i3 | November 19, 2021

The Metaverse

Murray Slovick
galaxy of space

You’ve probably heard of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and now there is the metaverse.

A term first coined in science fiction, the metaverse refers to immersive, always-on, virtual environments created by billions of people interacting with it and each other. These are shared virtual worlds where avatars—digital versions of us— play, socialize and even work together.

The term “metaverse” first appeared in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash where it referred to a 3D virtual world inhabited by avatars of real people. Considered the successor of the current internet, its characteristics include unprecedented interoperability — users can take their avatars and goods from one place in the metaverse to another. Anywhere you go, you can sit down, and through monitors, bring that world with you wherever you want.

Instead of just calling or texting someone on the phone, they can teleport in, and see the context that you have, then afterwards teleport back to where they were. The metaverse provides open access to all, a sense of presence and perhaps most importantly, a fully functioning economy. This economy allows the transfer of digital assets such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), where creators get paid in cryptocurrency. 

Real-Time and Live

Pre-scheduled and self-contained events happen in the metaverse but will be collective rather than singular incidences where many users can interact concurrently in a shared experience. The metaverse spans both the digital and physical worlds, as well as private and public networks. You can buy virtual products or receive them as perks. It will not replace the internet, but instead build upon and transform it, bringing the physical and digital worlds together.

Facebook describes it this way: “The metaverse is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.” At this writing, Facebook is about to open Connect 2021 to hear CEO Mark Zuckerberg talk about bringing Meta to life. Connect 2021 will spotlight developers, creators, enthusiasts and gamers building the future of AR/VR together. Speakers will explore how AR/VR will lead to the next evolution in online social experiences.

The metaverse places everyone inside a virtual ‘3D’ version of the internet. Put another way we will constantly be within the internet, rather than have access to it. Facebook says the company will strive to build an interconnected set of experiences — a world known as the metaverse.

The metaverse promises to host more information than social networks do today. Potentially, you could spend eight-plus hours in the metaverse working in virtual spaces creating and exploring with people who aren’t in the same physical space as you. You can interact with friends, play, work, learn, game and shop. As remote work plays a bigger part of the post pandemic future, remote employees will share the same opportunities as the people who are physically onsite.

Many of the immersive experiences of the metaverse will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years. Yet it would be a mistake to think of VR headsets as the metaverse, just as you don’t think of smartphones as the mobile internet. Similarly, games will be part of the metaverse, but are not the metaverse itself.

The concept is expected to yield huge financial opportunities for companies stemming from environments like social media, video games, E-commerce and blockchain.

The metaverse places everyone inside a virtual ‘3D’ version of the internet.
i3 magazine November/December 2021 cover

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