You must have increasingly heard of the word metaverse in the last couple of months or so. We can attribute its popularity to the pandemic that forced people to work from home, increasing their online presence for pleasure and business. However, do you know what it is and how it works? We have something for you if you would like to learn more about this fast-rising technology. This article will explore the metaverse and furnish you with every bit of information you need to know.
What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse continues to be a hot topic day in, day out, even among renowned CEOs such as Zuckerberg and Satya Nadella. They believe that it is the future of the internet. However, what exactly is it? A metaverse consists of several interconnected 3D virtual worlds that offer social connectivity. Its proponents believe that it is a single, virtual world that virtual and augmented reality technologies can access, just like the internet.
This technology is being furthered by Microsoft and Meta, formerly known as Facebook, and includes virtual versions of ourselves and augmented reality. Facebook, one of the biggest proponents of the metaverse, rebranded to Meta Platforms Inc., shortened as Meta, in October 2021 to capitalize early on what is presumed as the future of human connectivity.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, defines Meta as the dream of social technology as it will allow people to feel truly present with others. Therefore, humanity should expect it to offer them a feeling of presence, making them feel like they are in the same room with the people they are talking to.
In a 77 minutes video released to help people understand what the metaverse is, Zuckerberg revealed that it is possible to define the universe at a higher level through augmentation and virtual reality. The metaverse replicates everything people do in the real world using a gateway such as a VR headset or any wearable gadget.
Most proponents of the metaverse believe that it will lead to the rise of interactive learning environments, increase work productivity and further the adoption and use of e-commerce and real estate.
The Rise of the Metaverse
To fully understand the metaverse, we first have to explore its constituents. It is made up of ‘meta’ and ‘verse’. Meta has a Greek origin meaning ‘beyond’ while verse is derived from ‘universe’. Metaverse can therefore be alternatively defined as beyond the universe.
It first originated from Neal Stephenson’s literature in his novel Snow Crash, which came out in 1992. Neal defined the metaverse as the highest or ultimate revolution of the internet, painting it as a virtual reality where all the virtual interactions directly impacted the real world. His book went ahead to explain what the metaverse is, further defining it as a physical persistent virtual creation with virtual avatars that can perform social interactions and support gaming.
The book went ahead to explain how the metaverse defined in the story affected real-world developments of the main character, even detailing that it got people whose brains were connected to the virtual world insane.
Neal’s book opened the stage for the release of several other books, television shows, and films that shed more light on the metaverse. A good example is the film Ready Player by Steven Spielberg, released in 2018, based on Ernest Cline’s novel, Ready Player.
All in all, these books define the metaverse as a virtual reality that allows people to perform everything, they do in real life depending on the advancement era.
How Does the Metaverse Work?
The working mechanism of the metaverse is supported by its design and purpose. It comprises several real-time 3D virtual networks that allow users to replicate the ordinary world. These can be experienced persistently by several users. It offers a personalized sense of presence while offering continuity of data, for example, history, objects, communications, payments, and entitlements.
This environment will also permit the buying and selling of land, avatars, and even names. Users will hang around with their friends, buy different goods and services, visit various locations and even attend other events.
Technologies Used in the Metaverse
The metaverse is destined to use a set of technologies that support its working mechanism. In fact, it will most likely expand on the existing internet technologies. To access it, people will have to use general-purpose computers and smartphones, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual world technologies, among many others. Let’s explore these further.
1. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence continues to be a massive part of our lives. It has come in handy in strategy planning, facial recognition, faster computing, and decision-making, among many other applications. In recent years, experts have been exploring how they can apply AI to the creation and operation of immersive metaverses.
AI will play a significant role in the metaverse due to its ability to quickly process numerous data. When used with machine learning techniques, this type of intelligence obtains lots of historical data from past interactions, allowing the creation of distinct insights and outputs. When it comes to the metaverse, AI will be applied to non-player characters, popularly known as NPCs, in several scenarios since they exist in all games.
The non-player characters react and respond to the players’ actions. AI will allow their placement across the spaces, enabling real-life user conversations and performing an array of tasks.
Lastly, artificial intelligence can be used to create metaverse avatars. We can use its engines for 2D images or 3D scan analysis to come up with more realistic and better-looking avatars. We expect this technology to be used to create varied facial expressions, clothes, hairstyles, and features that enhance its creations.
2. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (ER)
Virtual and augmented realities allow people to enter the virtual world. These two technologies are known for giving immersive and engaging 3D experiences.
However, it is worth noting that they are different. Augmented reality replicated the real world by using digital visual elements and characters. Unlike virtual reality, it can be easily accessed and used on any smartphone or device with cameras. AR applications allow users to view their environments with interactive digital visuals. On the other hand, VR comes up with a computer-generated virtual environment that can be explored through VR sensors, headsets, and gloves.
It is also worth noting that VR headsets such as Oculus have given developers and different Big Tech companies hope to create the metaverse. There are a number of games specifically made for VR headsets, with Fortune Business Insights forecasting that the virtual reality gaming market will grow over eight times in 2028.
As for augmented reality, Nreal, a Chinese AR company, came up with the Break light glasses in 2020 and started shipping in December 2021 to South Korea, China, and Japan. These glasses are game-changers since they resemble luxury fashion pieces while enhancing reality and making it more exciting.
All in all, these two technologies represent an early model of the metaverse. With VR, we already have a digital world with fictional visual content. We can expect more intense functionalities such as physical simulations to allow the metaverse to fulfill its purpose of genuine interaction with others from different parts of the world. A good example of a motion and physical simulation game is LC Series – a racing car simulation product.
3. Cryptocurrency and Blockchain
Blockchain technology has grown famous because it offers a transparent and decentralized way of proving digital collectability, ownership, governance, interoperability, transfer of value, and accessibility. On the other hand, cryptocurrency allows the transfer of value as people work and socialize in the 3D world.
Crypto has been used to buy virtual lands in the form of non-Fungible tokens or NFTs. Blockchain technology helps establish and secure the ownership of the virtual lands after they have been purchased.
We can expect more people to accept working in the metaverse because of crypto. One of the possibilities in the near future is seeing lots of metaverse-related jobs being offered as companies continue migrating online and calling for remote working.
4. 3D Reconstruction
3D Reconstruction is a relatively old technology that has risen during the pandemic. It became more popular in the real estate industry since people couldn’t visit properties in person and were therefore used to conduct virtual property tours. Buyers assess new homes and make purchases without traveling.
The metaverse aims to create a digital environment that will replicate our natural world, possible with 3D reconstruction. We can use unique 3D cameras to reproduce our world and come up with authentic or accurate photorealistic models of different buildings and sceneries in 3D before passing this data to computers for processing and generation of the metaverse for other users. The images of replicas that we will have obtained after this are known as digital twins.
5. Internet of Things (IoT)
The last technology that we expect the Metaverse to use is the internet of things, a concept that has been existing since 1999. It uses sensors and devices to connect everything in our physical world to the internet. The devices can then send and receive the images automatically through unique identifiers. This technology is currently being used in medical devices, voice-activated speakers, thermostats, and several devices dealing with a variety of data.
In the metaverse, IoT will collect and relay data from the physical world, thus increasing the accuracy of different digital representations. We can expect a change in the functioning of a number of objects in the metaverse based on several conditions made possible by IoT.
This technology will connect the 3D world created by the metaverse to several real-life devices, thus enabling simulations. We can also expect the internet of things to incorporate AI and machine learning to manage all the collected data.
Metaverse by Facebook
Facebook, which recently changed its name to Meta Inc., is one of the biggest proponents of the metaverse. In the Founder’s letter after the rebrand of Facebook, Its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, stated that Metaverse’s most outstanding quality would be the feeling of presence it will offer its users.
He then allowed the world to witness the metaverse in a long video. This online platform has a unique idea of the metaverse. It sees virtual avatars detailing people playing, studying, attending workshops, exercising, and socializing. It believes that the metaverse will allow people to do everything they do in reality.
Facebook is closely joined by Microsoft, who are also significant proponents of the metaverse. This Big Tech company aims to build a metaverse through its idea known as Mesh. It (Mesh) has a feature known as Holoportation, allowing users to project their holographic self to others.
However, this will be intensified by using a Hololens device, spicing up the Holoportation experience. Users will also be able to access Mesh through tablets, phones, PCs, and VR headsets. Microsoft will incorporate Mesh in Teams by 2022, allowing routine work to be more immersive.
Current Implementations of the Metaverse
It is worth mentioning that there are several implementations of the metaverse in existence. This includes video games and virtual reality that use different components of Metaverse technologies. Let’s explore these:
1. Video Games
We have several internet-enabled video games using several components of Metaverse technologies. The first metaverse is widely considered to be Second Life, a 2003 virtual world platform that fused several social media aspects into a 3D world with an avatar representation.
Most of these games also use social functions, a feature of the metaverse. The game Minecraft, which several people around the world play, can also be considered as an advanced but analog metaverse. Other video games that can be regarded as classic examples of the metaverse are Roblox, Fortnite, Active Worlds, The Palace, and Decentraland.
All in all, it is true that avid gamers have all experienced the metaverse at one point in their life.
2. Virtual Reality
Virtual reality can establish immersion in virtual environments, explaining why the development of the metaverse is always intent on bettering VR technologies. Facebook, which rebranded to Beta, came up with the Facebook Horizon, a social VR World. The company later renamed itself in late 2021, with its CEO declaring that they intended to develop a metaverse.
Microsoft, another renowned proponent of the metaverse, acquired AltspaceVR in 2017 and, through its services, managed to implement a number of Metaverse features such as virtual avatars. Also, through Microsoft Teams, this platform holds meetings in virtual reality.
What is the Future of the Metaverse?
What is in store for the metaverse? We can expect that this environment will be as popular and authentic as the internet now that Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Microsoft are keen on it. Mark Zuckerberg detailed that it is possible, just that it will take some time.
Time Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games, detailed that the metaverse will be achieved even though it will take a decade or more. This is particularly true because we have already seen a number of significant advancements over the years.
The good news is that this immersive environment will not be created by just one company but by several developers making their contributions. The fact that everyone will participate in its creation means that the metaverse is achievable.
The speed of making the metaverse a reality is also commendable. Companies such as Apple Inc have increased their involvement in AR, claiming that they have the most significant involvement in the entire world. There are also a number of AR applications in the app store that have a range of functions, which should convince one that the metaverse is possible.
Challenges Faced by the Metaverse
We cannot fully understand the metaverse without looking at some of its challenges. Despite being a good concept, the metaverse faces several obstacles that must be addressed before it becomes a reality. These are:
1. Reputation and Identity Issues
Personal identification and representation are easy to achieve in the real world as opposed to virtual environments. The main question that several proponents have asked regarding the success of the metaverse is the elements that will make up people’s identity in the metaverse.
Will it be possible to prove who you are without mimicry? People can forge facial features, footage, and voices in the metaverse, which necessitates the development of new verification methods as time goes by. We will have to prove that we are interacting with the right persons or entities in the metaverse and not different persons.
2. Data and Security Issues
Privacy and data security are some of the most pressing concerns for people who are always present in the online world despite the different revolutions in IT security systems. The metaverse will have to come up with new and advanced methods for personal data and privacy protection that will keep people’s virtual identities and possessions secure. Users may also be expected to offer more personal data than we currently have for identity purposes and ensure that the security system is efficient.
3. Legal Concerns
The metaverse brings along the issue of law and jurisdictions. There must be rules and consequences for breaking them as we immerse ourselves into a different world. Therefore, countries will have to focus more on virtual legal domains. As the accessible virtual spaces for users increase globally, we must come up with the right ways of applying the matter of jurisdiction.
The metaverse will bring together several users, allowing them to connect and exchange ideas. However, this will bring about the issue of vulnerability, especially in the absence of laws or rules that define boundaries. There has to be legislation ensuring that we have a safe and secure virtual space.
4. Ownership and Property Issues
The metaverse will allow the purchase and ownership of assets since it is a replica of the natural world alongside permitting different interactions. We have recently seen the surging popularity of non-fungible tokens, generally known as NFTs, which have been making headlines and attracting several investors as well as users.
Even though this is a brilliant idea, it comes with one major challenge or concern. How will we prove the ownership of these assets? How will we ascertain the ownership rights of videos, music, art, and others? Therefore, the creators of the metaverse will have to come up with a unified system to be used in verifying the possessions of the different virtual assets in the environment.
5. Time Perception and Space Issues.
The metaverse seeks to replicate the real world, meaning there may be an issue of time perception between these two environments. By fully immersing themselves in the metaverse, users will most probably spend more time in it than they had anticipated.
Therefore, developers must come up with a means of keeping users connected to the real world to better perceive the concept of time. Space may also be an issue since the metaverse intends to assume infinite space. These two issues must be checked accordingly since they ensure that users are comfortable in the virtual environment.
The metaverse should be made as a complementary space rather than aiming to replace the real world if it is to be successful.
6. Community and Network Issues
Metaverse aims to bring different communities together by connecting everyone around the globe. This is important since people should always stay connected for a better future and networking purposes. We should also expect strong networks that could enhance both work and personal lives.
However, for metaverse to be what it is intended to be and better the online communication we are used to, there must be updated and advanced haptic and motion capture technology that may be hard to develop. Therefore, developers and proponents must come up with technologies that will offer smooth comprehension of different surroundings while combining visual fidelity and the ability to touch and feel.
7. Payment Verification and Payment Systems
Since the metaverse is expected to mirror the real world, we expect people to acquire assets and wealth. Luckily, we have seen a surge in digital currency due to its acceptance across several platforms and different users. Therefore, we expect Metaverse to have its virtual marketplace version to connect actual and virtual currencies, thus enabling easy exchange.
However, developers and proponents will have to develop a unique verification system for new transactions. It may be quite challenging to convince different users that they can rely on o these systems and feel safe when trading within the metaverse system.
Benefits of the Metaverse
The metaverse is an intelligent creation that comes with a load of advantages. It is destined to impact lots of sectors once it comes out. We expect to experience many virtually countless benefits thanks to the opportunities and capabilities that this new ‘universe’ will create. Here are some of the main benefits:
1. New Possibilities
We should expect new possibilities with the metaverse that we haven’t experienced before. There are a number of things that even the ultrawealthy haven’t experienced. People can’t still share high-quality virtual experiences such as traveling to faraway solar systems or different eras of civilization. These are expected to be made possible thanks to the metaverse.
This creation will therefore serve more purposes other than entertainment. Medics will have a chance to know more about new techniques through VR applications, while geologists and earth science students will swim through some of the most spectacular creations of all time. The metaverse is, therefore, something worth exploring.
2. Affordability of Experiences
The metaverse will make several experiences affordable for several people, including the dirt poor. People will get the chance to access several occasions and products, including some luxuries that only the rich could enjoy. Remember, it is intended to be as popular as the internet, a service that has allowed several people access to different libraries and several means of entertainment.
We should expect everyone across the spectrum to experience high-quality interactions with their loved ones as well as high levels of world travel.
We should expect the Metaverse to make people wealthier by making labor more productive. Since it is an online community, there will be several remote jobs on a global scale as this will be a better platform than the current ones, Zoom and Slack.
Also, the innovation that is likely to be experienced with the coming of the Metaverse will create a number of job opportunities since it will go down as one of the most significant technological advancements and transitions throughout history.
The metaverse will be heavily sustainable as it will give us better and more efficient ways of arriving at our goals. It will help save resources to be channeled to different areas since we will attend schools, social gatherings, and workplaces virtually instead of physically. It will also be good for the environment since the metaverse will phase out the necessary daily commutes to work. People won’t need to use private jets as they currently do as they will be able to experience the world.
Also, we won’t need to use fossil fuels as much in the virtual world. People won’t need devices such as televisions or physical screens as holograms will replace them. It is also believed that this technology will wipe out the need for more material clothes to achieve stylistic expression when socializing in the virtual world since the avatar will be allowed to choose between the different digital clothing options available.
5. Limitless Potential
The metaverse presents a limitless potential for humanity. It has several technological options that allow individuals to fulfill most of their desires digitally. It also provides for the conservation of resources rather than their consumption, which we should all champion. We should thus expect it to solve a lot of problems and allow people to prosper in different fields.
Cons of the Metaverse
Like any new technology, the metaverse also has its negative side effects or cons. These include:
It is possible that people may be addicted to the metaverse once it is developed. Just like gaming, several people may spend lots of time in this immersive environment, completely ignoring the real world. However, this is a common problem with new technologies since most people end up getting addicted to them after overindulgence.
It is also worth mentioning that internet addiction disorder, video games addiction, and social media addiction come with mental and physical implications after some time. Metaverse addiction may lead to depression and anxiety as it promotes a sedentary lifestyle.
2. Information Privacy
How safe will user information be once the metaverse has been rolled out? This is still a grey area that should be answered since most prominent tech companies concerned with the development of the metaverse will have to gather different user information via biometric data and interactions from other wearable VR devices.
One of the leading proponents of the metaverse, Facebook, announced that it would employ specialized targeted advertising within its metaverse, which will probably lead to misinformation and loss of personal privacy if not done well.
3. Separation From the Real World
It is also argued that the metaverse will be used to escape reality, just like it has been observed with the different internet technologies that have come up over time. This will be detrimental as people have to face real-world issues and deal with them accordingly. Providing an escape will also lead to addiction, just like drugs, which have several side effects.
Lastly, the metaverse may overstimulate people’s senses since it is virtual rather than absolute. Shifting back from it to the real world may therefore be a problem.
Despite the cons of the metaverse, we have to agree that it is a revolutionary plan and creation. However, even though several big tech companies are making efforts to enhance its realization, we should accept that it may take longer than anticipated. All in all, we are all looking forward to the benefits it promises to bring along.
However, people will also have to prepare adequately for it as it may create a new world order. Fully immersing yourself in the virtual world come with implications that should b handled well.