The future is the biggest mystery to humans, so it’s no wonder that we spend a lot of time thinking about it. Remember the days when you would dream of robots that could take care of daily tasks like cooking and cleaning, self-driving cars and experiencing virtual realities as avatars? And when movies, TV shows and books also enriched our vision of these possibilities and more?
Well, we may not have to look to them anymore because we’re already living in that future. Meet the Metaverse; a blend of technologies used to create a virtual world that is meant to seamlessly integrate with the real world. Let’s dive deeper into this alternate reality and discuss how it’ll change our lives and online experiences.
What exactly is the Metaverse?
The term was coined by author Neal Stephenson in 1992. His novel Snow Crash took place in a virtual 3D world where avatars of real people lived. The metaverse which we are now starting to experience is a virtual world that is meant to very closely resemble the real world, but it exists online. This alternate reality incorporates different forms of technology to give its occupants the Metaverse experience.
One of the prominent technologies you’ll find while making use of the Metaverse is Blockchain technology. This is basically like a digital ledger that verifies and records transactions made on the web into a database. Every one of these transactions is then added to each other to make up a never-ending chain of information. The advantage of Blockchain technology is that it guarantees security and transparency without the need for a third party to oversee the processes.
Blockchain technology was created to support Bitcoin, an online cryptocurrency, but it is lending its vast benefits to other cryptocurrencies and digital products such as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s).
Other technologies that are used in the Metaverse include:
- Augmented Reality (AR)
- Virtual Reality (VR)
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- 3D Holographic Avatars
Even though it might sound like it, the Metaverse isn’t a different place one needs to go to in order to experience it. There isn’t a specific digital product or service that defines the growing virtual reality. All of these technological advances supplement the current version of the Web that we are accustomed to. It’s more of a new way of life, rather than a new place. The Metaverse is meant to seamlessly integrate our virtual lives with our real ones.
Is the Metaverse real?
Some may argue that the Metaverse is just the ambitious dream of tech-fanatics, entrepreneurs and investors, but evidence proves otherwise. It is the next logical step in the development of the Web and digital world.
Consider the great impact that the Web had on us during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vast and speedy way in which technology advanced during this period. The education sector rapidly became more digitally inclined as did other traditional jobs that took to online conferencing and meetings to conduct business. The Pew Research Center found that 40% of people in America used technology in new ways compared to before the pandemic.
These steps were a natural progression and in the same way, so are the steps towards the Metaverse growing and becoming just as mainstream. Wearable tech allows us to travel the world without leaving our homes. Or allows us to catch a glimpse into the future. How does stepping into a virtual rendition of a potential house design sound? Or a virtual shop where you can try on clothes before you order them online?
So it’s a safe bet that the Metaverse is very much real.
When will the Metaverse be here?
Aspects of the Metaverse are already in existence. Games like Fortnite and Roblox use augmented reality to enhance the players’ experiences by immersing them in the game world.
However, it hasn’t become mainstream yet, and it will most probably take a while before it does. This is mainly because not everyone has access to devices, like VR glasses, and technology yet. But it’s getting there. As stated by Techjury, the market for AR and VR worldwide is set to grow to over $209 billion this year.
But with big tech companies such as Microsoft and Meta, formerly Facebook, investing heavily in it, the virtual world is likely not very far off. Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, predicts that it would take another 5-10 years before the Metaverse becomes mainstream.
What is the Metaverse used for?
There are many cool features that the Metaverse offers. Some will contribute to the way we socialise and interact with family and friends, while others will highly benefit the way we learn and teach as well as the success of e-commerce and business.
Examples of what the Metaverse will be used for
The internet has already influenced the way we socialise with friends and family. It gave us the capability of communicating with people from all around the globe. And this was extremely appreciated during the pandemic because no one could see each other.
But what people still missed was being able to go out and meet others. The Metaverse will facilitate that with users being able to hang out over say a cyber brunch or a coffee date. A survey revealed that 77% of people that own a VR headset would like to socially interact with other users virtually.
VR is becoming more popular in gaming. Statistics show that 70% of gamers who own a VR headset have purchased specific games for it showing that players want to immerse themselves into the world of their favorite games.
Fashion shows and online dressing rooms
We already have online shopping, which is great. But a virtual world will take it up a notch. Your avatar could walk into a virtual clothing store and try on some outfits. This would give you an idea of how it looks on you before you purchase the items, just like in the real world.
And virtual stores won’t just be an advantage for shoppers. The use of VR technology in e-commerce is said to boost online sales by 17%. Currently, the average online shopping conversion rate sits at 2%, so that’s a huge draw in for business owners.
Performers such as The Weeknd, Travis Scott and Ariana Grande have held successful virtual concerts on Tik Tok and Fortnite respectively. Virtual concerts offer participants a whole new experience because they feel they get to interact with the performers as well as other concertgoers in a way they couldn’t before.
Almost anything is possible in a virtual concert. Travis Scott took his performance from space and then underwater, all while the audience’s avatars followed behind him. This kept the 12 million people present engaged and enthused.
Work and conferences
Sitting in rush hour traffic after a long day at work may soon be a thing of the past. With virtual workplaces, you can instantly travel to wherever you need to be. 3D avatars can be used during meetings with apps like Mesh for Microsoft Teams. There’s also less concern over the amount of space you can use. In the real world, you may be confined to just your desk or a conference room, but in the Metaverse, you can take up as much space as you need. Tools, devices and stationery will also be at your disposal without the need for physically having them or building the infrastructure to use them.
What does the Metaverse mean for the future?
As the Metaverse continues to grow, it will introduce a whole new ecosystem. Users will be able to create their own virtual environments. This could impact the way we conduct our daily lives and tasks like shopping, our traditional jobs like teaching, the way we socialise and our standard activities online.
How will it change our current online experiences?
The Metaverse is likely to supplement current Web services and technology instead of completely replacing them. We’ll still access the same platforms on the internet. But what will potentially change is the way we interact with them and their accessibility.
For example, experts imagine we’ll be using one cryptocurrency account to log in to platforms across the board. So think of it like this: instead of having separate accounts for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, you’ll have just one that will allow you access to all. And it doesn’t just have to be the case with social media platforms, but others as well, like email or banking.
The Metaverse sounds like a cool place to live in and be a part of, and there are definitely some pros to it. But with that, as with everything else, will also come cons.
Pros of the Metaverse
The Metaverse introduces more interactive, immersive and collaborative online experiences. The idea is to be engaging with content rather than just watching it. For example, if you were to join an online meeting right now, you’ll likely see your colleagues in 2D windows scattered across your screen. Whereas in the Metaverse, you won’t be limited to these static graphics. You’ll be able to interact with realistic looking 3D holograms so it feels like the person is actually in the room with you and vice versa.
Because users could potentially use accounts that are linked to cryptocurrencies, they’ll have the ability to earn some money. For instance, they can earn tokens when they interact on social media and then redeem them. Twitter has already taken a step in this direction by integrating Bitcoin into their platform. A relatively new feature enables users to tip each other in the cryptocurrency via the social media’s app.
Cons of the Metaverse
It creates a dystopian world where people could forget that the real world even exists. And this could be encouraged more because the Metaverse poses the option to escape from real-world issues. Users can create their own worlds and have control over it in a way that isn’t doable in the real world. They are able to include what they want in their own virtual environments and exclude what they don’t want or find a hindrance.
Big tech companies will especially jump at this as a benefit because there are limited governing bodies to keep them in check. They are free to set their own rules. This also makes companies less reliant on each other for business and gatekeeping.
For example, Facebook has been constantly under fire for a variety of reasons like hosting misleading information, being harmful to mental health especially that of young people and political polarisation. They could use the Metaverse as a way of avoiding having to fix these real-world problems because there is no one in the virtual world that they will have to answer to.
In the real world, Facebook also has to follow certain parameters set up by other companies like Google and Apple in order to use their products for conducting business. It has to rely on following the rules of these companies so that it’s mobile app can be featured in the Google Play Store and Apple’s iStore. But, in the Metaverse, Facebook doesn’t have to rely on them.
The cost of being a part of the Metaverse may not allow everyone the same opportunities. Users may encounter higher bills from their internet service providers and will also have to invest in devices that are synonymous with the Metaverse.
The digital space is always changing. From the way we communicate with each other to the way we conduct business and earn a living, there’s new technology to upgrade our experiences. The Metaverse will shape the future and present new possibilities. We’ll be able to engage with and be more immersed in the Web than ever before. Although this may bring challenges, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops.