3 Things The Metaverse Is about (And 3 Things That it Is not)
When it comes to the topic of Metaverse, there are three categories of people: those that know about it, those that pretend to know about it, and those that automatically think it’s probably connected to the lyrics of a song. One thing that is however common across the board regardless of which group you belong to, is that Metaverse is a concept that has crept into the media in recent times and if you are one who pays attention, you will admit that it does seem like a cool idea. I mean, edgy headsets on a dude reaching for invisible forces; isn’t that the stuff our sci-fi fantasies are all about?
Beyond this superficial appeal, in this article, we will also look at the crucial things that you need to know about the Metaverse. Whether you are the knower, the pretender or the late boomer, you should learn something from this article and if you don’t, it likely won’t be our fault; you probably know too much – take that as an indication to start your own Metaverse Academy.
1. The Metaverse Is Ancient News
The metaverse seems like a new innovation but did you know the concept of the metaverse has been around since 1992? You do? Well, that is not a reason to pout about it but in case you didn’t know, the term, metaverse, was coined by Neal Stephenson, the author of a Sci-Fi novel called Snow Crash. Now, you wish you read more Sci-Fi now, don’t you? It is not too late to add it to your reads for the month. The author formed the word from the hybridization of “meta” and “universe” meaning “beyond the universe”.
This is just the origin of the idea, by the way. The technology that serves as a platform on which the Metaverse lies dates back to 1838. This involves the development of those bulgy spectacles called Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Headsets. Bernard Marr gives an overview of the history here on his blog. Much of what is currently known about the metaverse is primarily based on blockchain.
2. The Metaverse Is Most Likely the Future of the Internet
Take a look at the current standard of our digital communication today, do you think it is the best we can get? If you answered yes, you need to reassess your standards. Admittedly, what we currently have is a big upgrade from the smoke signals our ancestors relied on. However, there are still a couple of boxes that are left unchecked. For instance, texts are ineffective ways to communicate emotions, and while emojis were introduced to address that, their interpretation can still be subjective.
I know 4G came with video calls and meetings, but don’t you sometimes feel the urge to knock (physically) some sense into the head of those participants that won’t stop scribbling on your screen on Zoom? Perhaps a virtual knock will come with the next Zoom upgrade, but even with that, the truth remains that when it comes to experiencing digital human interaction, the Metaverse is the closest shot we have as of now. It is meant to be immersive, which means rather than observing a family meeting, you are thrown into a virtual place where you are digitally present through your avatar (a digital representation of yourself).
Beyond social interaction, businesses have hopped on this to give their customers a unique experience. A typical example is IKEA allowing you to see exactly how a piece of furniture will fit into your space. Other examples have been seen in entertainment, auto shops, and games.
3. The Metaverse Is a Booming Industry
At a net worth of about $800 billion, the Metaverse is worth more than Zoom, Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media platforms put together. Especially for an industry that started gaining prominence only after the crypto boom, that much money should get anyone with a mind for business serious, but you can do whatever you like with that piece of information.
What has been fueling this growth above the charts for the Metaverse has been the support from a lot of investors, venture capitalists, and a huge push from the gaming industry. Many tech giants have also hopped on this Metaverse trend either through investing in Virtual Reality hardware or Augmented Reality. In fact, it is safe to assume that if there is any tech company that hasn’t publicly announced its plan for the Metaverse, there is a big chance that a proposal about it is already on the table of the board of directors.
Chief among the tech giants that have publicly declared their interest in the Metaverse are Microsoft, Bytedance (parent company of TikTok), and of course Meta which is the parent company of Facebook. This will bring us to the next section of this article as there has been some confusion about Meta and the Metaverse of late.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE METAVERSE
1. It Is All About Meta (or Facebook or Insta)
While one can’t help but admire the thoughts that informed the rebranding of what used to be Facebook into Meta, it is important to draw the distinction. The rebrand has got a lot of people thinking about the Meta company anytime the topic of the Metaverse comes up but the fact is that Meta is just one of the competitors in The Metaverse industry. Yes, there is already competition. What will be even more shocking is that Meta is not among the favourite as studies have shown that 61% of Americans are uninterested in Meta’s vision of the Metaverse.
2. The Metaverse Is a Single Place
The idea that the Metaverse is a single place where digital adventurers converge is not true. One can infer that this confusion might have stemmed from using the article “the” as a determiner for the word. This can be compared to the way the article “the” is used in “The United States of America” or “The United Kingdom”. The fact is, while the underlying concept is similar in theory, the way each person goes about bringing the idea to life is different. This will heavily rely on what each platform has decided to achieve with its version of the metaverse.
For example, where Meta’s platform may be optimized for social interaction, that of Microsoft has more features edging towards formal meetings and conferences. Interoperability of these different platforms has however been a topic of discourse lately so it is possible to have a common standard across the board and the ability to move between different platforms while retaining the same digital identity.
3. A VR/AR Headset is Compulsory for a Metaverse Experience
To clarify this, it is important to revisit what qualifies to be called a metaverse. If you do an online search, recurring words will mostly be around immersive, virtual, and real-time. A lot of focus has been on the immersive aspect of the metaverse; this is evident in the way every graphics designer mandatorily slaps someone wearing a headset in the design, once the project has to do with the Metaverse. However, if a platform ticks other criteria, they are also qualified to be called a metaverse.
One of such platforms that don’t require a headset for usability is Decentraland. It hosts a virtual place where users can interact, buy land, host concerts, and play games in real-time. With your regular PC, you can have access to this platform free of charge. You might then wonder if that is different from PUBG and other games that employ live multiplayer mode. The main difference is ownership and control. A land you buy on Decentraland is yours and backed with a valid record on the blockchain ledger which can be publicly verified. Most of these exist as digital icons known as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) as proof of ownership.
In conclusion, the Metaverse is still a developing space and new developments are being rolled out every now and then. Consequently, there is always something to learn even for so-called experts. Therefore, if you are just getting to know about the topic, you are not alone and you are one of the early adopters. If you have an aspect that still confuses you, you can make it known in the comment section. I will be happy to share my little knowledge.