street art with scanners is pacing up. How it works is that the 2D art is done on the walls of the street and these art pieces can be scanned to turn into 3D AR pieces viewable in the metaverse.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence, commonly known as AI, has already provided the basis for a 3D world through the creation of characters and avatars. And this will be its biggest application in the metaverse as well. AI can be used to analyze 2D images or 3D scans to generate accurate and realistic avatars that look just like the user. People would want to look in the digital world exactly like they do in real life. AI can help with that by turning the users’ 2D pictures into realistic avatars that users can use to portray themselves in the virtual world of the metaverse.
As the name indicates, 3D modeling is an approach used to create a three-dimensional digital representation of any surface of an object. Since Metaverse is all about a 3D and 4D digital world, 3D modeling can be of immense use, and might as well be necessary, for creating the multi-dimensional universe. The 3D modeling techniques are befitting of the metaverse’s 3D reality.
A lot of designing and modeling goes into the creation of a digital world. When done with a 3D perspective, graphics can give the impression that the person is inside the digital world of the metaverse.
What happens inside a metaverse?
This is one of the most common questions regarding metaverse. If you’ve still got some queries after reading the metaverse definition, this part of the article will help you in further understanding the concept of the digital world. Here we will explain WHAT exactly can you do in the metaverse. Let’s start.
Socialization and interaction
This is the basis of metaverse invention. Metaverse’s main mission is to let people socialize and interact in the most comfortable ways. When inside a metaverse, you can wander around through your avatar and meet other people through their avatars in real-time. When you don’t feel like going out, but want to hang out with friends, metaverse can provide an easy solution for socializing and hanging out from the comfort of your house.
There are clubs, parties, and gatherings in the metaverse just like there are in the real world. You can make new friends, enjoy and party with them, and do lots more. You can shop in virtual malls, buy digital items, and purchase outfits and accessories for your avatars through digital currencies. Moreover, people are also getting married in the Metaverse. Last year, we saw an Indian couple tie the knot in an economical yet interesting virtual wedding venue.
Moreover, digital concerts and music shows are also getting major hype nowadays. When the pandemic and social distancing have led to a plunge in real-life and physical concerts, the digital world of metaverse has opened many doors for virtual music shows and fests. This way, people are not cut off from the entertainment world and the fun keeps on going.
The same goes for fashion shows. Fashion giants like Gucci and Nike have already stepped foot in the digital world of fashion. With the help of Non-fungible tokens or NFTs, the fashion world is changing itself for good. Brands have started investing big in what is believed to be the next big fashion innovation.
Not just that, metaverse can also serve as one of the major income sources for fashion brands since it provides a better reach to high-profile customers. Luxury fashion brands like LVMH are using tokens to connect with their customers since the connection is of utmost importance in the fashion retail industry to attract a large number of high-profile customers.
Buying and selling land
Metaverse is not somewhere you go for some time, have fun and come back. In fact, it is a place to spend your digital life through your avatar. So, whatever you do in your real life, you can do in the metaverse too. In that context, you can buy and sell property or land in the metaverse as well. You can own a digital piece of land that you can sell, trade for other digital assets, or construct virtual homes on.
Metaverse real estate has already become a hot topic among metaverse enthusiasts. We’ve talked about Decentraland earlier as well. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, Decentraland users can buy and sell digital land and assets with the platform’s native cryptocurrency MANA.
In recent years, there has been an abrupt increase in the prices of plots and the number of active users. You might be wondering how digital land is even valuable? The answer lies in its scarcity. Whenever something has a finite supply, its demand increases, and in return, its value soars up. Likewise, digital real estate is limited and scarce. This continues to drive its value upwards. When there are a limited number of plots in the digital world, the plot prices surge.
Just like the real world’s physical land depends on its location for the best properties and resale values, the same is the case with virtual land. So, the well-renowned companies are in competition to own the best pieces of virtual land, to build some malls, and venues for the social gathering, concerts, or any shopping area.
Education and learning
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, education had already begun to move from physical classrooms to virtual and more blended spaces. Metaverse has fueled things up by facilitating an immersive campus life where learners enter the virtual campus or institute to learn, explore and socialize. Such digital spaces provide various immersive experiences like students can delve into different learning pods, visit libraries and breakout rooms, meet coaches and counselors, and hang out with fellow students.
Such digital experiences are not only the gateway to innovative education but are also the means to democratize education. This is achieved by bringing students from geographically dispersed locations and varied economic backgrounds together to learn in a cost-effective, flexible, and quicker environment.
Some of these environments are based on physical simulations to teach students about the subject in a safe virtual environment, while others might just be role-playing simulations of historical events. These experiences represent a new form of learning through real experiences, rather than simply reading about subjects in course books. Of course, the biggest advantage of metaverse learning environments would be the flexibility they offer for anyone to log in from anywhere since there are no geographical restrictions.
Apart from that, educators and teachers will have the capabilities to design a metaverse environment of their choice that is relevant to the study material as well as is truly stunning and bound to captivate students. This can also include replication of real-life environments or places that take immersion to a whole new level. However, metaverse classrooms are not just limited to visual attractions. Such environments also open doors for more social interactions with classmates.
One of the biggest perks, perhaps, of metaverse learning environments is that they can promote safety better than real-life learning environments. When educating through a metaverse, teachers will have complete and ultimate control over student interactions, allowing only healthy and educational interactions and limiting bullying for disciplinary purposes. Thus, students will be able to focus on learning instead of worrying about bullies or other distractions.
Research and analysis
When experts say metaverse is for everyone and everything, they literally mean it. There isn’t any sector that hasn’t yet been influenced or isn’t going to be affected in the future by the metaverse’s virtuality. After the education, fashion, and real estate sectors entered the digital world, scientists and researchers have also started taking the metaverse trend seriously. Metaverse has entered the research industry and has undoubtedly opened new doors for better techniques.
China’s metaverse laboratory is just a perfect example. China is currently using funds in technical trends and discovering how to integrate the metaverse in a true manner. The recently-opened metaverse lab will conduct research and analyze the trends in the metaverse to help understand the various areas that media companies can explore in the virtual world easily.
From gaming platforms and NFT galleries to curated lands and digital streets, the metaverse is a collection of a variety of virtual elements that when combined form an immersive universe. Metaverse is, without any doubt, the biggest trend of the current digital era. Whatever the field be, either gaming, commerce, or fashion, metaverse has embedded its claws in it. From social giants like Meta and Microsoft to fashion rulers like Gucci and Nike, industries have been pouring into the immersive digital experience that metaverse offers.
But a big part of this digital world is still left unexplored and looking at our world, it is impossible to predict and anticipate what will happen as a result of the investments being made by companies to make their own metaverse. But one thing is for sure, which is that a parallel universe will become increasingly intertwined with our actual life. And the metaverse proves to be an initial stage of such a parallel universe.
This article has explained how different technologies are powering up the metaverse trend, what lies inside the virtuality of this digital world, and how it is changing the way every sector works. However, there is still a long way to go before achieving a digital world that encompasses the exact metaverse definition. Experts are interested organizations are constantly trying their best towards building an all-inclusive and immersive metaverse.