Aside from Facebook changing its name to Meta, one of the biggest announcements the company made was its expansion into the Metaverse. Promising a future full of virtual potential overlapped with fun and productivity, the Metaverse is extremely exciting. However, most people are not even aware of what it actually is and whether it is useful. If you’re part of the folks confused about exactly what the Metaverse is, I am here to shed some virtual light on it. So start reading as I tell you what is the Metaverse and whether you’re in it right now.
What Is the Metaverse (Explained)
While we will begin by talking about the Metaverse, we will also dive into some interesting points. If you already know the former, then use the table below to skip to your needed section.
What Is the Metaverse?
While you may be tempted to believe Meta brought about the Metaverse, the concept has actually been around for a long time now. The word Metaverse was first used in the 1992 science fiction novel called Snow Crash. Much like the announcement, people in the novel donned avatars and interacted with each other in a virtual version of the world.
Much like that world, the modern Metaverse is more or less the same. At its most basic sense, the Metaverse is an umbrella term for technologies that help create an entire digital universe like our real one. This universe can be extremely detailed and include a wide variety of different worlds often also called virtual environments. People can join this Metaverse through the use of different technologies and interact with each other. However, instead of a user being there in person, they create an avatar which is their representation in the Metaverse. If you’re still confused, learn what is an avatar in the metaverse first.
An easy way of understanding all this is by watching the 2011 movie Ready Player One (watch trailer). In that movie’s world, everyone makes use of virtual reality headsets to escape into another world called The Oasis. However, the people there do more than just play, they explore entire worlds and practically live their lives there. This is just about what the Metaverse is and is aspiring to be.
Like the movie above, the Metaverse not only wants to be a platform where people entertain themselves. It plans to be where people work, socialize with each other, and live about other aspects of their life. Technologies like VR and AR are extremely important to the Metaverse as they will help create an incredible sense of immersion of ‘being lost’ in that other universe.
Meta vs Metaverse: What’s the Difference?
If you understood the above section, then you might be confused about the Metaverse’s history. It’s easy to think Meta is the company that created the Metaverse. However, to repeat the above point, that is not the case. The term Metaverse is a term that was coined a long time ago even before the launch of Facebook which was in 2004.
Meta on the other hand is a rebranding move by Facebook that changed the parent company’s name in late 2021. Even before the name change, Facebook had started investing in immersive technologies like virtual reality. This was done to begin pushing the idea of a digital world. According to the company, the name change signifies ‘the company’s vision to bring Metaverse to life and the name change is a show of commitment to that future.’
However do note that this does not change the name of Meta’s subsidiaries (Instagram, WhatsApp) which will remain the same.
When Is It Coming?
While you may think the Metaverse will take decades to get here, it kind of already is here. A good example of this were the age-old chatrooms when the Internet was in its early stages. A plethora of people online used to gather in a single digital room and chat with each other. However, almost nobody used their real names, instead going by custom-created aliases that worked as avatars. So even while most people didn’t know each other’s names, everyone was in that room bonding together. So while nobody had VR headsets, it was a different environment altogether. The Metaverse is cut from the same cloth and intends to let people get together in a virtual universe where they use their avatars to explore.
A big factor of the Metaverse is its ability to be interoperable when it comes to platforms. Since this universe is supposed to be in the digital sphere, it would make sense that everyone can access it. And so it can be. One can enter the Metaverse using their computers, phones, and more intuitively their VR and AR headsets. In fact, even if you haven’t used a chatroom, chances are you’re still in the Metaverse. Let’s see how that is by talking about some popular Metaverse examples.
What Are Some Examples of It?
As I said above, the Metaverse is already among us in bits and pieces. There are some extremely popular examples of the Metaverse already in action. Have a read through the ones below and see if you recognize them.
One of the most prominent right now, Meta is on its way to pushing forward towards a complete Metaverse. However, the company began its journey much earlier than 2021 when Facebook bought Oculus back in 2014. Ever since then the company has been pushing forward with its plan to create a virtual universe. If you’ve put on an Oculus Quest 2, you must have already gone through some immersive VR games like VRChat or Rec Room and have experienced them for yourself. While those games aren’t by Meta, they are an amazing way to experience the Metaverse and one of the building blocks for it in the future.
Microsoft is another big company making advancements in the Metaverse. The company’s new project Microsoft Mesh is combining virtual and augmented reality into Microsoft Teams and much further. The purpose here is to incorporate the Metaverse into the productivity wing and create environments that can help people create 3D avatars and join meeting rooms and full virtual offices. However, aside from avatars, the company is also foraying into Holoportation, a technology that will help people create an ultra-realistic self of themselves to interact within Mixed Reality.
While starting out as a simple battle royale, the Epic Game’s creation has come a long way. Over time, Fortnite has solidified itself as a more than capable social platform where users get together to do more than just play. A plethora of gamers turned to Fortnite when lockdown struck, using it as a means to socialize with their friends instead of in person. Epic recognizes the scope of the game and continually runs events that breathe life into this digital universe. From hosting incredible live concerts with the likes of Travis Scott and Ariana Grande, having a black hole consume the map to alien abductions, a lot has been added to the game. In fact, Epic Game’s CEO Tim Sweeney recently commented on the Metaverse calling it a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity.
“Over the coming decades, the metaverse has the potential to become a multitrillion-dollar part of the world economy”Tim sweeney, EPIC Games
Fortnite is a heavy runner when it comes to advancing the Metaverse and only time will tell how far it gets in its journey.
If you’re a gamer in your 20s, you probably haven’t paid much attention to this online gaming platform. While appearing seemingly plain, Roblox actually houses a community that has resulted in it being valued at $68 billion. With over 47 million active players, Roblox has a wide assortment of worlds that are creating and advancing Metaverse.
A prominent example of this is Bloxburg, a user-generated 3D experience where users can build their own homes, own vehicles, and hang out with their friends. Some gamers take it to another level and roleplay as a completely different person. The description of Brookhaven, another Roblox experience goes ‘Be whoever you want to be in Brookhaven RP’. When it comes to creating experiences that users can get lost in, Roblox is another major platform that is used by millions every day. Based heavily on the structures of Metaverse, people use avatars to represent themselves or become completely different individuals to simply live alternate lives online. So the next time you open up Roblox, have a look around you and realize you’re part of the Metaverse.
Last but not the least, Minecraft is another world-building platform that is part of the Metaverse. This open-building game is played by millions of gamers every day. A part of what makes Minecraft so amazing is its creative potential. While you can settle by putting together just a simple house, people have gone much further than that. In fact, Reporters Without Borders used the platform to create an entire library that houses articles and works that have been banned in oppressive countries. That is just one of the examples that millions of active Minecraft users create to make this game feel like a complete universe.
Once you put all this together, you realize how much of an impact the Metaverse has already had over the digital world. From attending digital concerts to perusing through an entire digital library, there is a plethora on offer. However, aside from gaming, the Metaverse is also instrumental to businesses and other sectors. Given things go the right way, this new reality can be used for medical applications, training in countless industries, and overall advancement. The only question that remains is “Which world of the Metaverse are you in right now?”
Are There Any Downsides to the Metaverse?
However, there are always two sides to a coin and the Metaverse has it too. While these are naturally subjective, some of the generally agreed disadvantages of the Metaverse are as follows:
1. Technology Needed Isn’t Available Everywhere
I mentioned that one of Metaverse’s strongest points is its ability to be accessed from multiple platforms. While that is true, the technology required to access still falls inside the mid to high-income tier. Even in the Metaverse’s most basic sense, it requires a fast and steady Internet connection coupled with a capable device that can access it. However, despite Internet’s widespread use, there are still areas that either don’t have access to the internet, or where internet access is very expensive. Top that with the fact that many folks also lack powerful hardware to access the Metaverse, it is difficult for people to even get on it much less enjoy it.
Furthermore, to fully enjoy the Metaverse, a person would ideally require a Virtual, Augmented, or Mixed Reality headset. However, this tech is still in its early stages and is definitely not affordable and widespread enough to be bought by everyone. Until and unless these services will be readily available to the common folk, the Metaverse will be a pipe dream.
2. Privacy and Security Issues
Privacy is paramount in 2022. Considering that the Internet is basically a digital minefield, it’s incredibly easy to fall into scams and traps. However, more than money, data is the new currency. People with malicious intent online are set on stealing users’ data and then selling it to shady places.
The Metaverse itself will be another digital platform where potentially millions get together to exchange aspects of their life. As is human nature, people do tend to let slip their personal details and put themselves in jeopardy. If not implemented correctly, data theft could be a major problem plaguing the Metaverse. Hopefully, that is something which stakeholders will try to work on, and ensure the security and privacy of people in the metaverse.
To put emphasis on this point all you need to do is look at Meta’s (Facebook’s) 2021 security breach when the data of over 533 million users was leaked online. Since this new digital universe is very obviously something in the making, it’s going to take some time before it’s airtight of any malware and breaches. Problems like Meta having a breach hopefully might not be common enough for users to not trust this upcoming technology. However, only time will tell just how secure the Metaverse turns out to be.
3. Losing Actual Human Contact
While the Metaverse will potentially let you talk to millions of users worldwide, will it, and more importantly should it substitute for actual human contact? A big downside of immersive technologies is exactly that; Immersion. Put inside a headset, users quickly forget the reality they live in and embrace what’s in front of them. Since the Metaverse aims to reel users in completely, it’s safe to assume that people will spend more time inside it than outside.
This might lead to erosion of relationships outside of the Metaverse leading to the opposite effect of the plan. Furthermore, while the Metaverse may let you climb a digital mountain or walk through a forest, is it okay to forgo your actual reality in exchange for a fabricated one? As Albus Dumbledore says to Harry, “it does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live.”
The operative word here is Moderation as that is exactly what will be needed to draw a distinct line between the real world and the Metaverse. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself and exploring online, it might be extremely harmful to a person’s mental health to be lost in the Metaverse instead of actually living their life. However, this aspect is something completely subjective. What do you think about this? Do let me know in the comments below.
The Metaverse Has Big Plans
I hope you now know have a better idea of what the Metaverse is and your place in it. If you’re a new Oculus Quest 2 user diving into this subject, start by learning how to set up and use your Oculus Quest 2. Once done, why not learn how to cast Quest 2 to TV to share a piece of this new reality with your friends? What do you think about the Metaverse? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.