The term ‘Metaverse’ has almost become inescapable, especially for technology and gaming enthusiasts. This is no longer limited to science fiction but is a migration of experiences from offline to the virtual world. Every type of content is created and shared online daily. Humans have entered into a world where creators build an entirely different world to explore, while the digital versions of humans can easily interact in virtual environments.
The term Metaverse was introduced by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel, ‘Snow Crash.’ The writer has narrated humans being represented as avatars interacting with each other and software agents in a three-dimensional virtual space that uses the real-world metaphor.
The Metaverse is a combination of the word ‘meta’ meaning beyond, and the word ‘verse,’ which is derived from the word universe. Put together, metaverse is a mixture of physical and virtual reality, stated the Metaverse Roadmap, a 2008 initiative by the Acceleration Studies Foundation (ASF).
This is how Metaverse Roadmap Overview explains the latest technology: “The Metaverse is the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space. It is a fusion of both while allowing users to experience it as either.” Put simply, the Metaverse is the nexus point at which the virtual and real world come together.
Some define Metaverse as good as Virtual Reality (VR) or something very close to Extended Reality (XR). In reality, Metaverse stands something between the real and virtual world that can be worked upon by complementing technologies.
Thus, the Metaverse can be defined as a shared virtual 3D environment or an interactive, immersive, and collaborative space. It’s basically a network of always-on virtual environments where multiple people can interact among themselves and with digital objects while handling virtual representations or avatars of themselves.
Metaverse can be imagined as a combination of immersive virtual reality, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and the web. The concept comes from science fiction, where many people in the technology industry visualize it as the successor to today’s internet. Even though it looks like a vision at this point, bigger technology companies like Facebook and Microsoft are looking forward to making a metaverse setup for many online activities, including play, work, study, and shopping.
Last year in June, Facebook, now Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, expressed his views about an ambitious new initiative. He explained that the company’s future would look completely different from its current project, which consists of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Meta is working on creating a maximalist, which will be an interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the Metaverse.
Three major aspects of the Metaverse are:
The experience of truly being in a virtual space with virtual others is referred to as presence. Decades of studies have demonstrated that this sense of embodiment enhances the quality of online interactions. Virtual reality technologies, such as head-mounted displays, enable this sense of presence.
This will ensure effortless travel between virtual spaces within the same virtual assets such as avatars and digital items. For example, ReadyPlayerMe, a Metaverse full-body 3D avatar creator, enables people to design an avatar that they can use in multiple virtual worlds, including Zoom meetings, through apps like Animaze.
Blockchain technologies such as cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens (NFT) perform digital goods transactions across virtual borders using interoperability.
The standardization process allows the interoperability of platforms and services across the Metaverse. Different mass-media technologies such as printing press or texting require common technological standards for widespread adoption. Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, an international organization, is responsible for defining these standards.
Is Metaverse the future?
Many look at Metaverse as the future of the next technology generation. But there arises a few questions about whether the Metaverse can replace the latest technologies. Some of the queries have been listed below –
Will it replace smart TVs?
Technology is evolving every day, and so is the case with smart TVs. Recent data released by Strategy Analytics states that by the end of 2020, the smart TV will be present in more than 665 million homes, equivalent to 34% of global houses. It is even estimated that by 2026, the number will rise to 51% as the demand for TV ownership will reach 1.1 billion homes.
With the potential rise in AR and the Metaverse, there is still a long way to go when either or both the technology turns truly mainstream. The pandemic has made the audience lean more toward the TV and other latest technologies, but their importance has remained intact. No doubt, with time, the chances are high that consumers may stop using their flat screens to get into AR/VR/MR environments, building a wider Metaverse. It can, thus, be concluded that TVs have not yet lost their place on the walls of living rooms.
Is Metaverse more than video conferencing?
The pandemic has made remote meetings and video conferencing a major part of work-from-home life. But it lacks the experience of providing a face-to-face experience. And this is where Metaverse can fill the gap.
Holograms are still a part of the far future. Facebook recently developed a Horizon Workrooms concept, a free Oculus Quest app where users can experience virtual meetings and feel direct interaction.
Another platform that has shown major interest in Metaverse is NVIDIA’s real-time simulation and collaboration platform, the Omniverse. The platform enlightens the power of NVIDIA’s GPU technology with a range of business services and 3D tools.
Will it exceed virtual collaborative experience?
Who would not like to design a collaborative meeting space according to their will? For example, adjusting the colors of the wall, placing working stations, or putting up little decoratives on the desks.
Gather.town, a fully customizable visual space platform, enables anyone to create and customize virtual offices and populate them with friendly avatars. This gives collaboration a more real feel.
Mozilla has also come up with a similar concept named Hubs platform, where a user can design a virtual meeting space and provide a better communication platform accordingly.
It would be interesting to have a virtual office of its own, go around the place, read notice boards, or attend training and wellness events as it is all happening in real-time.
Till the time nobody can experience what Metaverse is, it is difficult to find what it is all about. Is it going to be a mix of virtual 3D technology? Or will it give users a different experience altogether? Is it going to be a new form of the Internet world? Let’s hope the future holds all answers for these.
What’s sure is that the Metaverse will bring a set of regulations, standards, and protocols before it takes off. Content creators who wish to enter the Metaverse will require collaborative efforts from major hardware/software providers, IP owners, and other equipment types to make the experience worthwhile.
Metaverse, for sure, is going to bring a major revolution in the technology world.