The metaverse is an online arena bringing together virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) with digital facsimiles or “avatars” people use to communicate, perform tasks, and build out a community.
The metaverse can be seen as the next generation of internet that functions beyond reading and browsing (Web 1.0), along with interacting, engaging, transacting, and sharing images/video (Web 2.0). The metaverse allows immersion into a virtual space that mimics the physical world with a feeling of “presence” (Web 3.0). Users “live within” the metaverse, and have more control over their interactions and personal data.
For many, there is a temptation to think about the metaverse as some kind of singularity, so don’t. To make it easy, consider the current internet, a collection of entities that are accessed through a URL depending upon need, want, task, etc. If a user wants to access Facebook, the user goes to Facebook. If a user wants to go to Amazon, the user goes to Amazon, and so on. Obviously, then, Facebook and Amazon are on the internet but don’t comprise the internet.
The metaverse is being “constructed” and leveraged through digital devices via billions of computers and millions of servers. The metaverse builds upon what cyberspace already offers, but in a different way, through specific digital meta-channels such as Epic, Roblox, Fortnite, etc. that allows unlimited users to have shared real-time interactions, experienced synchronously across any distance.
So, the current set of metaverse worlds each has their own access, avatars, interactions, and currencies, linked by the immersive virtual reality experience. Meta and Microsoft, for instance, are both working on centralizing metaverse infrastructure technologies, but evidenced by Nvidia, Unity, and Snap, they aren’t the only companies and startups getting into the simulacrum game.
Mark Zuckerberg described the metaverse as “an embodied internet” where users can have “different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a two-dimensional app or webpage.” Well, that’s for sure. But the metaverse is still somewhat novel, offering many intriguing opportunities amidst many challenges.
The metaverse creates a continuum that removes the physical limitations involved with digital access. This allows the user to become a part of an ambient reality through avatars interacting with other participants in a virtually rendered environment to build, play, shop, and work. The result is essentially a contiguous, integrated three-dimensional world.