There has been a lot of big talk about the metaverse lately. Of course, it’s a big issue with Facebook and Microsoft claiming ownership. But what is it? How does it work? Will it work?
In his 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash,” Neal Stephenson imagined lifelike avatars meeting in realistic 3D buildings and other virtual reality scenarios. This was the beginning of the concept of the metaverse. Basically, it’s an online virtual environment that combines AR, VR, 3D holographic avatars, video, and other communication methods. It will provide you with a hyper-real alternate reality as the metaverse expands. Hybrid events will also be available such as conferences, festivals, music events, museums, etc.
Metaverse inklings already exist in Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox — and the corporations behind those games want to be part of the metaverse’s progress.
It combines virtual reality, augmented reality, and video to create a digital realm where users “live.”
The metaverse’s supporters envision its users working, playing, and staying connected with friends through virtual trips worldwide.
In a February 2021 blog, a prominent person noted, “we are on the verge of the new internet.”
Mark Zuckerberg is CEO of Meta (previously Facebook) — (yes, we all noted the name change, then ignored it). Mark is optimistic about metaverse and says there will be a time frame for catching on. However, it will take five to ten years for the metaverse’s primary capabilities to become ubiquitous.
The metaverse exists now with ultra-fast broadband, virtual reality headsets, and the persistent always-on online world is already available, though not universally. But will the IoT be a thing of the past, or will it augment metaverse?
Meta — Facebook — the erstwhile internet titan, has already invested heavily in virtual reality, including the 2014 acquisition of Oculus. Meta imagines a virtual world where digital avatars connect for employment, travel, or fun. Zuckerberg is optimistic about the metaverse, thinking it might replace the internet.
With its Microsoft Mesh platform, the software giant is building mixed and extended reality (XR) apps that merge the real world with augmented and virtual reality. Microsoft is showing off its intentions. They introduced mixed reality to Microsoft Teams in 2022.
Next year’s plans include 3D virtual networked retail and working areas. In addition, the US Army is reportedly developing augmented reality, Hololens 2 headgear, with Microsoft. Beyond that, Xbox Live currently links millions of gamers worldwide.
“It’s no secret that Epic is engaged in establishing the metaverse,” stated Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games. The “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. was re-imagined “immersively” at the “immersive” museum. And its MetaHuman Creator is creating lifelike artificial individuals who might be used in future open-world games.
Bloxburg and Brookhaven are also two popular user-generated games on the site, where players may create homes, work, and other alternate reality — and act out situations.
After going public this year, Roblox is worth over $45 billion. “We are one step closer to realizing our goal of the Metaverse,” said Roblox creator and CEO David Baszucki on the IPO day. To commemorate the occasion, Roblox has established an exclusive Gucci Garden where users can try and buy apparel and accessories for their virtual selves.
Minecraft, owned by Microsoft, is a virtual environment where youngsters may create their digital characters and build whatever they want. Minecraft had over 140 million monthly active users as of August 2021. Kids who had to rely on virtual connections became fond of this game throughout the epidemic.
Many are creating their own virtual worlds. Second Life, an online fantasy world launched in 2003, is already in its second decade.
The Nowhere metaverse features permanent and temporary virtual locations for concerts, festivals, reunions, and conferences. The Windmill Factory, a New York production business, has worked with Lady Gaga and Nine Inch Nails for her metaverse creation.
The Sensorium Galaxy unveiled its first two connected online “worlds” with VR headsets that can be used with a desktop PC. It features music, Virtual DJs, and bands in future settings. This type of world could prove to be pandemic proof.
What is the purpose behind the metaverse? Why do some groups of individuals oppose it? What kind of regulation will the metaverse need? What types of regulations will governments impose on this type of system — if it’s possible to regulate at all?
These are all important questions that may not have an immediate and simple answer.
Who will control the metaverse? Will Silicon Valley step in to take over? Will the metaverse begin being organized by cartels and monopolies?
And what about advertising and the ever-present misinformation campaigns? How will political sloganeering capitalize on the metaverse? All these things are an upcoming reality show we’ll all get to participate in whether we want to or not.
Will the metaverse be able to automatically handle such things on its own with algorithms and AI or will a sentient body of censors and engineers be needed to oversee operations?
Don’t be surprised if your first few experiences with the metaverse include pop-up ads, unwanted political messages, obscenity, bullying, and everything else. You’ll see many land mines and may even step on a few while you wander through the new virtual reality.
Image Credit: Eugene Capon; Pexels; Thanks!