What is the metaverse? What are its differences, and most importantly, what are the advantages compared to conventional Internet. Let’s find out in today’s article.
Polls show that only 24% of people know the term “Metaverse”, meaning “Common digital world that combines physical, augmented and virtual realities.”
Among all respondents, people aged 35 to 44, as well as residents of the capitals, are best aware of this term. The exact definition of the term was given by 82% of those who have heard anything about the metaverses. 13% of respondents are sure that the metaverse is an unreal fantasy world. A small part of the respondents connects the metaverse exclusively with the world of online games.
Exactly half of all respondents (50%) believe that metaverses will become part of our lives very soon – in the next 5-10 years, another 35% think that the virtual worlds of the future will become commonplace in 20-30 years, 10% are sure – not earlier, than 50 years later. And only 5% do not believe in the future of the metaverses.
There is only talk on the Internet about the metaverse… It seems that the fashion for bitcoin, Clubhouse and blockchain has passed – now everyone around is building metauniverses. Before joining the construction of the century, let’s figure it out – so what is it all the same? Just a big trend or a new chapter in our history? Let’s figure it out together with the Founders Club.
Metaverse – what is it?
The term “metaverse” was coined long before Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of Facebook and plans to launch MetaUniverse. The Greek prefix “meta” means “after, between”. Thus, this is the next stage after the ordinary, material Universe.
The term “metaverse” first appeared in popular culture in the 1992 novel Avalanche by science fiction writer Neil Stevenson. In it, the metaverse is a unified digital world in which all people were in the form of avatars. The metaverse completely replaced real life for the heroes of the book: while in the material world they eked out a miserable existence, in the virtual they became heroes – they performed feats and saved the world.
A very similar structure of the metaverse in Ernest Kline’s novel Ready Player One: Steven Spielberg’s film of the same name based on the book was released in 2018. Here the protagonist lives in a very uncomfortable world with poverty, overpopulation, environmental crisis and a host of other problems. His whole life passes, in fact, in a huge virtual game that replaces reality. Interestingly, the virtual reality in Ready Player One is based on cult books, films and comics of the 20th century – in it the fictional worlds from The Shining, Back to the Future and The Terminator literally became reality.
But the most canonical and famous image of the metaverse is the film trilogy The Matrix. Here, the virtual universe does not exist next to the material one, but instead of it: people live in a simulation all their lives, not even suspecting that their reality is just lines of code. However, the real world is not particularly attractive: it is impossible to live in it after a nuclear war. “The Matrix” raises a philosophical question about the boundaries of reality and the meaning of human life, and is still an important argument in the debate between opponents of “virtual reality” and technology fans.
In the past few years, the term “metaverse” has been mentioned mainly in the gaming industry – in Fortnite, Minecraft and others, as well as in the context of the rapid development of VR and AR technologies. In 2021, the leaders of several leading companies began to talk about creating their own metaverses at once – Microsoft, Epic Game and Facebook.
Can current online games or virtual spaces be considered a metaverse? Not yet. The metaverse has several distinctive features – they were formulated by venture capitalist and visionary Matthew Ball:
- Unlike VR games, the metaverse exists constantly: it does not end, it does not reset, events in it cannot be paused.
- The metaverse works in real time, practically does not depend on external factors (although developers can create certain events).
- There is no limit on the number of users – anyone can connect at any time and immerse themselves in the life of the metaverse.
- Inside the virtual universe – a fully functioning analogue of the economy. Users can earn currency, spend it on purchases or invest.
- The Metaverse unites the physical and digital worlds, all existing platforms into a single whole.
- The metaverse is filled with what users themselves create – their content, experience, creativity.
- There is synchronization between different digital worlds – for example, an item from Fortnite can be transferred to Facebook.
Matthew Ball believes that the real metaverse of the future will only emerge decades later: the current virtual worlds are loosely interconnected, and users access them periodically.
Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games, also speaks about the importance of a “seamless transition” between different virtual worlds:
“We need to move from closed economies like Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox and tens of thousands of others to a shared space. We are working to develop in this direction, and in the end we will open our economy. And other games will do the same. Hopefully, in 10 years, we will be able to ensure that players play Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft in the same world and with the same social connections.”
Also, according to Sweeney, creating a metaverse will require a new programming model that allows you to create a living and constantly evolving platform with the ability to move from one world to another.
Mark Zuckerberg sees an important challenge in making people feel co-presence in virtual reality. In an interview with The Verge, an American computing, gadget and lifestyle website, he said:
“People are not designed to navigate app tiles. I think that we will be much more natural and better if the interaction will seem like we are next to other people. If we feel more connected, I think that would be a very positive thing.”
Zuckerberg also notes that we are not talking about creating a separate virtual reality for each company with the appropriate capabilities and equipment. The whole globality of the plan lies in the creation of a single space with uniform rules:
“Hopefully if we succeed together in building a system that is more interoperable and where you can move freely between worlds, it will all be a metaverse, but each company will not have its own metaverse. I hope that in the future, asking if a company is creating a metaverse will sound as ridiculous as asking a company how their internet is progressing.”
Microsoft. In 2021, the company introduced the Mesh platform, on which you can hold online meetings, work together in a virtual office using not only a digital avatar, but also broadcast the image from the camera. Another step towards your own virtual reality is Azure cloud technology. With Azure Digital Twins you can model objects, with Azure IoT you can maintain and synchronize your digital twin.
Fortnite. Today it is the most real prototype of the future virtual universe. The company started as an online game in the “royal battle” genre, but has long outgrown the framework of a network game and has become a kind of analogue of the virtual world now. Here they communicate, discuss news, buy goods and even hold concerts: in 2020, rapper Travis Scott held his Fortnite concert, which was attended by more than 12 million people at the same time. Back in Fortnite, there was an interview with the director of the ninth part of Star Wars, and various companies use its virtual reality to promote their brand and products.
Facebook. Within 5 years, Mark Zuckerberg plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe to develop the metaverse. Basically, we are talking about highly specialized engineers. Now the company is actively investing in the production of VR equipment – about a fifth of the employees work in this direction. Together with Ray-Ban this year, the corporation released smart VR glasses that can take photos and videos, play music, receive calls and upload content to social networks.
Meta’s exact metaverse concept is still in development. One of the basic scenarios is a virtual “negotiation”, where digital avatars accurately reproduce the conversation of people, conveying their movements and facial expressions.
Google. Of course, the corporation cannot stay away from the construction of the metauniverse, but it approaches from the hardware side, not the software side. In May 2021, the company presented Project Starline, a cabin that allows you to create a full effect of presence next to the interlocutor during a video call.
Virbela. This platform can also be considered a kind of “prototype” of the metaverse, where a team of users, physically located in different parts of the world, can go on a trip together or play football. Some companies completely recreate their virtual offices there.