What is the Metaverse?
While there are potentially competing visions for how the metaverse will function, this much seems to hold true: it’s viewed as the next major evolution of the Internet, shifting from the text-driven websites and oft-closed ecosystems of today into shared, overlapping 3D spaces in which users interact via avatars.
Proponents believe that the metaverse will be used for a wide array of things, from socializing to events, gaming, shopping, and even work. The metaverse won’t be one site or platform, but rather an array of online destinations that will support customizable avatars and assets that you can move from one virtual place to another.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and other proponents see a deeper, more immersive experience that marries a host of existing technologies, such as VR headsets, mobile devices, personal computers and cloud-connected servers. These futurists envision the development of a 3D virtual world, one that you might enter while wearing a headset or AR glasses. There’s no agreement you’ll need VR or AR to get to the Metaverse but they pretty much go hand in hand. That suggests these headsets will be compatible with whatever’s on offer. A new wave of VR and mixed reality headsets are expected this year from Meta, Sony, Apple and maybe others.
What will it be like in the Metaverse?
The idea behind the deluxe Metaverse – the one that requires a headset – is an immersive, 360-degree digital world. You’ll have your own avatar, which you’ll be able to design, and you’ll own digital assets, the titles of which will likely be recorded on a blockchain. Some think you’ll buy plots of digital land and build online houses, in which you can entertain your friends (or at least their avatars).
That may sound fantastical or absurd, but bets on the value of digital land have already started. Tokens.com, a Canadian company, spent almost $2.5 million on virtual property in Decentraland, a 3D world platform that is a spiritual descendant of Geocities or Second Life. (Purchases in Decentraland are conducted with an ethereum blockchain token.)
Others see a more fluid experience. Simpler versions of a metaverse experience, such as Roblox or Fortnite, are already available. Those games aren’t as immersive as the metaverse Zuck talks about, but they offer a reasonable sense of what’s being planned.
All the things we’re already doing on the internet point to how the metaverse may grow. It will be a bit of gaming, some Zoom telepresence, splashes of VR and AR, and plenty of social media. Expect many attempts to pull it all together so that it’s fun or useful.
Two years of a pandemic have prompted us to redefine “virtual” and how we interact with each other in the future. No one has perfected what the future will look like yet. But a rethinking of what it means to gather virtually and at scale is definitely underway and quite a few companies, brands and people are busy defining it.
The Metaverse will definitely change the way people interact with each other. The real question is how will it impact your business and brand? It might give businesses a new solution on how customers can interact with their brand or it might change the way in how brands market themselves. Only time will tell as the technology develops and changes.