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What Is Metaverse?

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by Beatrice Mastropietro · 8 min read
What Is Metaverse?
Photo: Shutterstock

Metaverse is an interconnected 3D virtual reality where users are free to create their own avatars and interact with others from all over the world. If you want to know more about what it means to be part of the Metaverse, read on.

Metaverse is a second-generation blockchain that provides a platform for digital assets as well as smart contracts. It’s built using open-source software that anyone can use to create their metaverse or use the existing one.

The term is also used in a broader sense to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe that provides for user-controlled avatars representing human beings or software agents.

The metaverse in a broader sense may refer to virtual worlds and the entire spectrum of augmented reality. The term “metaverse” was initially used by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash as one of two competing software platforms within the book’s virtual universe. The VR community has since adopted or perhaps re-invented the term to describe an entirely online universe not necessarily bound to a single game or universe.

The word “metaverse” is used in conjunction with virtual reality (VR) and cyberspace, though it predates the coining of the latter term in the early 1990s. It combines the prefix “meta” with “universe” and typically refers to a collective virtual shared space or the metaverse in its entirety.

Facebook’s Rebranding

In October, Facebook, the social networking service company, announced that it had changed the company name to Meta Platforms, Inc (NASDAQ: FB). In a press release, Facebook said it was “Introducing Meta: A Social Technology Company.” Meta aims to bring together all of the company’s apps and technologies under a brand. Majorly, Facebook said that Meta would primarily bring the metaverse to reality, connect people, find communities, and at the same time grow businesses.

Facebook’s corporate structure did not change as it rebranded to become Meta. In other words, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are all keeping their names. But the company that produces and maintains them is now be called Meta.

With a new name, Mark Zuckerberg wants to echo the key product that Facebook (now Meta) is represented by. In particular, it is the metaverse, the name for a shared online 3D virtual space that a number of companies are interested in creating as a sort of future version of the internet.

Difference Between AR and VR

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are two technologies that have been in development for a while, but only in 2021, they started being heavily implemented globally.

AR is a technology that blends virtual objects with real life. Instead of using a computer to generate what you see in front of you, this tech superimposes digital images on top of your view of the real world. To provide a user with an AR experience, they must have a device that can either project digital images directly into their eyes or overlay them on top of what they ‘see’ through a phone or tablet screen.

Meanwhile, the virtual reality experience is one in which you are almost completely immersed in a computer-generated world. VR tech tells you that you are no longer within the physical confines of our universe; instead, your senses tell you that you are somewhere else entirely. For example, when wearing a VR headset, your field of view will be almost entirely obstructed by digital images and sounds created by the machine to make it seem like you’ve been transported to another world.

The key difference between AR and VR technology is that Virtual Reality disconnects you entirely from the physical world. In contrast, Augmented Reality keeps you connected on some level (hence the term ‘augmented’). The most significant practical difference this has is that it’s possible to achieve a sense of tangible presence due to your physical connection with reality in an AR experiment. This, in turn, leads to the possibility of interacting with virtual objects as though they were real. On the other hand, Virtual Reality can’t offer this sort of experience because you are completely disconnected from reality, and everything around you is generated by a computer.

Another key difference between AR and VR is that the former is something you can use every day. It doesn’t require you to buy additional equipment (such as a headset). In contrast, VR headsets are currently pretty expensive and require high-powered computers to produce anything.

In practice, AR applications have been found in many different sectors across the business world, including healthcare, education, and even tourism.

VR technology has also been used in different business settings. Still, it’s mainly limited to enterprise companies looking for ways to give their customers hands-on experiences with products they can’t hold, such as cars or jewelry. The technology is expected to make its way into the mainstream market soon enough. However, much of the interest surrounding Virtual Reality has so far been for entertainment purposes.

Gaming Metaverse

The Gaming Metaverse is an idea for a 3D immersive environment to be used by gamers, built from the ground up as a massive virtual reality. It has no rules or restrictions other than those already placed on it by its programmers using existing technology.

In the Gaming Metaverse, the users (or ‘residents’) are able to experience and interact in a real-time 3D world. They can communicate with each other using text, chat, or voice.  They can explore the world, interact with objects and people in it or socialize.

The Gaming Metaverse is controlled by a central server that runs all of its virtual reality processes, including the vital player input processes. The server also records everything that is done within the metaverse. So if anything was to happen within it, we are able to pinpoint who was responsible for it and take appropriate action.

Metaverse: the Next Stage of the Internet?

The Metaverse is an immersive digital environment in which we can create our own avatars, learn new skills and play with other people across the world.

First imagined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, it has long been seen as science fiction but may now be drawing closer. It could radically change our relationship with computers, and one another.

In Snow Crash, the Metaverse is a three-dimensional space where people can socialize, access information and entertainment through their avatars. In this virtual world, people are represented by their own personalized 3D “avatar”. Stephenson imagined his Metaverse as a vast three-dimensional landscape in which everyone was represented by an avatar.

In Second Life, where you are represented by a 2D cartoon caricature, your Metaverse avatar could look just like you and be created using images from video calls or even 3D scanning. This is likely to come in the near future.

This digital world would be shared by people across the globe. It would have its own currency and economy, its own laws, and social norms.

As of 2021, the Metaverse is largely confined to gamers playing on PCs or consoles. However, in Snow Crash, there are “consensual hallucination” terminals that let Metaverse users enter each other’s virtual environments even if they aren’t using similar technology, perhaps because different companies have built their own Metaverses.

Stephenson imagined that everyone in Metaverse would be represented by an avatar and, like Second Life, this digital world could be a place where people create shops and socialize. But beyond playing games, it gives us the possibility of education and training (imagine learning history through exploring eras) or even conducting business ventures and arts/culture projects.

However, Metaverse has many limitations: we can only interact with those we are connected to and so if you want to meet and socialize with someone not using Metaverse you would need a “portal” that could be your mobile phone or tablet.

Metaverse Use Cases

Metaverse use cases are numerous, let us have a look at some of them.

  • Digital Identity System. Metaverse was developed as a comprehensive system for storing and managing digital identities. These can take many forms, including avatars in online games, unique business cards in the physical world, and even unique passwords within a given website.
  • Digital Asset Exchange. Metaverse can also serve as a platform for decentralized exchanges. This allows users to create and trade digital assets with the least possible restriction. For example, they could create new currencies or generate “MSTs” by linking to Bitcoin (BTC).
  • Coin Agreement System. The Coin Agreement System is a practical application of the Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) concept. In this function, nodes can use their digital identities to exchange value with others on the network. This capability extends beyond the Metaverse platform and allows users to conduct exchanges on related blockchains.
  • Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO). This is an entirely new type of blockchain entity that uses smart contracts to manage capital and distribute funds. Users can create their own decentralized autonomous organizations based on preset templates in the Metaverse system.
  • Distributed Exchange. Through this function, users can exchange digital currencies without the need for third-party institutions. This will facilitate secure peer-to-peer financial transactions and broaden access to other forms of value storage and transfer.

Conclusion

The Metaverse is a concept of virtual reality that has been around for decades. In a broader sense, it may not only refer to virtual worlds but the entire spectrum of Augmented Reality. It can be described as persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe and created by way of an internet-like computer network.

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FAQ

What exactly is the Metaverse?

The metaverse is a neologism that refers to the concept of a future iteration of the internet, which is made up of persistent, shared 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.

What is the Facebook Metaverse?

The Facebook metaverse is an online world where people exist and communicate in shared virtual spaces. It is an environment that allows users to create their own avatars and socialize with friends.

What is the gaming metaverse?

To put it very simply, the gaming metaverse is a virtual reality that connects all gamers together.

Does the metaverse exist?

In some form, metaverses are already available on platforms like VRChat and video games like Second Life.

What is the difference between AR and VR?

The key difference between the two technologies is that virtual reality completely blocks out the user’s view of their surroundings, while augmented reality still allows a person to see what’s going on around them.

Can Metaverse replace the Internet?

Metaverse is not yet very famous in circles outside cryptocurrency enthusiasts and blockchain experts, but it has the potential to replace the internet.

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