Technological innovations are popping up each day in the present digital age. Possibilities once deemed absurd become real just within a few years. Thus, gigantic ripples of the metaverse are not hard to believe- it is rather plausible. So much so, organizations like Facebook are investing significant resources in its creation. Currently, in a developmental stage, the concept is not exactly new. However, an appropriate definition still stumps the most advanced tech wizards.
What is a Metaverse?
As the concept in itself stands in a novice, it is hard to decipher and create a well-rounded generic definition of a metaverse. There are multiple iterations that provide an outline. Arguably, the metaverse is the successor of the present-day internet.
Facebook is one of the tech majors with the largest stake behind the creation of a multiverse. According to their definition, the metaverse represents a virtual space set where users can build, interact and communicate with users living in a different physical space. Noted metaverse proponent and Metaverse Primer author Matthew Ball elaborates further. He declares that the metaverse is a much extensive concept intertwining the real and the virtual world. Continuity features similar to real-life are also widely visible in several metaverses- examples include identity, items, previous attributes, monetary clearance, entitlement rights, and many more.
Associate Terminologies: Online World, Multiverses and the Metaverse
Digital scholar Janet Murray describes the modern metaverse idea similar to a hypothetical Zoom meeting that magically also consists of the playful features of Animal Crossing. There are broader classifications as well. Game designer Raph Koster clearly provides a distinction between online worlds, multiverses, and metaverses.
According to Raph, online worlds constitute digital spaces centered around the main theme and can exist in 3D-rich environments as well as text-based ecosystems. Multiverses on the other hand comprise different world environments and usually do not have any centrally shared ruleset. They remain connected through a network. A good example would be Ready Player One’s OASIS ecosystem. Raph describes the metaverse as a multiverse that interoperates with the real world on a bigger scale. The metaverse often incorporates augmented reality accessories, including AR overlays, VR trial rooms for actual stores, and even Google Maps.
Metaverse Reference in Popular Games and Sci-Fi Novels
By now, it is easy to understand that metaverse is a natural fit for science-fiction and gaming. It may be a surprise, but the term “metaverse” was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash. The plot revolved around a virtual 3D world habited by digital avatars of real-world people. Another example is Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel titled Ready Player One (now also a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster). It should however be noted that Ready Player One is not an actual metaverse. Another paradoxical observation- 3D environments are not mandatory for virtual worlds.
Speculations and mentions of metaverse are common among gaming companies and release titles like Epic, Roblox, and Fortnite (published by Epic). Metaverses are also said to exist in previous game titles such as Second Life. Social and virtual 3D spaces have been existing for a long time, as early as the 1970s (text-centric MUDs or Multi-User Dungeons). Games like CyberTown were also released much before Second Life’s 2003 release.
Several video game developers actually deploy a “live-service” model. Programmers periodically add and update their games- alluring players to return again and again while alluding to a convincing illusion of an actual changing world. Even non-metaverse game titles like League of Legends and Overwatch make regular updates to create an immersive “living” virtual experience for gamers.
The Metaverse Impact: Rise of AR and VR
VR is often seen as a niche product. Meanwhile, AR technology is still nascent in several aspects. Therefore it comes as a surprise when we hear the possible impact of metaverse and gaming in general on AR and VR. Within a short timespan, Facebook has clocked nearly 8 million of Oculus Quest 2 sales. Multiple VR video games have made over USD 1 million in sales revenue. Yes, it is agreeable that the numbers are minute compared to smartphone or console sales. But, we also have to understand that the market did not exist a decade ago. Apple has been reported to be working on AR/VR gear. Nreal, a Chinese organization, has sent successful shipments of high-tech consumer AR goggles at affordable prices.
A futuristic concept like the metaverse is difficult to define or outline. It is necessary to admit that the metaverse can not be currently defined through a fixed list of attributes. Gathering from leading tech industry experts, a metaverse may include some of the following features:
- Services or applications that overlap with existing prevalent web services and/or actual-world activities.
- 3D visual graphics and customized avatars that appear in real-time.
- Multiple P2P social interactions. But compared to conventional games, task completion objectives or competition is much lesser.
- Assistant for users building custom virtual items or ecosystems.
- Compatibility with external economic systems for users to make actual profits from virtual items.
- Efficient designs that complement VR and AR headsets in the metaverse environments. Several non-compatible designs function equally as well.
NFT and Cryptocurrency Features
It is logical that digital crypto assets will power the metaverse economy. Like metaverse, cryptocurrencies are also virtual and do not take any physical space. Designers and developers have been toying with the idea of crypto implementation. A low-profile franchise, The Sandbox actually incorporates a complex economy on the foundations of cryptocurrency.
Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs is the latest buzzword in the metaverse. In simple layman terms, NFT technology creates a tamper-proof record of declarations stating the ownership of a virtual asset or item and can be traded among users in the metaverse network. In terms of potential, it will soon be vital to the financial architecture and can be transferred from one platform of a metaverse to another.
Global blockchain development pioneers Hashcash Consultants design highly secure game and payment environments that enhance the overall experience. The HashCash HC Net Blockchain allows game developers to build their own crypto-collectibles and NFTs. Users can also enjoy the benefits of a decentralized network in their gaming platform, and take micro-payments from games quickly, with fractional transaction charges due to SegWit implementation.
Possible Implementations of Metaverse in Real-Life
There are conflicting variations of whether the metaverse can be implemented in real life. According to Facebook and Epic, the work they are doing consists of small fragments of a bigger interconnected metaverse, much similar to the present-day internet. The metaverse exists, irrespective of their contributions.
However, game developers argue with the case of Second Life, The Sandbox, or even the example of Microsoft Minecraft. All of these games have entire virtual worlds where players do not need to complete game objectives. The economy of these ecosystems also interacts with the real world; players can buy modded products, crypto-collectibles, or trade-in NFTs.
An interesting implementation possibility is the establishment of metaverse embassies, as noted in Binance founder Changpeng Zhao’s recent cryptic tweet. The tweet states:
“There was an interesting discussion about putting embassies in the metaverse.
- Immersive Experience
- Easier to access, globally
- Trendy with the next generation
- Blockchain level authenticity
- Much lower cost than physical buildings
Metaverse is the next stage of the digital revolution. A growing technology, it has the power to disrupt the entire world’s operations as we see today. Though presently confined in the gaming and associated social media platform technologies- implementation possibilities are simply limitless. Like every advanced technology, regulation and constraint should prevent it from misutilization.