What Is The Metaverse?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The metaverse is considered by many as the next generation of the internet – but what is the metaverse, how do things work in virtual reality, and when is all this happening?

You may think coping with a single universe’s daily ups and downs is enough for one lifetime, but take a minute to dream about an imagined universe where billions of people live, work and play without leaving the comfort of their homes.

Instead of the screens on our computers, tablets and smartphones acting as gateways to the internet, they will become three-dimensional portals to a bigger and better world where dreams come true. If you have the money, you can enhance your part of the metaverse to become a bigger and better self.

Modern technology hints at what the metaverse may become. Still, the truth is we are standing on the launch pad and have no idea what the transformation may become, just as the internet has developed from a limited messaging system to a world within a world.

Promoters of the metaverse expect the new technology to change how we live.

However, this guide takes stock of where the metaverse is today and where the journey may end.

What Does Metaverse Mean?

Taken from ancient Greek, meta means beyond, and verse is a shortened version of the universe. Together, they mean a digital world beyond the confines of our universe.

The term was coined by writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash.

What Can You Do In The Metaverse?

The answer to that question is anything you like – but we all know that’s a non-starter.

Within the metaverse, you are an avatar that can freely move about, pick things up, talk and spend money. The intention is to give you the same powers and skills as you have outside the metaverse, but only better.

You can craft your avatar to look how you wish and even buy metaland as a place to call yours which you can develop to reflect your character.

E-commerce is expected to be the main driver. Instead of shopping from catalogue stores of goods and services, in the metaverse, shoppers can pick up and examine them before buying.

But instead of exploring this brave new world alone, a key upgrade from the internet is sharing your metaverse with others. The metaverse is shaping as a multiverse where tens of thousands of people can interact and communicate with each other in their special worlds.

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Where Is The Metaverse?

The metaverse exists on computer servers. The big tech companies are throwing billions of dollars at developing their metaverses. Rather than a unifying standard, each is seeking to build a walled garden for their users to explore.

The walls restrict users from crossing into a rival’s property and gives a chance for the provider to grab and analyse their private data. So, yes, Google, Microsoft, Meta – the new name for Facebook – and others are not developing the metaverse for the greater good, but as a better way of selling personal data to advertisers.

The current favoured way of accessing the metaverse is by wearing a headset or helmet to navigate the digital space.

Although few critics take umbrage at the principles of the metaverse, the selling point will come down to how many people want to and can afford to spend several hours of the day wearing expensive and ungainly headgear.

Many point out that the building blocks of the metaverse already exist, although scientists must figure out how to put them together.

How Does The Metaverse Work?

Software architects are at the design stage of the metaverse and still have a way to go before agreeing how the systems will work.

The metaverse will probably evolve like the internet and other tech domains, much like the battles between VHS and Betamax video or the tussle for dominance of smartphones between Apple and Google’s Android operating system.

The metaverse will likely work with virtual reality, augmented reality, or both.

Virtual reality (VR) is a 3D simulation that allows users to interact by touch, sight and hearing. Users will typically wear a headset that takes over their vision and hearing, while a microphone allows them to speak within the metaverse.

Some developers are investigating if haptics are feasible. Haptics are full body suits with gloves packed with sensors which track bodily movements.

Augmented reality (AR) is less immersive than VR. AR adds layers to what the user can see and hear, like the game Pokemon Go and heads-up displays in glasses, cars and aircraft.

Whereas VR is completely artificial and generated by computers, AR takes current reality as a skeleton to build upon.

The Metaverse, Cryptocurrency and NFTs

Non-fungible tokens or NFTs seem destined to play a role in the future of the metaverse.

An NFT is an electronic proof of digital asset ownership, such as a piece of music or image. The data is stored on a cryptocurrency blockchain and is considered untamperable. The hope is that the metaverse, cryptocurrency and NFT technology will converge .

NFTs already provide digital deeds to virtual property in pre-metaverse applications, such as Minecraft, Decentraland or Sandbox.

Sports apparel firm Nike has already set up Nikeland for customers to go and dress their avatars in digitised clothing, with an NFT proving ownership of the sportsgear.

When Will The Metaverse Arrive?

A fully-functioning metaverse is some years away and then some to let the technology develop.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates says not enough people have VR goggles and motion tracking gloves to make sense of the metaverse, and until millions of people adopt them, the new world will remain undiscovered by the masses.

Currently, the metaverse is a wish-list rather than reality and is likely to stay that way while businesses and governments struggle to over-regulating a borderless, digital universe.

But the metaverse is on the way and likely unstoppable.

It’s just a matter of when.

What Is The Metaverse FAQ?

What does metaverse mean?

Metaverse comes from the classical Greek for the ‘place beyond this one’

Is the metaverse different from the internet?

Yes. The internet is miles away from the vision of the metaverse, where people can visit, shop and interact with others.

Think of the internet as browsing a catalogue alone, where the metaverse is like going to a crowded shopping mall.

Does the metaverse exist?

Not really. Some companies have working mock-ups to demonstrate their vision for the future and some halfway houses exist, such as MInecraft, but to date the metaverse is a dream rather than reality.

How can I access the metaverse?

Not really. Some companies have working mock-ups to demonstrate their vision for the future and some halfway houses exist, such as MInecraft, but to date the metaverse is a dream rather than reality.

Who owns the metaverse?

No one owns the metaverse, like the internet, people and companies can own a domain but not the entire environment.

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