You might have come across the rumors that the metaverse is about to change your life. The metaverse refers to digital realms where people will meet to work, play, and hang out. It is a concept for the next step in the internet’s evolution. Some of those online places will be immersive 3D experiences that will necessitate the use of special goggles. Others will take place on a computer monitor. The phrase has been developing and rebranding itself, and it may continue to do so.
What is the Metaverse?
The term “metaverse” has been tossed around for a few years, it was coined by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. Stephenson defined the metaverse as an all-encompassing digital universe that lives alongside the actual world in his book. Experts are divided on whether the metaverse IRL may evolve into anything comparable in 2022.
This new universe is a mushy idea. It’s generally depicted as online environments where individuals may socialize, work, and play as avatars, and it’s a progression of the internet. Those places are shared and always available; unlike a Zoom call, they don’t vanish once you’ve finished using them. Many individuals believe the metaverse already exists in the digital worlds of Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite, which allow players to interact in 2D surroundings. The original metaverse is Second Life, a nearly two-decade-old social and gaming platform.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and other supporters envision a more immersive experience that combines a variety of existing technology, including virtual reality headsets, mobile devices, personal PCs, and cloud-connected servers. These futurists envisage the creation of a 3D virtual world that may be accessed via a headset or augmented reality glasses. Although there is no universal agreement that VR or AR are required to access the metaverse, they do go hand in hand. That means these headsets will work with whatever is available. Meta, Sony, Apple, and maybe more are anticipated to release new VR and mixed reality headsets this year.
One Metaverse or Many Metaverses
That will have to wait and see. There are no metaverse principles, and many companies are clamoring to build the basis for others to follow. Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, Epic Games, and a slew of smaller firms are all working on projects in the hopes of gaining a competitive advantage. It’s uncertain whether a VR headset from one business will work with another’s large multiplayer world or cloud-based visuals. Most businesses promise a metaverse where other businesses can join. However, they must first agree on how they will collaborate.
Our preferred guess is that this new universe will begin as a collection of competing platforms, each claiming to represent this new universe. Consider a scenario similar to the early days of instant messaging, when services were scattered. Standards will emerge over time, and the major companies will eventually employ compatible technology, maturing into something akin to email protocols. Battles between agreed-upon protocols and proprietary standards, content from a variety of companies, and rival software ecosystems characterize the internet today.
The Internet and the Metaverse
The internet is a vast network that connects billions of computers, servers, and other electronic devices. Users can chat with one another, see and engage with websites, and purchase and sell products and services once they are online.
This new universe complements rather than competes with the internet. Users in the metaverse use virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), social media, and digital currency to navigate a virtual world that mimics aspects of the physical world. People use the internet to “browse.” People can “live” in the metaverse to some extent.
Equipment Required to Enter the Metaverse
That depends on your objective. Facebook wants you to buy an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset. Although the device is self-contained and does not require a PC or game console to function, it will set you back $300. Other VR headset manufacturers include Valve, HTC, HP, and Sony, all of which operate with PCs or PlayStation 4/5. By the end of the year, expect more headsets, some of which may connect to phones.
AR headsets, which layer digital information on top of the real environment and are much more expensive, are made by a few other companies, including Microsoft and Magic Leap. Qualcomm and other businesses are working on ways for AR glasses to interact with phones, albeit most of the applications are still experimental or business-oriented. Snap’s prototype AR glasses, or spectacles like the Nreal Light, demonstrate how much work remains to make them a viable purchase.
How Close is the Metaverse?
While the concept of being able to communicate with others in a virtual online world has been around for a long time, a full metaverse with lifelike interactions is still years away. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates highlighted in his annual year in review blog post that most individuals lack the VR goggles and motion capture gloves needed to effectively capture their emotion, body language, and voice quality. However, Gates thinks that most virtual meetings will migrate from two-dimensional square boxes to the metaverse – a three-dimensional place where participants emerge as digital avatars — in the next two to three years.
Will You be Safe in the Metaverse?
There’s certainly a reason why fictional metaverse touchstones like Ready Player One and Snow Crash are set in bleak dystopias. The ability of the metaverse to establish a safe and responsible immersive environment is a key topic of discussion. Facebook came under fire earlier this year after a woman said she was sexually harassed and “virtually gang-raped” in the metaverse. Experts in the field of digital privacy continue to argue that the metaverse would be the ultimate surveillance weapon.
Baggili stated that this new universe assumes an implicit faith in technology, similar to how we rely on Google Maps for directions even if we’re never sure if it’ll get us to the right place.
“There’s all this legal stuff we have to think about and actively [pursue] if we want to responsibly develop these technologies.”