If there’s one word you’ve probably heard rustling around on the internet, it’s Metaverse. It sounds impressive, but the concept it refers to is even more so. There is, however, a lot of confusion over what the metaverse really is, what it really means and what it can really do for all of us.
Not to be confused with Marvel’s multiverse, the metaverse refers to a digital world where we can live our lives alongside hundreds and thousands of fellow users. They aren’t new concepts – if you ever played the online game Second Life in the early 2000s, you’ve been part of the early iterations of a metaverse and may not have even realised it.
The principle of the metaverse is that we can conduct our lives and business as we do in the real world, only in the digital world. We will have the capacity to create, innovate, form relationships and more in the metaverse, all without the constraints of physical restrictions. Put simply, the metaverse has the potential to not only add new layers of nuance to how we experience the world but could allow us to experience new digital worlds altogether.
We do so via the use of avatars, representing ourselves in a digital form. These avatars could be accurate to our physical forms or even an idealised version of ourselves. In any case, these avatars would function as our representation in the metaverse, much like a character in a game. But there’s a big difference between a real metaverse and the types of digital worlds that we’ve been familiar with for a while. So what is a true metaverse, and how do we distinguish it?
From a technological perspective, the metaverse is inextricable from the concept of Web 3. The fundamental principle of the metaverse is that you can interact with people in an open protocol digital world. The open protocol element is the distinguishing factor between the metaverse and, for instance, a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) like World of Warcraft.
An open protocol system allows users of the metaverse to cross platforms and access all areas without the need for permissions or passes. This is achievable only on Web 3, which distinguishes itself by being open, accessible and free of corporate censorship or blockage. As a result, the two concepts are intrinsically intertwined. You can’t have a true metaverse without Web 3.
But once that true metaverse is introduced, the scope of what’s possible is enormous.
One of the most important aspects of the metaverse is how we find ourselves within it. For the most part, this comes down to the legitimacy and accuracy of our in-world avatars and the use of augmented reality to make the experience feel more realistic. From a consumer perspective, this is a good indicator that Augmented Reality (AR) and virtual reality are going to be the next big thing, much like smartphones in the early 2000s. The way it works is that by using augmented reality, a person can truly feel like they are living and breathing in the digital world that is the metaverse.
This means that we may soon see an uptick in the development and popularity of home AR devices, which have typically been something reserved for gamers and technology enthusiasts. But regardless of the method in which we integrate ourselves into the metaverse, what really matters is what we do and how we conduct ourselves within. Now is the best time to be looking to that future while it’s still in its infancy.
Plenty of companies are already taking strides to incorporate aspects of the metaverse into their business practices. Especially with the impact of the past two years, more and more corporations are relying on digital contact as working from home is on the rise. With the incorporation of the metaverse, businesses could be able to conduct entire meetings – entire workdays – within the confines of the metaverse without ever having to be in the same physical space.
On a macro level, we can see that companies and institutions like Facebook, now known as Meta, and even games like Fortnite are leading the way towards a future where the metaverse on Web 3 is a reality for everyday people. Fortnite, for instance, is integrating real-world events like concerts into its game, so people who are logged on can participate in community-driven, real-world oriented activities without ever having to leave their homes.
The prospects of what this could look like for everyday businesses are enormous. Trialling products, conducting experiments, holding meetings and interacting despite great distances are all huge benefits to a business in the digital world. Even further, companies will eventually be able to own land in the metaverse and own businesses in the metaverse. The NFT boom will extend to the metaverse to take ownership of elements in the metaverse just as significant as in the real world.
Daniel Van Boom of CNET explains, “Blockchain-integrated metaverses, like Sandbox or Decentraland, allow people to own the land, buildings and items within these worlds, and sell them or trade them.“
With this prospect of ownership, development and even life inside the metaverse, it’s little surprise that experts have an intense passion when touting its possibilities. When new technologies emerge, it’s understandable that fear and uncertainty can take hold, but with the metaverse and the intersection of Web 3, blockchain and augmented reality, that uncertainty also brings with it no uncertain amount of potential.
Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with podcaster Les Fridman, “Many people think that the metaverse is about a place, but one definition of this is it's about a time when immersive digital worlds become the primary way that we live our lives and spend our time."
While we’re still a long way away from a world where we spend more time in the digital realm than the physical, the metaverse is on its way, and it’s going to revolutionise the way we conduct business, interact with people and ultimately experience life.
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