The Metaverse Explained
In 1992, Neal Stephenson wrote a fictional novel about a virtual world in cyberspace, where hackers use their avatars to hunt down and stop the snow crash virus.
In 2018, Steven Spielberg directed Ready Player One, a movie adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel, set in the future where most of humanity spend most of their lives in the OASIS — an immersive virtual universe — to escape the harshness of their everyday existence. In 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced his intention to bring his version of the Metaverse to the masses — an online world where you can play games, buy clothes, watch concerts, hang out with friends in a coffee shop, and even work.
Are we ready for the Metaverse? Are we already part of a Metaverse? What is the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is a cool buzzword made popular ever since Zuckerberg’s keynote speech at Connect in October 2021, and Facebook’s subsequent rebranding to Meta. It doesn’t currently exist, but the idea has been around for a very long time, even before Stephenson’s 1992 novel hit the bookshelves. Everyone has a slightly different idea of what the Metaverse is, or rather more appropriately, what it could be. The fundamental concept, however, is of a virtual online world you can log into, to roam freely as an avatar, being whoever you want to be, doing whatever you want to do, and connecting with anyone else from anywhere else.
Sound familiar? Well, it should. Gamers have long since experienced a 2D version of a Metaverse with online play in games like Fortnite and Roblox. There have also been augmented reality (AR) games, like Pokémon Go, available since 2016, as well as a plethora of virtual reality (VR) experiences with the use of VR headsets. All of these are separate entities with no cross-over, mostly entertainment, and in the case of VR not readily accessible from your own home (although this is gradually becoming less so).
The future Metaverse would see interoperability between these and many other platforms, meaning your avatar could go from one world to another freely and without any loss of form or function. Why is that important? Well, if you’re going to commit lots of time (and money) to create an avatar, you don’t want it to be locked into one place, and creating a different avatar for each different platform would be tedious. Analysis of crypto transactions suggests people gravitate towards decentralized public Blockchains rather than centralized systems or even permission Blockchains. It is highly likely this trend will continue, although the future may be more fluid, and the norm will be a world of multi-Blockchains. The Metaverse will need to be built on this open system, with the incorporation of NFTs and cryptocurrency exchange.
Whether the Metaverse remains a completely open platform or becomes splintered into different locked worlds owned by big corporations like Meta, Microsoft, Google, and others, only time will tell. However, if history has taught us anything it is that corporate greed will always succumb to the inevitable lure of monetization.
Other Uses for the Metaverse
If you think the Metaverse is just for gaming, you’d be mistaken. The potential for its uses is huge. Part of Zuckerberg’s keynote address was the possibility to work in the Metaverse too, seamlessly blending remote working with on-site working. There has already been notable progress in this area. Last month, Professor Shafi Ahmed, Chief Medical Officer at Medical Realities and cancer Surgeons, delivered a medical lecture in the Metaverse at (read more)…
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