There has been much talk of “The Metaverse” in recent weeks and months with Facebook staking a claim; but what exactly is the Metaverse and what can it offer?
Over the years we have seen virtual 3D environments, beginning in 1992 when Neal Stephenson came up with the term Metaverse. This was somewhat the birth od avatars that met and interacted in 3D environments. The most notable example for gamers could be The Sims video game, which was released in 2000. Since then, the worldwide known franchise has sold 200 million copies. The Sims prompted the expansion of the metaverse with various mileposts along the way. We can find elements of the metaverse in online games such as Fortnite and Minecaft.
What is the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is a combination of various elements of technology, including Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality and videos, with users “living” in a digital world. VR shopping experiences and gaming headsets have emerged and providing unique experiences.
However, It’s not only video games where experts envision this type of interaction. Other social events such as concerts and conferences could also see a Metaverse. The possibility of travelling to different countries via a Metaverse could become reality.
In an essay on his website, Managing Partner of venture capital firm Epyllion Industries, Matthew Ball, says we are now approaching the phase of “the next internet”.
"But what matters is that a growing share of our time will be spent within virtual spaces and with virtual goods – for education, work, health, politics and leisure." Matthew also explained in his essay.
Current examples of the Metaverse
Facebook Meta: Meta, formerly identified as Facebook, have already made investments in Virtual Reality, including the acquisition of Oculus in 2014. Chief Executive officer of Facebook Mark Zuckerburg, has been vocal on his enthusiasm for the Metaverse. "The next platform and medium will be even more immersive and embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it, and we call this the metaverse” said Zuckerburg after revealing Meta in the fall of 2021.
Microsoft: In 2022, Microsoft announced their plans to introduce mixed holograms and virtual assistants to communication platform, Microsoft Teams. In addition to hybrid working, we could also see 3D virtual connected spaces for retail brands and workplaces. VR and AR have played a huge part in the evolvement of the gaming industry, providing a real-life experience for gamers; but Microsoft are currently working with the U.S Army to produce HoloLens technology in high-tech headsets for soldiers.
Epic Games: Game developers have started building the Metaverse. CEO of one of the developers of world famous video game in Fortnite, Tim Sweeney said it is “no secret that Epic is invested in building the metaverse.” They are also developing photorealistic digital humans with their MetaHuman Creator, which could be how you customize your digital “clone” in future open-world games.
Speaking of video games, Minecraft is also another popular choice amongst gamers, where they can connect with millions of other gamers in a virtual universe. Since August 2021, Minecraft has over 140 million monthly active users; and became to go-to option for many during the pandemic – building virtual connections as they were not able to socialise physically.
When can we expect a Metaverse?
Although preparations are well underway to see a Metaverse in the near future, it could still take some time before we see elements of a Metaverse take centre stage. However, as some features of the Metaverse currently exist, it gives us a glimpse into what the future of virtual reality could look like. With virtual reality headsets and Augmented Reality shopping experiences accessible already, the future of the Metaverse is certainly intriguing.