The metaverse is an online world, a virtual space where the digital version of you performs virtual activities similar to those performed in the real world, such as communicating, building, owning digital real estate, using digital currency that can be converted into real transactions.
Matthew Ball - modern ideologist of the metaverse, identifies its seven main features:
- Endless existence - it never stops, resets or ends;
- An unlimited number of audiences can connect to it simultaneously. Anyone can connect to the metaverse at any time and participate in its life on an equal basis;
- A functioning economic infrastructure and reward system for virtual work that brings value recognized by others. Income or earnings that can be spent and invested;
- Compatibility of all data from different digital worlds;
- Independence from external factors - it exists in real time, although developers can create and schedule events in the metaverse;
- Bridges the digital and physical worlds, private and public networks, open and closed platformes;
- Filled with content created by variety of individual contributors or groups of users;
Though currently existing gaming platforms are the best examples of the metaverse, there are also a huge number of opportunities for the businesses.
Today, many companies have integrated VR technology into their manufacturing processes. Ford, for example, uses virtual reality to allow employees from different countries to work on car design simultaneously. VR helps make processes faster and cheaper, and does not require physical materials.
VR technologies can be useful not only in production, but also in office work. Imagine being able to work remotely but still hold meetings and negotiations with colleagues and business partners in a virtual space? Already existing platforms glue.work or Mesh, which Microsoft introduced in November 2021, allow several people to communicate in one virtual space.
The participants can interact with each other and even with 3D objects. So far, this is possible with digital avatars, but later Microsoft plans to develop technologies that will allow people to appear in a virtual environment through their own holograms, which will help to express the real emotions and communicate better.
Blockchain is also an extremely important part of the metaverse world. It is the economic mechanism of the future. Blockchain will tie each user's data and money to their digital account and allow them to use purchased products throughout the metaverse.
The rapid development of the metaverse will bring benefits in many areas of our lives - education, entertainment, the arts, health care, and others. It opens up important business opportunities, even more impressive than after the digital transformation that has turned most companies into online businesses in recent few years.
The metaverse is creating a new economy that can significantly increase brand awareness, deliver immersive customer experiences, and improve communications.
The fashion industry is already using these tools. Fashion shows where the model walks not on the catwalk, but in the virtual world, have already taken place.
Did you know that sports brand Nike has its own metaverse - Nikeland, where you can style your avatar buying exclusive digital shoes, clothes and accessories? Adidas has already released a mixed collection for both the real and the digital world. The items of Adidas “Into the Metaverse” collection were sold as NFTs.
Celebrities are also starting to dabble in the NFT world. One example is Quentin Tarantino, who decided to sell part of the Pulp Fiction movie-script, which was not included in the final film, as NFT.
Digital giants like Google and Microsoft are now investing heavily in creating their own metaverses, and Facebook has recently been renamed to Meta. According to Zuckerberg, users of the new metaverse will not be tied to any particular social network any more. People will be able not only to view the content, but literally to be in it.
The ultimate goal of the metaverse as a product is to recreate the real world with all the feelings and processes. Companies want people to be able to "live" in the metaverse - to hold meetings there, watch shows, play games and make new friends.
However, besides the fans of the metaverse, there are those who believe that it has a dark side.
There is no doubt that technologies that already track our behavior and preferences will be used in the metaverse. Moreover, these technologies will become much more aggressive and intense.
By connecting wearable devices, necessary for immersive virtual experiences, we will allow companies to track our physical reactions and emotions. They will collect and use huge amounts of data for marketing and other purposes.
For example, the eye-tracking technology that VR headsets provide will make it possible to collect information about where and for how long we are looking during metaverse experiences. Such issues raise significant concerns for those who care about privacy.
Returning to the real world after an amazing and impressive time spent in virtual reality can cause sadness or even depression. Adults and children already suffer from gaming addiction. As the metaverse expands, more and more people will suffer from this so-called “digital hangover”.
Is it possible to control everything that happens in a vast universe comparable to the real world? The first allegations of sex parties, harassment and meetings of extremist organizations in the metaverse have already surfaced. We must be prepared for an increase in such cases.
Second, who and how will evaluate the ethical and moral components of the content? Can a virtual act be a crime? Who will establish the rules for what is allowed and what is forbidden? The metaverse will cause regulatory problems and will create new blind spots in legislation.
An issue that can rather be attributed to the challenges that the metaverse is already facing on the way to its expansion is facilitating access to virtual reality technologies for the general public. One of the reasons is the high price of VR headsets. Now they are becoming more affordable and easier to use and you no longer need a powerful computer to immerse yourself in VR.
Beyond that, a technological breakthrough regarding the headsets should be expected. So far, they are quite massive and can hardly be called mobile. Probably portable and convenient glasses that allow you to enter the metaworld from anywhere, will be produced soon. Three major new releases coming this year: the Sony PlayStation VR2, a Meta headset "Project Cambria" and Apple's AR glasses, which will most likely be similar to smart watches and will display notifications, calls, and information in augmented reality.
Technologies aim to enable full immersion in the virtual world, where objects can be touched and felt. South Korean company bHapticshas presented gloves that will not only reproduce your movements in VR, but will also allow you to feel objects. Sensitivity is provided by a system of inflated or deflated pads that apply pressure to different parts of the hand, simulating the sense of touch. bHabtics also has a special suit that converts the sound effects of explosions, shots, etc. into tactile feedback using special built-in motors. In the scary game Phasmophobia, for example, you can already feel the touch of ghosts.
Why is such a hype around the metaverse happening just now, though for the first time this term was mentioned back in 1992 by a science fiction writer Neil Stevenson in his novel Snow Crash?
Perhaps it was influenced by Covid-19 pandemic, when people were isolated for a long time: public events like concerts, visits to museums, theaters, cinemas and clubs were under restrictions. However, the human nature to interact, as well as the need for self-expression and recognition, have significantly increased the value of digital presence on virtual platforms.
Since the metaverse includes all the main components of the new stage of Internet development, such as NFT, blockchain, cryptocurrencies and DeFi, there is an opinion that Web-3 is the Metaverse.
Based on research, Gartner predicts that people will spend at least an hour a day in the metaverse by 2025.
Are you already metaverse-ready?