Cambridge Dictionary defines the Metaverse as “a virtual world where humans, as avatars, interact with each other in a three-dimensional space that mimics reality.”
The term was first used in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his book “Snow Crash.” In the novel, the protagonist is a hacker able to move between the dystopian Earth and 'Metaverse' - a computer-generated virtual reality. There have been movies featuring the Metaverse, in Tron and Ready Player One, a virtual reality forms the backdrop.
In the last decade, the foundations of the Metaverse have taken shape with augmented reality, virtual reality, and video. For example, in 2016, Pokémon Go used augmented reality, where it became possible to connect with Pokémon superimposed on the world through a smartphone screen. Marriott International Hotel allows a virtual reality experience where customers, through a VR headset, can see how the function might appear.
The notion of the Metaverse exists in online games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox; people gather in huge numbers to play games and interact and communicate with each other. The platforms have hosted real-life and virtual events involving the likes of Ariana Grande and Travis Scott.
The ongoing pandemic has hastened the acceleration of the Metaverse becoming a reality. People confined to the home and working from home have initiated companies to develop virtual worlds where people don't leave their home for entertainment and social life – places to socialize such as a bar, see live performances, or listen to concerts. Remote working employees can hold meetings with their colleagues in a virtual world and trips around the globe taken virtually.
Some look at the Metaverse as the next step for the evolution of the Internet. The Social Media platform Facebook sees the Metaverse as important; in October 2021, it changed its name to Meta. The supporters envisage an immersive experience using cloud servers, mobile devices, personal computers, and VR headsets. The creation of a 3D virtual world that one can enter with a VR headset or AR glasses, a space populated by real people in the form of digital avatars, and the ability to interact with others.
Significant improvements to the basic form currently in existence are expected with the enormous financial investments pouring into the Metaverse. The Metaverse will be life-like, with the felt senses matching real life and the ability to partake in real-life activities. The Metaverse will replace Social Media, becoming significant as the digital world becomes as important as the real one.
As the Metaverse is at an infancy stage, there is no set standard for proceeding and evolving. Many companies building the Metaverse will each have their version and vying for attention. It may be possible to go from one Metaverse to another and create a single entity in time. But if Social Media has taught anything, companies dislike people leaving their platforms because of the financial implications.
The idea is that the Metaverse, using a headset, will provide an immersive, 360-degree digital experience matching real life. It becomes possible to socialize with others through a life-like avatar; they can attend social events and hang out with others. It's an upgrade on Social Media where the capabilities are limited to a conversation through text, watching videos, or interacting via live streams. People can meet others and interact similarly to real life with a headset.
Shopping in the Metaverse is possible; people can visit virtual stores to buy clothing or items for their homes and use it virtually. There is the possibility to purchase land and homes in the Metaverse. Land and property are currently available to buy on Decentraland, with plots fetching as much as $2.5 million to date. Facilitation takes place through NFTs and the blockchain. NFTs are the cornerstone of the Metaverse; they have already seen a massive rise in popularity in recent times. Conducting business and earning an income in the Metaverse becomes a reality.
The rise of the Metaverse is expected and will shake up the landscape of human existence. Life may be drastically different in a decade from what's seen today.