A Metaverse is a digital space represented by digital representations of people, places, and things. In other words, it’s a “digital world” with real people represented by digital objects.
In many ways, Microsoft Teams or Zoom is already a form of the metaverse. You are “there” in the room, but you may be a static image, an avatar, or a live video. So Metaverse is a broader context for “bringing people together.”
The Metaverse is an expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, history, payments, and entitlements, and can be experienced synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence.
Simply put, it is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.
When you ask experts about the word Metaverse, they explain that it was coined years ago in a science fiction book. But for the rest of us, it sounds like some creepy thing Mark Zuckerberg thought up to capture all our information and sell us more ads. (And likely create even scarier conspiracy theories, fake news, and the rest.)
Unfortunately, since Facebook seemed to pitch this first, there are a lot of conspiracy theories about its value. Well, let me assure you that this thing is real. And the value to our lives could be big.
Let me first suggest that there is not one “Metaverse.”There will be many “Metaverses,” some for business, some for commerce, some for education, and some for entertainment. Let me talk primarily about the business applications first, but I’m sure the others will come on fast.
Let me start by mentioning that the Metaverse today is where the Internet was during AOL. In other words, there are a lot of new things to come. Remember that the original web was all text-based, it was slow, and there wasn't even any video. The Business Metaverse is already taking form. In training, we want from “e-learning” to “we-learning” to “digital learning” and soon to“immersive learning.” This implies an enormous new set of applications – from onboarding and training to leadership development, meetings, simulated experiences, large employee events, and of course entertainment
Metaverse is already taking form. In training, we want from“e-learning” to “we-learning” to “digital learning” and soon to “immersive learning.” This implies an enormous new set of applications – from onboarding and training to leadership development, meetings, simulated experiences, large employee events, and of course entertainment.
Big companies have been experimenting for a while. Accenture built an entire “Nth Floor” for consultants based on Microsoft’s early release of Mesh (its Metaverse and Avatar toolset)
Today, the metaverse is a shared virtual space where people are represented by digital avatars (think Ready Player One). The virtual world constantly grows and evolves based on the decisions and actions of the society within it. Eventually, people will be able to enter the metaverse, completely virtually (i.e. with virtual reality) or interact with parts of it in their physical space with the help of augmented and mixed reality.
Currently, many VR platforms like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Animal Crossing are games now but they already have big user bases, detailed worlds, and user-generated content. The Sandbox SAND a VR-based land and token dealing game along with Facebook is also positing itself towards the metaverse with its virtual reality social media platform, Horizon (currently in beta), and Live Maps. Niantic, Magic Leap, Microsoft, and many others are working on it too.
If what we presume comes, we’re going to see other“Metaverses” appear. Consider the entertainment industry. This week Disney announced it would move it would “connect the digital and physical worlds” for its storytelling and animation. Who wouldn’t want to step into a 3D avatar-driven Disney movie and talk with the characters? Disney could become“the happiest place in the Metaverse.”
How about the Shopping Metaverse? Wouldn’t you want to go to a virtual Amazon (or Walmart) store and shop for products, groceries, books, and movies? Consumers could go talk with the authors, visit with the movie characters, and see the food products in 3D. And Amazon owns Twitch, the largest gaming network in the world. Think they aren’t working on this? Guess again. Get my drift?
There are lots of “edge cases” yet to happen. NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) will be part of this world – enabling us to buy, own, license, and protect digital assets. There will be a massive focus on privacy, security, and data protection since the 3D data captured here is more voluminous than ever. And as glasses and headsets get cheaper (watch Apple in this space), you can bet these applications will impact our life at work, at home, and on the weekends.
And there will be a land grab as well. Already brands are acquiring valuable real estate (“virtual spaces” in video games), so your company may want to buy a plot of land in Farmville. Nike just patented digital goods, so they’ll sell digital products in the future.
Before you think this is a dystopian nightmare, consider the positives of this shift. A lot of the technologies we’ve been building for years (blockchain, VR, AR, sensors, cameras, 5G) are now coming together. The Metaverse we know today may seem odd or unusual at first, but soon enough you'll see real applications come.
Mark Zuckerberg is creating a future that looks like a worse version of the world we already have one of several virtual spaces is depicted in a video from Metain in October 2021.
The digital space was made by "a creator I met in," one of the floating avatars tells Zuckerberg.
At one point during the conversation, Zuckerberg's avatar pulls up a digital, 2D video chat to connect to a friend who was supposed to join them. She's out in the real world, being a person, and unable to join, but she wanted to show off a piece of AR art she's seen IRL. The whole thing seems like it could've happened over FaceTime or Zoom or any various pieces of technology we already use.
Some avatars look realistic to the person they represent, while others are total abstractions (like the large robot seen above). Rather than participating in a game, everyone is essentially hanging out in a three-dimensional chat room — something more akin to "Second Life" or PlayStation Home than, say, "Fortnite."
It's unclear how anyone in the demo is connecting to the space or interacting with it, but it appears to be VR headsets — a crucial component of Zuckerberg's vision for the metaverse that also serves as a business opportunity given Meta's success with the Oculus Quest line of VR headsets.
In one sense, it's a vision of a future world that takes many long-existing concepts, like shared online worlds and digital avatars, and combines them with recently emerging trends, like digital art ownership through NFT technology and digital "tipping" for creators.
In another sense, it's a vision that takes our existing reality — where you can already hang out in 2D or 3D virtual chat rooms with friends who are or are not using VR headsets — and tacks on more opportunities for monetization and advertising.
He's repeatedly claimed that the metaverse is the successor to the current mobile internet, and he wants to make sure that Meta is a major player in whatever comes next.
In the October video presentation introducing Meta, Zuckerberg also demonstrated what the future metaverse might look like and how it could work.
The video depicted a world where people jump in and out of a3D virtual space, like those in "The Matrix" and "Ready player one."
Brands are also staking a claim in the metaverse. Nike has launched Nikeland, a virtual gaming experience on the gaming platform Roblox, where users can dress their digital avatars in the company’s products. In September, Dolce & Gabbana sold the first-ever collection of non-fungible tokens(NFTs) by a fashion brand for about $5.7 million. Five tokens featured in the drop were accompanied by physical versions of the items, and the other four were digital-only pieces. Though seemingly a giant step forward for the legacy fashion house, the collection was apparently limited to the D&G experiences only (each sale included invitations to the brand’s exclusive events) and has yet to prove its utility in the metaverse.
If digital garments sound alien, consider Microsoft’s vision to transform workplace experiences along that vein. Next year, the company plans to roll out a new feature, Mesh for Microsoft Teams, which is designed to make online meetings and collaborations more immersive—again, with the use of avatars.
That said, Meta’s user base and resources dwarf that of blockchain-based virtual reality platforms, whose development still heavily relies on traditional venture capital funding, so the issue of metaverse’s centralization could long remain in the grey area. Meanwhile, the future awaiting us seems far more virtual than it did a year ago.
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