Complete Overview Of The Metaverse
Welcome to the 4th edition of Web3 & More. The past few weeks, we were able to understand the definitive overview of Web3, the role of DeFi in Web3 and how to interact with DEX & DApps in Web3. This month, we’re going to take a deeper look at the popular concepts of Web3, starting with the Metaverse.
Some of the critical concerns to be addressed in this guide includes:
- What is the metaverse?
- When did it start?
- Why is everyone talking about it?
- What are the building blocks (core concepts) of the metaverse?
- What are the benefits of the metaverse?
- What are the current top metaverse worlds?
- Final thoughts on the metaverse
The metaverse has quickly become the internet’s favourite buzzword, all thanks to Facebook changing its corporate name to Meta in October 2021. The social media giant didn’t only change its name but also announced that the company will be spending billions of dollars over the next year building out its concept of the metaverse (Horizon Worlds).
But, what exactly is the metaverse? Why is there so much hype about it? Why are multi-billion dollar brands from all kinds of industries in a race to gain a strong foothold in the metaverse?
WHAT IS THE METAVERSE
The metaverse in its simplest form is a virtual(online) universe backed by high financial incentives, where users can interact with others and carry out similar activities as they would in real life. At a deeper look, the metaverse is the one place where the world’s most powerful technologies like AI, AR, VR, Blockchain, IoT and others can interoperate.
The metaverse can also be described as the gamified version of various experiential activities around us, such as networking, socialising, shopping, gaming, investing and education etc. Hence, why terms like creators economy, play-to-earn (play game to earn money), move-to-earn (exercise to earn money) and the likes are very popular in the metaverse.
The metaverse is mostly confused with Web3, but it is different in that you can’t have the metaverse outside of Web3 but you can have Web3 outside the metaverse. For example, if you must buy or trade crypto, you must access an exchange via the internet, the same way, for you to access the metaverse, you will go through Web3.
WHEN DID IT START?
As trendy as the word “Metaverse” is, it isn’t a new concept or term. The term metaverse dates back to 1992 in Neal Stephenson’s novel ‘Snow Crash’, in which the author describes a virtual world where digital real estate can be sold and bought and where users can take on the appearances of 3D avatars to experience this virtual world (as depicted in decentraland of today).
As early as 2003, companies like Second Life built one of the most immersive virtual worlds where people use avatars to represent themselves, buy, sell and play. During my early years of exploring the internet, I had tried Second Life through Virwox, but it didn’t make as much sense then, as it does now. Looking back now, I can say Second Life was really visionary.
It is true that some of the concepts of the metaverse being built today may not hold true sooner or later, but few fundamental components may stand the test of time and they include VR/AR, Avatars and digital ownership.
WHY IS EVERYONE SUDDENLY TALKING ABOUT THE METAVERSE?
The answer to this question lies in the Covid19 pandemic that accelerated digital adoption way faster than imagined. Also, the maturing of the individual technology that makes up the metaverse and the discovery of their interoperability added to the sudden rush.
Before now, we didn’t realise that blockchain can be seamlessly fused with VR/AR and both of them with AI and then with IoT and even much more. The limitations that exist in the physical world can now be removed or evaded in the metaverse by combining two or more of these technologies. This discovery has also removed most of the barriers and limitations of these individual technologies while making their combined effect (synergy) more powerful and applicable than ever envisioned.
Another big reason behind the buzz is Facebook’s epic move to rename itself to Meta. It’s extremely rare that such a powerful brand would change its globally recognised name to fit into an emerging market. Hence, everyone wanted to know more about the metaverse, from knowing more, most have fallen in love with it and others have become voluntary evangelists of the metaverse.
So, have you ever believed in or used VR? AR? AI? Blockchain? or IoT? Now, try to imagine its combination with any other technology you’d love to use and you can rightly understand why the buzz or hype around the metaverse.
CORE CONCEPTS OF THE METAVERSE
Digital ownership in the form of NFT and decentralised payment method in the form of cryptocurrency is the life-line of the metaverse and blockchain technology just happened to make all that a reality. For example, NFTs which are immutable cryptographic assets are currently used to represent proof of ownership in the metaverse while cryptocurrency is making it possible for the buying and selling of these NFTs.
VR & AR
Thanks to VR and AR technologies, individuals can now have immersive experiences of the metaverse in the form of 3D Avatars. Avatar refers to a computer character that represents a person or user in virtual worlds.
As established earlier, the metaverse is a virtual reality world, which means it’s not somewhere we can transport the physical body to, hence the use of 3D life-like avatars to represent us in the metaverse.
Many companies such as Oculus and Snap are already developing relevant products that can enable us to hear, see, feel and use hand gestures to control our avatar’s experiences in the metaverse.
AI can process a lot of data at lightning speed, data which blockchain has in abundance. With AI, developers are able to create more dynamic avatars with realistic expressions and more interactive spaces which can greatly improve our immersive experience in the metaverse.
IoT is a system that takes any device in our physical world and connects them to the internet, for example, Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa etc. The implementation of IoT in the metaverse can seamlessly sync the virtual world to many physical devices and vice-versa.
BENEFITS OF THE METAVERSE
The metaverse will enable a wide range of possibilities that are currently non-existent or exclusive to only a few individuals in the physical world. With little to no cost, a scientist can conduct research and experiments in the virtual world, thereby evading all the side-effects of failed experiments in the physical world.
Also, a disabled person can immersively experience a reality without any of those difficulties by taking on life-like 3D avatars that best suit them.
The absence of physical barriers gives room to lower production or development cost and makes it possible to offer those experiences, services and products to larger audiences, thereby making it more affordable for each individual.
Distribution of Wealth
The metaverse won’t just remove physical barriers and make things more affordable, but it will also enhance the distribution of wealth among the internet savvy by opening doors for new models of business.
Also, with the integration of DeFi and the advancement of the creators economy, a larger number of people can now get paid for doing the regular things they love to do such as play games, watch movies, attend events, learn, exercise, test, host and create etc.
With the metaverse, life-like interactive communication is made possible. Thanks to VR/AR sensor devices that can directly connect to 3D enabled virtual worlds, having a meeting or social event in the metaverse will feel just like a physical one.
This benefit will be most effective in education and learning experiences. Rather than watching an instructor through a computer screen, students can access the classroom or training facility in real time and interact with other classmates that are also represented by 3D avatars.
Marketing & Branding
The metaverse is not just for gaming and playing, it equally offers huge opportunities for marketing and branding which innovative brands like Facebook, Microsoft, Visa, Nike, Adidas, Disney and the likes are utilising to their advantage.
For example, Decentraland already hosts ad placements from companies that have created digital copies (mostly 3D versions) of their products and users (avatars) are able to interact with these ads by clicking to read any information provided by the advertiser or visiting the link attached to the product.
TOP 3 METAVERSE WORLDS (METAVERSES)
Decentraland is one of the first blockchain based metaverse platforms to launch with a viable proof-of-concept, granting it the first mover’s advantage in the industry. Decentraland, which is an immersive virtual reality world, now hosts the headquarters of some of the biggest brands in the world (Apple, Amazon, Snapchat, Samsung, Atari, Nvidia).
It’s completely free to create an account and choose an avatar to explore the metaverse, but it may cost you some ‘MANA’ (Decentraland native token) to buy lands, premium skins or other assets.
The Sandbox is a gamifi virtual world where players can build, own, and monetize their gaming experiences in the metaverse. The Sandbox is backed by Animoca Brands and it’s most famous for its strategic collaborations with celebrities like Snoop Dogg. Similar to Decentraland, The Sandbox is powered by its native token ‘SAND’ and can be used to acquire the highly sought after premium lands or NFT skins.
Epic Games, the power-house behind the legendary video game ‘Fortnite’ and the Unreal Engine software announced a $1billion funding round in 2021 in pursuit of its metaverse development. Recently, celebrity Travis Scott hosted his virtual event in the Fortnite metaverse which was a massive hit.
With their track record of beating the odds and staying at the top, it’s only fair that they make it to this list.
When people say the metaverse is the future, it truly holds the potential, given all the benefits, powerful technologies, minds and resources behind it.
While no one clearly knows how the future of the metaverse will unfold, we do know that it will be shaped by the players investing the most. This may be content creators, VCs, developers, entrepreneurs or community users. Hence, if you envision yourself still alive and active in the next 5 years or more, it’s time to invest in the metaverse in your own little way and contribute to the future you hope to see it become.
I’m not a guru of any kind, but I hope that I can help you and others to make informed choices in Web3 and More.