What Is The Metaverse?
The metaverse is a giant virtual world that you can explore and connect with people in. A lot of people think about the metaverse and instantly think that it’s all about gaming - building worlds and ‘living’ in them - but it’s not just about that. It’s actually a very social, futuristic and connected world, that is basically a digital representation of the world we actually live in!
When you’re in this ‘world’ you appear as an avatar and you can do almost anything you like. You can meet people, buy goods, set up workplaces, go to events, and you can even learn via an educational platform in the metaverse. In order to access and use the metaverse you need to use an augmented reality or virtual reality headset.
The easiest way to imagine the metaverse is to think about the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, or to watch the film that stars Tye Sheridan! Like the OASIS in Ready Player One, the metaverse is extremely futuristic, very digital, and is literally out of this world!
Today, companies around the world are trying to incorporate the metaverse into their working processes! How’s this possible? In simple terms, you can create anything in the metaverse, even office spaces. So, organizations are trying to host virtual meetings with their employees in an ‘office’ space in the metaverse. All the employees need to do is sit at home and pop their VR/AR headsets on to join in. Companies are even trying to hold discussions and large scale conferences with colleagues in the metaverse too.
Of course, at the moment the idea of the metaverse is still in its infancy, but who knows one day very soon we may all be popping our headsets on and heading into the virtual world.
In short, the metaverse is a complex system that consists of:
- Virtual reality (software)
- Physical storage media (server)
- User interface
- VR and AR visualization devices
- Rules of the ecosystem (physical reality)
Let’s take a look at the idea behind the metaverse in more detail.
The Idea Behind The Metaverse
The basic ideas behind the metaverse are:
- It’s a common space where users use avatars. This is quite similar to that of a computer game, in the sense that you create your own ‘character’ and you use this ‘character’ in the world. Of course, the ‘character’ here is known as an avatar. The metaverse then keeps track of an user's actions, their items, and their skills, for example.
- It’s a virtual world. You can create any sort of world (space). For example, you could hold a virtual meeting in a virtual room, and all of your colleagues could attend. And all this could be achieved with the help of VR headsets. You can create virtually anything in the metaverse.
- Virtual ownership. You actually own virtual objects in the virtual world, and they remain with you even when you are offline. At the same time, you can use payment cards, from the real world, in the metaverse. Buying something in the metaverse is just as easy as buying something in a regular online store. Plus, NFT tokens are widely used here.
- Virtual real estate. An example of this is in the computer game Minecraft, because it perfectly demonstrates what the metaverse looks like. Users are provided with simple building blocks, tools and materials, so that they can create endless varieties of new locations and buildings.
- Virtual reality. It is worth pointing out that VR worlds already exist in the forms of VRChat, Horizon Worlds and Horizon Workplaces, for example. However, the metaverse opens up new opportunities where these ideas can be further explored and developed. At present, the ability to move freely within a fairly large world, and perform various actions is a technically difficult task, but these issues will be overcome eventually.
- Freedom. Unlike in computer games, there is no defined storyline that an avatar must follow in the metaverse. You can choose what you want to do. However, this does give rise to several ethical concerns.
These are the basic ideas behind the metaverse. Let’s consider what and how you could actually use the metaverse next.
What Will The Metaverse Be Used For?
The metaverse is there to tie together the physical world we live in and the digital world.
In short, the metaverse can be used as a common space where you can work, relax, spend time with friends and family, play games, buy items, purchase clothes, furnish virtual homes, travel and sightsee in.
Of course, the metaverse will change depending on what people want out of it, so each individual experience will look and be slightly different from one user to another.
Here are a few more ideas to think about:
Texts, forums and video chats will reach an all new level with the use of VR technologies in the metaverse. In time there won’t be flat images on Zoom, instead all video chat users will be sat around one virtual table in a 3D office, reading digital documents and showing their presentations on virtual whiteboards. However, it’s not entirely clear what texts and forums will actually look like as of yet.
Events will be hosted in the metaverse. This will be anything from theater performances to live music concerts. Tickets may even be sold and bought within the metaverse too.
Users will eventually be able to go to virtual clothing stores, where they will be able to try clothes on, and they will go to virtual car garages to test drive new cars.
Content analysts who study vast amounts of information will be able to do so in the metaverse. For example, after putting on a pair of VR glasses, an analyst will be transferred to a virtual environment where they will be surrounded by open monitors showing them all the information they need. This would be very convenient for the professional.
Brands will inevitably use the metaverse. Here are some examples of how brands will work in the metaverse: content will be on demand (ads will appear right before an user’s eyes as they read through their online posts), virtual media (new and innovative ways to promote the brand will appear) and virtual stores will be used to sell goods immediately.
The metaverse will also create many new jobs for people around the world. Both companies and people will eventually spend more time in this virtual reality, so it will need to be maintained and monitored. This new world is just around the corner, so job openings will likely be showing up very soon.
Here are some examples of when the metaverse has been used in organizations:
- Microsoft introduced a platform for collaborating in the metaverse – Microsoft Mesh. This is an attempt to “unify holographic collaboration across multiple devices” Engadget (2021).
- Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse will allow you to "teleport" to different places and to meet friends. In order to use this metaverse you will need a VR headset. In preparation for this, Zuckerberg bought out the Oculus VR company, which produces VR/AR gadgets, a few years ago, Forbes (2014).
The beauty of the metaverse is that people already spend a lot of their time online, so for many, it’ll be a natural step forward to use the metaverse. Think about it like this, smartphones changed people's attitudes to the world and towards the internet, the metaverse is the next step in the field of digital development.
In theory, users will be able to spend most of their entire day in the metaverse, without taking off their VR glasses. Everything that needs to be done, can be done in the metaverse, is the big idea.
Of course, the above is not possible without the work and imagination of developers and investors. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some problems the metaverse is already facing.
Problems The Metaverse Is Facing
The metaverse is a very popular and attractive concept today, and there has been some progress in the field, however the development of the metaverse is not without its problems.
There are a number of different ethical and legal issues to think about when it comes to the metaverse. For example, a lot of people are concerned with their data being misused when they use the metaverse. Others are unhappy about the amount of data being collected about them while they are in the metaverse.
Further to this, creating a metaverse isn’t an easy task, it is, in fact, very technically demanding. It requires a lot of time and many resources, even solving problems like compatibility with different platforms, content types, ecosystems, is hard work.
Protecting the personal data obtained in the metaverse is also another important issue to consider. How will information be regulated and will special laws be put in place to protect users? Questions like such are difficult to answer, and it will likely take a long time to find the right answer.
At present, the first few steps in this process have been taken. For example, the law in the US, EU, and some other countries, state that IT companies are required to store and protect the personal data of their customers appropriately. However, the question of how far government regulation needs to go when it comes to the metaverse is still being debated
So, as you can see the metaverse is not just a virtual or augmented reality, it can be a helpful tool that can aid businesses. As of now, tech giants around the world are trying to build a metaverse that is safe for users to use, and one that will give people a completely new and different experience of the digital world.