What Is The Metaverse?

The metaverse is a new buzzword that everyone is talking about today. If you pay attention to any trending technologies, I'm sure you have heard of the metaverse by now. Some experts are calling it the next internet or the next computing technology. What is this metaverse? Why is it a hot topic today? How will the metaverse change the computing world? What role will the metaverse play in the future? Let's get all these answers right here, right now.

In this article, I will cover the following topics related to the metaverse:

  1. Concept of the metaverse
  2. What is the Metaverse?
  3. Why is the metaverse getting popular now
  4. What technologies make a metaverse
  5. Who are the major players in the metaverse
  6. What is the role of digital assets in the metaverse?
  7. What are the challenges ahead in the metaverse?
  8. How to invest in the metaverse
  9. What is the future of the metaverse?

Author Neal Stephenson introduced the concept of the "metaverse" in 1992 in his science fiction novel Snow Crash, where he imagined real people meeting in 3D virtual spaces.

The metaverse is a digital world where real people use 3D avatars to represent themselves, connect with others in the form of their 3D avatars, share digital spaces, own and transact digital properties, and collaborate, from anywhere in the world, via gadgets and devices.

The metaverse is currently being conceptualized in different sections and parts, but a complete metaverse is seen as the next computing platform and extension of the internet. Some of the initial and partial use cases of the metaverse include,

  • Walking in a park with friends in a virtual city
  • I am joining and attending a virtual meeting in an office space using avatars.
  • Collaborating and working on 3D model designs

What Is The Metaverse
Image source: Meta, Microsoft, and respective companies.

The metaverse concept has successfully been implemented in a game called Second Life. Second Life, launched in 2003, is a video game/website where members can join and have a second life in the virtual world. In the virtual world, they can become anything and play any role. For example, in the game, a member can join a club, become a DJ, and even charge people money to listen to his/her music. Members can own virtual digital properties and have virtual friends, relationships, families, lands, property, money, and business.

Metaverse in Second Life
Image source: Second Life

1. What exactly is the metaverse?

The metaverse is an online world where people use their 3D digital avatars and do virtual activities, including real-world activities such as building lands, owning digital properties, and even using a digital currency that can turn into virtual or real transactions.

Technically, the metaverse combines several technologies, including software, hardware devices, and AR/VR/MR, with special sound and geospatial capabilities.

The metaverse is not a new concept. The metaverse is a virtual world. It's a digital world. And the metaverse concept has been implemented and has been around for a while now in some shape or form. Here are some examples of metaverses.

  • Online meetings in rooms where people can use their avatars, such as Microsoft Teams.
  • Online video games and platforms such as Second Life where people can create their avatars, create identities, transact digital assets, and be someone else in the digital
  • Video games such as Minecraft, Fortnite, and Roblox.
  • NBA Live, where a person can become one of the players and play as a part of the team.
  • Virtual concerts and parties with real people streaming live in the form of 3D holograms
  • Meet at a park or meeting room or even at a coffee shop
  • Go to a mall with friends, shop, eat, and walk together

2. The Metaverse and Movies

The metaverse concept has been used in movies for a while now. Some metaverse-based movies are Gamer, Ready Player One, The Matrix, Minority Report, Terminator, and Surrogates. All these movies share the concept of a real person playing a role in the virtual world via some gadget or device.

Metaverse and Movies
Image source: Scenes from the movie Surrogates.

A recent movie, Free Guy (2021), is an example of a metaverse where the main character of the movie is an AI character in the game which falls in love with a real player.

Metaverse based movies
Image source: Free Movie

I hope now you have a good understanding of what a metaverse is. It is a virtual world that is a representation of the real world.

3. Why has the Metaverse become so popular recently?

We've been living in a 2D digital space for many years now, where digital content is accessed via screens and devices in 2D form, and the next innovation naturally is 3D. Many companies have been working on a 3D digital world, but the technology is still not there. Not only does the creation of 3D digital objects require a ton of time and expertise, but storing, rendering, and accessing 3D content is costly. But technology is getting better each year.

The pandemic has forced most of us to work from home and collaborate on our work remotely. remote work has sped up communication and collaborative innovation at a much faster pace than ever before. We have already seen many innovations in the remote communication space. Products like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and LinkedIn Live have taken off for video communication, meetings, and live telecasts. The natural next generation of communication and collaboration is real-looking 3D avatars and shapes. We can sense a world of 3D where multiple people join Microsoft Teams in 3D holograms sitting in a meeting room, communicating and collaborating in real time.

However, two of the most significant announcements came this year from the CEOs of Microsoft and Facebook. First, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced innovation in the metaverse space at Microsoft Build by introducing its next-generation mixed-reality device, HoloLens 2, its next platform Microsoft Mesh, and integration with other third-party AR/VR devices to connect and collaborate with people anywhere and anytime.

Later, Facebook's CEO announced that Facebook would change its name to "meta" and would focus on the metaverse as the next goal in its product roadmap.

While the idea of the metaverse has been around for years, the technology to make it a reality wasn't there. 3D objects require a much faster internet, larger data storage, better computing, and AR/VR/XR devices to present 3D objects in real time.

4. Technologies involved in the metaverse

According to some leaders, the metaverse is going to be the next computing technology that will be used to build and access digital systems. The systems will include digital spaces, digital objects, digital identities, and digital activities that mimic the real world.

The metaverse is a set of technologies. Let's look at the key technologies that make a metaverse.

a. Extended Reality (XR)

XR is a combination of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). Metaverse users use one or more of these XR devices to access the metaverses. These devices not only provide a virtual world but also capture geospatial data and the voice of the player.

Metaverse Technologies

b. Digital Avatars and People

Users in a metaverse are represented in the form of 3D avatars. These avatars represent real people and their activities, such as talking, walking, working, dancing, playing, etc. In the future, there will be the possibility of using touch, sense and smell via XR devices.

c. Connection and Collaboration

Connecting and collaborating with real-world people in the virtual world is the main function of a metaverse. Not only can people connect, collaborate, and hang out, but they can also do business in the virtual world that may be utilized in the real world. Real people in the virtual world, via their avatars, can hang out, party, have a meeting, attend a virtual conference or show, or even learn sewing.

d. Real World Representation in a Virtual World

Representing real-world economies in a virtual world, transacting them in the virtual world, and then bringing them back into the real world is the key concept of the metaverse. Real-world people train in a virtual world and learn and use the skill sets they learn in the real world.

Digital assets and NFTs are being used in games where players can earn digital currencies and cash them out in the real world in real currencies.

e. High-Performance Computing

High-performance computing is necessary to build and run metaverses to support the above. Most metaverse companies focus on building high-performance computing infrastructure, including faster processing, storage, and high-speed internet.

f. Metaverse Application Development

Metaverse application development requires a 3D gaming engine such as Unity or Unreal, a programming language, and an app/game development platform. You will need Unity, UWP, C#, and .NET to build Microsoft Holographic applications.

5. Leading Metaverse Companies

Some of the leading metaverse companies include Microsoft, Unity Software, Nvidia, and Meta (formerly Facebook).

Microsoft's metaverse play is to bring the metaverse to enterprises.

In social media, Meta and Snap are two companies investing heavily in the metaverse.

Roblox is a gaming company that combines people through play and focuses on the metaverse.

Gaming companies Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard are already working on games that will bring the metaverse to life via different games.

In the music space, Warner Music is actively investing in the metaverse.

6. Metaverse and Enterprises

The early idea of the metaverse is not a new concept to enterprises. For example, Microsoft's Holographic computing and Microsoft Mesh technology present a metaverse solution for enterprises. Microsoft has already launched a preview of a metaverse via its Teams platform that allows users to connect using their 3D avatars into various digital spaces where they can collaborate. Microsoft also heavily invests in its Azure cloud and Office 365 to support the metaverse.

Metaverse and Mixed Reality

Microsoft launched its mixed-reality device, HoloLens, in 2016. It's one of the key gateways to creating and accessing 3D spaces, identities, and objects as 3D holograms.

Microsoft Mesh is a platform in the cloud that may provide all computing processing that will build and access metaverses.

Microsoft Mesh

Microsoft Mesh SDK allows developers to build 3D applications with spatial maps, presence, rendering, and multi-user sync. Mesh also uses Microsoft's Azure cloud infrastructure and services such as AI, Identity, Graph, processing, storage, and streaming.

For enterprises, Microsoft HoloLens and Microsoft Mesh will play a significant role in the coming time.

7. Industries That Will Embrace The Metaverse

Some industries most likely to embrace the metaverse include healthcare, gaming, entertainment, social media, training, design, real estate, e-commerce, and advertising.

As mentioned, the gaming industry is the first to embrace partial metaverse use cases in 3D avatars, 3D worlds, cities, spaces, digital assets, and digital economy. Digital tokens (cryptocurrencies) and Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) are used in games.

Learn more about NFTs here: What is NFT?

Advertising and e-commerce in virtual worlds is the next generation of advertising and e-commerce. The virtual economy is already billions of dollars.

8. How To Invest in the Metaverse

One of the most frequently asked questions is how to invest in the metaverse. This is not investment advice. One way to invest in the metaverse is in companies building metaverses and metaverse-related technologies. Some companies leading the race of metaverses are Microsoft, Meta, Unity Software, and Nvidia. Most gaming and AR/VR device companies, such as Sony, HTC, Google, Samsung, and Nintendo, are already working or considering working on the metaverse. Investing in these companies means you may be investing in the metaverse.

Metaverse Market Size

Digital assets are the main way to invest in the metaverse. Several innovative companies and startups in the Blockchain and cryptocurrency world have started working on creating digital tokens that can be used in gaming and other applications. Many of these games partially use the metaverse and use 3D objects and real-world representations in virtual worlds. Some cryptocurrencies are developed or are being developed to use in metaverse-based games and apps. NFTs are one of the first major applications of cryptocurrencies in metaverses. I will cover these companies and cryptocurrencies in my coming articles.

9. The Metaverse Possibilities Are Unlimited

In today's world, where more and more businesses are allowing employees to work remotely, and Covid is keeping people away from meeting in person, the metaverse presents a compelling case of success. Using metaverse applications, people can meet and take care of business virtually while presenting themselves as avatars, images, and 3D shapes. Microsoft's HoloLens and holographic computing powered by Microsoft Mesh provides a platform for businesses to create 3D holographic avatars or even live holograms for communication.

10. The Metaverse and the Challenges Ahead

Every new technology brings challenges, and so will the metaverse. We've already seen the side effects of social media and AR/VR games on children. While social media has its uses, and humans are more connected to one another than ever before and can share content and keep up to date with our friends and family, social media also has a dark side. Children who play too many AR/VR games do not do enough physical activities and start living in virtual worlds and creating virtual identities that may affect their real lives. While children may learn problem-solving, communication, and leadership skills, not every child can use these skills in real life. Social isolation and anti-social behavior are two common side effects of virtual games. Besides these, there will be more challenges ahead in metaverses.

11. Metaverse, Reality Check

The virtual world is virtual. Virtual is not real. Humans are real, and so are societies. Humans need real social life, real families, and real friends. Replacing real friends and families with virtual ones will not give the same happiness and contentment as in real life.

Time and space in the real world and the virtual world are not the same. This may affect the understanding and sense of real-time and space.

The exact side effects are yet to be known, but I'm sure that the more virtual worlds we live in, the more we step away from the real world. Hanging out at a bar or playing a football game with real friends differs from hanging out with virtual friends.

The metaverse is building the real world as virtual worlds and replacing the real economy with digital economies. All this requires tons of 2D and 3D content that will increase the need for data creation, storage, and transfer. The amount of data we create each day has already started creating problems, and while there are more and more hardware innovations each day, this will continue to become a challenge in the coming times.

Millions of cyber-attacks are daily, and data security will continue to be a challenge in the metaverse.

Creating virtual identities and using avatars is no different than creating fake identities. In the virtual world, you can be anyone and do anything you may never do in the real world. You can be a part of multiple metaverses and have multiple identities. For example, you can be a fighter in a virtual world or a shooter in a game. The way our body and mind work, these virtual identities will eventually affect our real selves, and some of these habits may end up being part of the real us.

In the metaverse, everything is digital and virtual, which may or may not link with reality. In the real world, resources are limited. This is not the same in the virtual world. Metaverses can have unlimited digital universes, digital spaces, digital lands, and properties managed by digital identities and doing digital transactions. You can have your universe.

The concept of unlimited resources will eventually affect our real lives.

Ownership of virtual assets requires less legal due diligence, and we've already seen millions of hacks in cryptocurrency. This problem will continue to rise as we build more and more metaverses because everything is online and connected. It is much easier for hackers to hack from thousands of miles away in a connected world and digital assets than physical ones.

12. Metaverse. Build with Purpose

While the metaverse seems inevitable, we, as humans and the digital world's leaders, creators, and destroyers, can be responsible for building better metaverses. Rather than building for personal and financial gains, we can build metaverses for the betterment of society and the planet.

Metaverse is virtual. Can’t replace real world. Be social. Be real.

Technology has one use only. The technology works for us and makes our lives better. Not only individually, but it makes every living creature's life better and makes our planet's life better.

As creators of the digital world, it is our duty and obligation to the universe to build a sustainable, cultivating, nurturing metaverse that focuses on our growth and protecting the future of our children and our planet.

13. Metaverse Summary

The metaverse is the latest addition to emerging technologies that will likely grow rapidly in the coming years. Not only Microsoft and Meta are behind it, but more and more enterprises and startups are jumping on the bandwagon. Time will tell how successful the metaverse will be, but it seems to be the natural extension of today's digital world, moving from 2D to 3D.

In this article, I shared my thoughts on the metaverse and its future. I may be wrong, but I hope all creators and builders of the metaverse think about our planet and humanity before building anything.


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