What is the Metaverse? A glimpse of what Big Tech sees as the next stage of the Internet
(NEXSTAR) — Like it or not, it’s time to embrace the “metaverse.”
On Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that his company – Facebook Inc. – would rebrand itself as Meta, to better reflect its goal of building the metaverse, described by Zuckerberg as “an Internet embodied where you are in the experience, not just looking at him.
The concept of metaverse, on the other hand, existed long before Facebook existed. Often described as the successor to the Internet, futurists and tech experts have envisioned the metaverse as a place where our physical realities converge with various virtual experiences in a shared virtual space. This idea has been explored in one way or another by science fiction writers or Hollywood filmmakers over the past few decades, usually described as a virtual reality platform where users can create an avatar to interact with other members of the digital population.
The name of the concept – the metaverse – was even adopted from the 1992 novel “Snow Crash”, in which the plot takes place in both virtual and physical realities.
“The term predates the internet as we know it today,” says Trond Undheim, PhD, a futurist and author whose podcasts explore technological innovation and artificial intelligence, among other topics. “But it’s now become the term for the incremental shift in digital communication whereby the internet is becoming a hybrid reality, meaning it’s becoming physical and digital at the same time.”
Perhaps the easiest way to look at this concept is to look at the gaming community – which is the closest group to entering the so-called metaverse, as far as Undheim is concerned. These players have established virtual avatars of themselves, which interact with other virtual avatars through persistent online worlds. They work together in real time, arrange meetups, even spend in-game currency, all while communicating via headsets or chat.
There have even been reports of people hosting their ‘wedding’ in Nintendo’s cute ‘Animal Crossing’ virtual world – and inviting their friends’ digital avatars to attend – after the pandemic canceled their parties around the world. real. More recently, “Fortnite” reimagined Washington DC circa 1963 to “teleport” players to the Capitol to watch Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
But the future of open-world gaming is just one of the many ways the metaverse will take over our lives. Big Tech, of course, is ready to go further.
As Zuckerberg described in a video posted on Thursday, Meta is trying to build a part of the metaverse that would allow users to do “almost anything you can imagine” – or at least be a place where they can interact, work , shop, play games, gather for social events, or create content. He also claims that Meta’s efforts will create millions of job opportunities, just as the Internet has finally created jobs that were previously unheard of.
“I expect the metaverse to open many opportunities for people in exactly the same way,” Zuckerberg said. “But the reality is nobody knows exactly what models are going to work and make this sustainable.”
In addition to Facebook, which previously boasted of its virtual playgrounds and conference rooms, Microsoft has also been discussing its own “metaverse apps” to create and connect to all-new shared digital spaces.
The pandemic has only accelerated the need for at least some kinds of metaverse-adjacent experiences, with more people working from home and relying on technology to be places they physically can’t be. There is also growing interest in making virtual events more accessible, allowing users to attend art galleries or concerts with other friends online, or frequent virtual businesses where they can spend their change. hard-earned (or cryptocurrency) into goods or services – real or digital.
“The Metaverse is different and much more powerful than full VR,” Undheim explains, “because it combines the two without completely merging them.
“It doesn’t really exist yet,” he adds. “But we will know when we see it.”
Much of the technology needed to create the metaverse already exists or is currently in development. But there are still several hurdles to overcome before the concept can be implemented, including bandwidth requirements and mobilizing enough people. Undheim also fears that the metaverse will become overly commercialized early on, making users feel alienated or exploited before the concept has a chance to reach its full potential.
What Undheim does know, however, is that the Metaverse is coming – relatively fast too.
“We will see this overwhelm us in the next five to seven years,” Undheim believes. “[It’s here] when a reasonable person would say, “I don’t really know if I would value my physical reality over the online interaction.” Maybe they don’t even recognize the distinction between the two.
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