What is the metaverse?
The metaverse has become fashionable, and we hear about it constantly in the media and on social networks. Tech giants like Google and Meta—the company that brings together Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, among other brands—are starting to bet on this new virtual world concept.
But what exactly is it? In this article, we share the keys to how this new virtual environment is born and everything we can expect from it.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is a virtual or digital reality world that we access through special devices such as augmented reality glasses that allow us to interact with other users and elements of the environment.
In the world of video games, virtual worlds are nothing new. There are many of them. They are spaces you can enter and create your own character or avatar and live adventures. However, this can be something fanciful and is not what the metaverse is aiming for. The metaverse seeks to be a kind of alternative reality, a parallel universe where we can do the same things we do in our daily lives, such as working, socializing, traveling, but without moving from our room.
As we noted, this virtual universe will be accessible through devices such as virtual reality or augmented reality glasses and applications for smartphones, which will project realistic and interactive images onto our physical environment.
The key to this metaverse is that it could be totally immersive, or at least much more so than what is current virtual reality. Yes, we will have glasses that are possibly similar to the current ones to immerse us in it, but also sensors that record our physical movements so that our avatar inside that metaverse does exactly the same movements.
How and when was the metaverse born?
The term metaverse first appeared in a novel by Neal Stephenson called Snow Crash (1992). This fictional piece chronicles the chase that pits protagonist and antagonist against each other in a virtual world presented as a video game. Stephenson, in the same book, also introduced the term “avatar” to refer to digital representations or virtual characters of real people. The most relevant thing about this book is that it is the first written reference to a completely virtual world long before terms like cyberspace or augmented reality were heard.
A little later, in 2003, “Second Life” was launched, an online multimedia platform were people could create an avatar and have a second life in an online virtual world. Users can customize their avatars, meet other players, create virtual objects, and own or trade goods and services.
- Interactive space
In the metaverse, users are able to interact both with other avatars and with the environment itself. In addition, users are also participants in all the changes occurring around them.
- Persistent and autonomous by itself
What does this mean? It means that, even though we are not using it, it continues to work. Regardless of whether users are connected to it, the dynamics of this virtual world continue to run their course.
- Decentralized and unbounded
The metaverse is not owned by a single owner but by all its users. Blockchain technology ensures that all transactions within a virtual world are public, easily traceable, and secure throughout the world. A 3D virtual environment that removes all kinds of barriers. A space with no limits regarding people who can use it at the same time, activities that are performed, industries that can be part of it, etc. This makes accessibility to the platform much higher than that of current Internet platforms.
- It allows participation in virtual economies.
Lastly, the metaverse has its own virtual economy, decentralized and powered by cryptocurrencies. Users who are part of this virtual economy can buy, sell and exchange digital assets such as avatars, virtual clothing, NFTs, or event tickets. This example is starting to be used by many clothing brands that are starting to create specific pieces for the metaverse, such as American Eagle in Roblox and the Spanish start-up Laagam, which has already created its first jacket for the virtual world.
What are NFTs?
In this last point of the characteristics of the metaverse, we talked about the NFTs, but do you know what these acronyms mean? The acronym NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. To understand the concept of NFTs, we first have to understand what a non-fungible good is. In our society, we have fungible goods and non-fungible goods. Fungible goods can be exchanged and have a value according to their number, measure, or weight. And non-fungible goods are those that cannot be replaced.
Money is a fungible good. If you have a 20-euro bill, you can exchange it for another 20-euro bill without losing its value because it is exactly the same, and it is also used up when we spend it.
But is a work of art a fungible good? Indeed it is not. A painting displayed in our living room is not consumed when we use it, nor can it be replaced by another. Each piece has its value, and they are not equivalent. Just like a work of art, NFTs are unique assets that cannot be modified or exchanged for another that has the same value, since no two NFTs are equivalent, just as no two paintings are the same.
When will it become a reality?
At the moment, the metaverse is just a concept that is beginning to be built. But we are seeing more and more companies considering it as an attraction for them and wanting to invest in metaverse. One of the companies that has announced significant investments to make it real is Meta, formerly known as Facebook.
In fact, these metaverses already exist, but we still don’t have a way to connect to them. We need virtual reality devices that enable us to move as if we were really inside that universe. At present, it’s almost a blank canvas. It has no streets or regions, only some virtual rooms used for the first tests.
The metaverse that Mark Zuckerberg wants to create is not some outstanding virtual experience but the next version of the Internet. “We’ve gone from desktop to web to mobile; from text to photos to video. But this is not the end of the road,” Zuckerberg explained. “The next platform will be even more immersive, an embodied Internet where you’re in the experience, not just watching it. We call it the metaverse and it will affect every product we build.”
Are we seeing the professions of the future? Perhaps in a few years, we will be able to talk about anything from avatar dressmakers to digital dog walkers. Although it remains to be seen what these immersive experiences will be like, we are sure that this virtual future will not leave us unaffected.