The term “Metaverse” is currently a major buzzword in finance, business, and tech. We can say that the hype is real, with tech CEOs emphasizing metaverse development. In September 2021, Facebook announced an investment of $50 million in global research and development toward the realization of Metaverse technology.
The term metaverse is not new, in fact, it has been around for 30 years. The term was pioneered by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. He used this term to describe a 21st-century dystopia. In Snow Crash, the metaverse is a VR-driven world where the users inhabit 3D avatars chosen by them. It is a global market where real estate can be bought and sold. Metaverse has been a part of corporate visions for quite some time, not just in fiction and books.
The 2003 virtual world platform “Second life” is considered the first implementation of the Metaverse. It incorporated many aspects of social media into a 3D world and the users were represented as avatars. The developments regarding metaverse started soon after the term was introduced. The early projects related to metaverse include The Palace and Active Worlds. Minecraft, Fortnite, World of Warcraft, Habbo Hotel, and VRChat, are well-known games as part of the Metaverse. With Facebook rebranding itself as Meta, putting a major focus on Metaverse development, the hype has gone up by several factors. Many tech companies have already taken steps towards this development, while government and politics might take some time to catch up.
Now let us understand the fundamentals of the Metaverse definition
What is metaverse?
The metaverse is a hypothetical iteration of the Internet, which means it is an online three-dimensional, virtual space that connects users across the world. It is facilitated by Virtual reality and Augmented Reality technologies.
Though it is a new concept, and many developments are underway, we can understand Metaverse as a three-dimensional virtual world focused on the social connection where users can control their forms of avatars and do things they can do in the real world. Its core idea is to create a better sense of virtual presence through the technologies of VR and AR. Many companies also proposed that it is not necessary that the metaverse can be accessed through AR and VR only. Many developments are going on in this area, which combines different technologies to realize the metaverse. Many companies also envision metaverse as a new form of the digital economy.
Metaverse is not in existence, but video games provide the closest experience to it. Fortnite and World of Warcraft are examples of virtual worlds where users can buy and sell items. You can put on an Oculus headset and find yourself in your own virtual space. While these are closer to the metaverse, it is not in existence yet. It does not encompass all the aspects of the metaverse as described by tech giants and companies. While Microsoft and Meta are actively involved in developing technologies related to the metaverse, other companies are also in the game and are catching up speedily. Companies like Nvidia, Roblox, Unity, and many other startups are building the infrastructure to realize better virtual worlds closely resembling the real world.
Recent developments in technology have led to linking the financial, physical, and virtual worlds. The devices that we use provide many features and accessibility to many products and services in a few steps. The Crypto ecosystem has not remained unaffected by this technology. Crypto payments, NFTs, and blockchain are already parts of the metaverse concept.
Hence, the metaverse will combine economies, decentralized governance, digital identity, and other applications with supporting gaming and social media. User creation and ownership help in the development of a single, united metaverse.
Why are People Buzzing Around the Metaverse?
A few factors have led to the hype around the metaverse. Technologies related to vision have gained wide popularity, which has led to its development in recent years. Technologies like Virtual Reality have become common, and users love them. It has added to the momentum of progress in this area. Many video games offer this feature as well.
This has also led to the progress in the development of related technologies, like VR headsets. These headsets are widely available in good quality and at a decent price. Standalone wireless devices like Quest, an all-in-one VR gaming device, are popular among people. Facebook purchased Oculus in 2014, which indicated where the company was heading to.
Another factor is blockchain technology. It is a system of recording info that makes it almost impossible to cheat, tweak, or hack the system. It is an energy-hungry technology that led to the existence of cryptocurrencies and NFTs. It can provide reliable and transparent governance systems that can facilitate metaverse development. Blockchain metaverse-like applications are already functional, and some of its examples are Axie Infinity, SecondLife, and Decentraland, which combine virtual reality apps with blockchain technology. The decentralized aspect of blockchain enables many small startups and companies to contribute to metaverse development.
The coronavirus pandemic has also worked as an accelerating factor in the metaverse trend. It has altered lifestyles across the planet and has given varied perspectives to people. They are willing to explore exciting and colorful options available to them from the comfort of their homes. Spending long hours on meetings and online platforms have opened doors for many creative options. People spent much time playing games during the pandemic, which led the developers and companies to enhance features on these gaming platforms. Hence, companies started looking for ways to capitalize on the situation, and users were interested in exploring their options.
Future of the Metaverse
Facebook is the top player in the development of the metaverse. Facebook’s Diem StableCoin project enhances a crypto-powered metaverse. Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook (Meta), has clearly stated his intentions to utilize the Metaverse project to aid remote work and provide financial opportunities to people residing in developing countries. Facebook’s ownership of social media, crypto, VR devices, and communication is a supporting factor in developing and affirming the Future of the Metaverse. Apple, Microsoft, & Google are also leading players in developing the same. The integration of 3D virtual worlds & NFT marketplaces is important for a crypto-powered metaverse. There are marketplaces like OpenSea and Bakery Swap, where NFT holders can sell their possessions from several sources.
There is no standardized technical specification for metaverse realization. Interoperability is a major challenge stemming from the concerns of privacy and security. Several virtual standardization projects are in progress. Hardware development is currently focused on overcoming the limitations of VR devices to provide better user experiences.
Universal Scene Description (USD), created by Pixar, is a 3D computer graphics Interchange specification. In 2021, Nvidia announced adopting USD in the development of metaverse tools.
Significance of Crypto in the Metaverse – Future Prospects
Although gaming covers the 3D aspects of the Metaverse, the idea is huge and encapsulates many other factors that are not covered by gaming alone. Crypto can fill the required gaps by transferring value, digital or virtual ownership proof, and accessibility. We require a secured ownership path if we work, socialize, sell, or purchase goods in the virtual world. Security is a concern, not just for the property and money but also for individuals. Blockchain & Crypto are the solutions to these. Blockchain offers a decentralized path of coping with these issues, unlike gaming, which is centralized. It is expected that these two can be integrated in the future of Metaverse to provide a better experience. The key features of blockchain that make it ideal for Metaverse are as follows:
- Digital Collectibility: We can show if a presented item is unique and authentic. This is important for the metaverse that intends to include more real-world activities. We could make various items/objects through NFTs that are completely original and unique and cannot be easily forged or copied. Blockchain can also be used to affirm the ownership of real or physical items.
- Digital Proof of Ownership: You can prove ownership of any item or activity by owning a wallet that has access to your private keys. For example, you can sow your transaction records on the blockchain to show your accountability, while you are at work. A digital wallet is the most secure way to establish a digital identity and ownership.
- Transfer of Value: Metaverse needs a secure method in order to transfer value that users can trust. In-game currencies are not as secure as crypto. There will be a large number of users in the metaverse who will be making money and they require a reliable and popular currency to use that money.
- Interoperability: Blockchain provides compatibility between different platforms and it is improving upon itself to provide better interaction between applications. Projects like Polkadot and Avalanche facilitate the creation of custom blockchains that are interoperable and interactive. A single metaverse needs to incorporate varied projects and blockchain provides this facility.
- Accessibility: It is easy to open and manage a wallet on public blockchains. It is very convenient and is open to everyone around the world. You need not pay any fees and do the paperwork to own an account, unlike a bank account. This makes it a very accessible and convenient option to manage finance and a digital identity online.
Governance: The users must have the option to control the rules of their interactions with the metaverse. In real life, people have voting rights in different areas to choose leaders or governments. They must be able to exercise the same rights in the virtual world too. Blockchain provides this feature and facilitates easy governance.
Challenges in the Development of the Metaverse
The metaverse concept looks fascinating, but it is still not in existence. Though much work is going on for the realization of the same, it is still in its nascent stages. This is due to the complex challenges in the metaverse’s development path. Since it is impossible for a single company to develop and own the metaverse completely, it needs collaboration among different companies to work on various aspects and combine them to realize the metaverse. This is one crucial challenge to bringing the companies on a common collaborative ground in a cut-throat-competitive environment.
The challenges facing social media and online gaming are also incorporated in user privacy, addiction, and other safety concerns. Property & User security is also a challenge in a centralized system.
Standardization is another challenge in the establishment of the metaverse. This means that the users must be able to move their avatars from one virtual world to the other. Interoperability is vital according to the concept of metaverse proposed by the Facebook company.
Moving virtual assets from one graphic engine to another is also a significant technical challenge. The legal and commercial challenges include circumventing intellectual property rights and convincing businesses not to make unfair profits from the users.
There are many conflicting definitions of the metaverse, proposed by different tech leaders and companies, one aspect that everyone can agree upon is that it is a three-dimensional virtual space that mimics the real world and incorporates several real-life factors. It sounds exciting and fun. It is considered to be the next major revolution after the Internet.
Metaverse is not in existence yet, but the hype towards its creation is increasing day by day. With Facebook rebranding itself as Meta, it is evident that this technology will dominate many technical and non-technical areas in the upcoming times. The numerous possibilities of this concept will have something for everyone, even for you. Although many challenges have led to a slow pace in development, it is always fascinating to learn more about the possibilities of a virtual world that mimics the real world. The coronavirus pandemic has already brought people close to this idea, and they are ready to explore it. Since the development is still commencing, it opens many doors to innovative and new ideas.
Hope! We have provided you with enough insight into “What is Metaverse?”. Let your creative juices flow and enjoy the freedom of imagining options that the idea of metaverse can present to the world. There are a bunch of fictional movies and novels that explore this idea creating curiosity among people.