Metaverse is the “buzzword” today, and tech giants have been lining up to make it a reality. Recently, Facebook announced that it would be changing its name to Meta. Google has been working in this space for years. Though the idea of a Metaverse is not new, people have started talking about it only recently. The term itself is used in context with a variety of shared spaces that can be accessed through the Internet — from fully-immersive virtual reality (VR) spaces to augmented reality accessed through devices such as smart glasses.

As of January 2021, data stated that about  4.66 billion users were actively using the Internet worldwide. Out of this, 92.6 percent (4.32 billion) of the people accessed the internet via their mobile devices. This means around 59.5 percent of the global population are directly interacting with the Metaverse on a daily basis.  Understanding the Metaverse is difficult because it’s infinite: It’s an infinitely large, digital, persistent, and interactive information space. It is defined as an infinity space because of its flexibility to add information on a continuous basis. What makes it persistent is the fact that it exists even when it is out of interaction.  It is an infinite digital universe far away from the physical world yet so connected. Information from this world to that can be shared using technologies.

Most people co-relate the Metaverse with Virtual Reality. Many start imagining it as a fully immersive digital environment that can be accessed via 3D gears and export the users completely into a virtual fantasy world. Although this isn’t wrong, the Metaverse is much more than just Virtual Reality.

Metaverse reflects the new version of the internet that is slightly more inclined towards the virtual world. So, instead of visiting websites via a browser, the information can be accessed  by navigating a virtual world. At the same time, both virtual and augmented reality can be used.

VR can, thus, be considered as a technology that acts as an access point to the Metaverse. It’s hard to ignore the similarities between the Metaverse and virtual reality, but differences exist, too. Let’s take a look at the key differences below:

1. Virtual reality is well defined, but Metaverse is not

The term “virtual reality” has been around for a long time. It was first coined by Jaron Lanier coined in the 1980s, and  refers to the idea of creating an artificial environment with the use of software so that the users get a real-life feeling.

Metaverse is not a new term but has caught a lot of traction in recent times, and many people have attempted at giving it their own definitions. While Zuckerberg defined the Metaverse as “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing the content-you are in it,” Microsoft described it as “a persistent digital world that is inhabited by digital twins of people, places, and things.”

As with any big vision of a future that doesn’t yet exist, the exact definition of the Metaverse is yet to be established. Possibility is high that tech companies may still fail to arrive at a complete definition.

Facebook rebranded its name to Meta as an essential part of building the Metaverse. The social media platform wanted to give a name that justifies their area of work clearly. But what’s certain is that this may not just be the reason behind the name change;  more powerful reasons may be there.

It can also be argued that the Metaverse is just a buzzword to highlight technological improvements in the existing internet, but it’s still a work-in-progress.

2. Nor VR or Metaverse is owned by Facebook

Facebook plays an important role in the development of virtual reality and the Metaverse. But the tech brand is just one of the single players in a massive industry. The same is the case with the Metaverse. Universally, there exists no exact definition of the Metaverse. Facebook may have changed its name to “Meta” but that does not necessarily mean that it’s the only company involved in building the Metaverse.

Only recently, Microsoft announced the launch of Microsoft Mesh, a version of a mixed reality platform that is quite similar to the Metaverse and its various definitions. This means that Metaverse is a universal technology that any firm can work upon or implement. In fact, Metaverse is not something that just one company can build.

3. A shared virtual world is a part of Metaverse

“There is no such thing as the real world. Real exists only in our minds, and not even there all the time. Get used to the idea that what you experience now will seem like an illusion in a few seconds. Your senses are being fooled by your mind. You must fight to free yourself from the illusion of reality,” said Alan Watts, a British philosopher.

The Metaverse is a shared virtual space that is accessible via the internet. One would argue that this is something that VR headsets already allow them to do.

Virtual space in the Metaverse is something similar to what already exists in virtual reality programs. Personal avatars identify the users and then interact with themselves in virtual locations. This can even be used to purchase or build virtual items and environments. One can thus conclude that even though the virtual worlds are limited in size, Metaverse seems to provide access to the entire internet.

4. Virtual reality allows accessing Metaverse

Many believe the Metaverse to be an environment for virtual reality. Metaverse is just a shared virtual space that can be accessed through the internet. In contrast, with VR technologies, users already get the same experience. The Metaverse will not require one to wear a VR headset as the services will be accessible to headset users. Meaning, with the Metaverse holding the potential to provide full access to the Internet, the gap between the Internet and virtual reality can be bridged. It may also be expected that VR headsets may become useful to perform activities that we usually do via smartphones.

5. Metaverse is much bigger than VR

Current usage of VR extends to areas beyond just entertainment. It is being used for sectors such as education, therapy, sports et al. But it did not have the same effect on the world as was expected. On the other hand, the Metaverse, an improved version of the Internet, is more scalable in terms of applications. It’s is a new way of thinking about the world – about how people surf, work and access social media. It’s unlikely that the Metaverse will face the same issue as VR for the simple reason that it can be accessed both with and without the headset.

Future holds Metaverse or Metaverse holds the future

It’s sure that the Metaverse is going to be the next big thing in the technological space in the years to come. It will unleash new frontiers and horizons for brands and businesses. But chances that it may replace the Internet completely look dim. Neither VR nor the metaverse has been designed to be a replacement for something else.

Furthermore, given the issues – privacy leaks, the commercialization of online spaces, and the centralization of technological power – plaguing the online world today, chances are ripe that they will rear their heads in the Metaverse, too, if not addressed.

As and when we progress towards the creation of the Metaverse, other issues may crop, too. But now that the Metaverse is coming, the real question is: How are you getting ready?

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