What Is the Metaverse? Is the Future of the web the Metaverse?

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Just when we are still exploring the huge potential and possibilities of the internet, we have the demigods of Silicon Valley planning for a virtual world through the ‘Metaverse’. Ever since CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook changing its name to ‘Meta’, it has envigorated his dedication to the creation of the metaverse. This move by Facebook has catapulted investors’ interest in the world of the metaverse. Tech moguls like Microsoft and Facebook are pro-actively contributing to building the metaverse which if successful will augment the phase of the internet and human interaction to another level.

Metaverse has created buzz for quite some time, more so with the change of Facebook into Meta. However, how much do we know of the metaverse which has created such hype. What is this metaverse, what is the Facebook metaverse, what will it do, is it real, should we be worried?, are questions that have eluded us. This article is here to answer these questions for you.

Key points of the article

  • Defining metaverse/ what is the metaverse
  • Is metaverse the next big thing
  • What can we expect from the metaverse?
  • What is included in the metaverse?
  • Control and ownership of the metaverse
  • The facebook metaverse
  • The metaverse world

Is the metaverse real?

It is more important to address this question before attempting to define what is the metaverse. The answer to the question is the metaverse real? is contingent on the time frame. Today, if that question, is asked the answer will be no, as the tech hyped metaverse is still a concept in the laboratory. A few years down the line, the metaverse could be a possible reality.

To set the record straight, the metaverse is not real at the moment but is a vision of the future internet. It is harder to define metaverse when it is still a concept and not a reality. A lot of what ‘will be of the metaverse is spoken and some tech moguls have tried defining the term and the concept. Let us try to understand the metaverse meaning.

What is the metaverse?

So how do we define metaverse, a concept which is just in the making?. Trying to define what is to come is quite an open-ended discussion with millions of possibilities. There is no universally accepted standard definition of the concept of metaverse. However, let us salvage what we can to define this lose-end concept.

According to Investopedia, the metaverse is the combination of social media sources, games that are augmented reality and virtual reality online games put in one platform. It also includes cryptocurrencies that  allow the  users to interact virtually as well as use it as currencies. A virtual reality that will augment the experience of the user on a whole new level. Elements of sound and other sensory will give the user the experience of reality in the virtual fictional world.

Microsoft defines metaverse as a digital space inhabited by a digital representation of people, places, and things. Wall Street Journal defines metaverse in almost the same lines as an extensive online world where people interact via digital avatar of self. Conclusively it is safe to say that the metaverse is bringing elements of reality in the fictional virtual world.

For example, in the metaverse, you can have a real-life experience of having coffee with your friend who lives literally in another part of the world, through the aid of an Oculus VR headset. Both you and your friend’s avatar will be sitting in a real-life virtual coffee shop having a completely natural conversation. The environment, the sound, and the avatar will be real-life replicas that will create an experience of real-life meetings. This is what metaverse promises in the future.

The metaverse is the next version or upgraded version of the internet. As the metaverse becomes a reality, it will create an online space or platform that will be used by the users to interact with each other in a multidimensional manner. For this experience, high-end technology gadgets and devices, for example an upgraded VR headset will be used. The metaverse will envision creating a virtual world with virtual reality features.

Creating a space where the digital world and the physical world converge is what metaverse wants to achieve. Hence, creating the ‘meta-universe where the real and virtual merge. As Microsoft postulates, that the metaverse is now the new version of the internet.

Metaverse is not something new

Let’s start by clearing some air, metaverse is not a concept that Facebook has created. The inception of the concept goes back to the dystopian science-fiction novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. He coined the term metaverse in the novel, as a 3D avatar virtual world. Another example of the metaverse homage is seen in Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One. Movies like the Matrix are all fictions that carry the dystopian idea of the virtual world.

The concept has been heavily inspired by such fictional works, eventually leading to the reality of the metaverse. Facebook’s move to change its name to Meta and its renewed commitment to making the metaverse a reality might be the reason people think metaverse is something Facebook created.

Metaverse is not owned by Facebook

There are so many misconceptions about the metaverse. One is that Facebook owns the metaverse. To be clear, neither Facebook nor any other individual or tech company owns the metaverse. Just like the internet is not owned by any institution, so also is a metaverse not owned by anyone and is an open platform, says Sai Krishna V K (Co-founder A R Firm Scapic).

Who controls the metaverse?

The conversation about the ownership and control of the future digital world – the metaverse, has created a new battle among the tech world. Realizing the possibilities and the promise that the future digital world has, tech companies are investing big times, and everyone wants a share and control over it. So then who will control the metaverse?. Will the metaverse be owned by corporations, or will metaverse be open? Will it be decentralized like the layout of the Internet?

According to Alison McCauley (Forbes), there are already battles lines that have been drawn about who controls the metaverse. There are Silicon Valley demigods like Microsoft, Roblox, and Facebook that are investing huge arsenal to get ahead and dominate the metaverse. In comparison, there are also newcomers individual parties who are advocating for the decentralized and interoperable metaverse, governed by the people. If the control is decentralized, it would mean that even individuals can have ownership of digital assets, and the value is shared.

The quality and the idea that the metaverse can display or project will strongly implicate the amount of investment that goes into building the digital space- metaverse. However, much of the investment and control will also be contingent on the early results of what the metaverse can do. There are already global metaverse festivals that are have taken place. Companies like Roblox and Decentraland have organized their first virtual music festival and Metaverse festival, respectively.

Who eventually will have control is something we will have to wait and watch as we await progress in realizing the metaverse universe.

Is metaverse the next big thing?

With the investment and amount of work being invested to create the metaverse, Microsoft says the future is here and that future is metaverse. So much noise and hype have been created in the tech world as huge tech companies are moving towards making metaverse a reality. The seriousness of the metaverse as a reality in the future is hugely re-emphasized by the moves by Microsoft with the Mesh and Facebook announcement changing its name to Meta.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of Facebook’s name being changed to Meta needs to be understood in terms of how serious he is about creating the metaverse. It is also to be noted that Facebook is not metaverse. The social media giant Meta has the talent and resources to curate the metaverse where it plans to hire 10,000 people from the European Union to realize the task.

Microsoft is also very serious about its involvement and participation in the making of the metaverse. In the Ignite conference held recently, Microsoft talked about its plans to make Mesh and its Team collaboration to be brought together. Microsoft is pushing for Mesh to be the platform that connects the virtual worlds or environments. The Collaboration team describes Mesh feature as a platform that “combine the mixed-reality capabilities of Microsoft Mesh, which allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences, with the productivity tools of Teams, where people can join virtual meetings, send chats, collaborate on shared documents, and more.”

The race has gathered big companies like Roblox, Decentraland, Tinder, etc to bandwagon in this race of the metaverse. Such moves by big companies make it conclusive that metaverse is a concept which is here to stay and become a reality.

The recent hype of the  Metaverse

Besides the announcement of the social media mogul Facebook change to Meta, other underlying reasons prompted tech companies to become more serious about the metaverse. The necessity that justifies the creation of the metaverse the most could be the recent pandemic.

The pandemic saw unprecedented reliance on the digital world to keep our jobs, schools, and other services working. Almost everything went online. Zoom meeting for school, company meeting, work from home required access to the internet, etc etc. Our lives went on due to the presence of social media and the internet.

Microsoft emphasizes the ‘flexibility of what the virtual world metaverse can create should there be another pandemic. Flexibility in accommodating to any situation of time and space is the biggest driver of the metaverse. In a  way, one can explain the metaverse as an upgrade from the zoom call meeting. While one struggles to keep with all the individual cameras on the screen, metaverse promises of a virtual classroom where you can have the same environment as the teaching class.

Creating an avatar can ease up many wrinkles. The big companies are trying to bring the physical self closer to the digital real by augmenting real-life features. It is breaking barriers and creating new possibilities for the digital world.

The Facebook Metaverse

The social media giant’s commitment to the metaverse is looks and sounds almost like a solid one. As  Sai Krishna V K, sees metaverse as a logical next step as to what comes after a smartphone, the internet, and now metaverse. Facebook’s purchase of the Oculus was indeed a step way ahead into the future of the internet. Meta has invested almost $50 million in global research and program partners to develop metaverse technology. It plans on investing heavily in coming up with metaverse devices like the Oculus Vr headsets AR glasses and wristband to access metaverse.

The Facebook idea of metaverse can be simply as an experience, service, and that also has hardware. However, one needs to understand that so much so of what is being spoken about of the virtual space is actually more physical than we can imagine. Mike Issac, The New York Times, writes on how building the metaverse by Meta is building physical metaverse stores. It means that metaverse is being introduced through building retail stores that are eventually expected to spread to the rest. These stores would carry metaverse technology devices such as VR headsets developed by companies like the Reality Labs division. The stores carrying metaverse devices will introduce the metaverse to the people.

As mentioned above, the companies have now started hosting metaverse festivals and concerts to sensitize the people as well as ease in people to the metaverse idea. These devices are literally the key to the metaverse, are in the physical form.

Metaverse now and the future

Although we have extensively spoken about how the metaverse is about a distant idea yet to be realized. Yet, we can see certain aspects or have already tasted the metaverse today through games like virtual video games. Virtual games are quite popular in the market and it does show a glimpse of what the virtual world can be with elements from reality. However, these devices are not metaverse but are examples of the metaverse and what metaverse could be. It is but still a non-existing idea.

What metaverse will create in terms of job scenario?

What the metaverse promises its users is that workspace will be augmented to multidimensional features. With regards to the work, it can be done from your home space without being in the meeting or an office. You can be sitting in your kitchen and your avatar will be attending your meeting in the virtual space so also will your co-workers.

There is no need for commuting from spaces to a common space to work or to study. It can heavily change the classroom education experience of the education system too. Contactless and remote teaching will overtake the classroom norm is the near scenario of what the metaverse can do.

Is the Metaverse ruining our reality?

Should we be worried about the effect or the long repercussion of the metaverse? As mentioned in the earlier section, it aims at creating a space where one need not move from a space to access to work or meetings. To what level does the metaverse reduce our human reality into is what is concerning. Human beings are social animals who do not live in isolation but in a social circle with human interaction and relations.

Douglas Rushkoff (media theorist and author) in a recently written article writes about how metaverse impacts humanity. There is already the criticism of how much social media has impacted human interaction; we are absent while we are still together in the company. One cannot deny the impact of the internet on the lives of the human species. Every physical interaction has been reduced to that of interaction in a virtual space. There are cases of people living a life of fassad behind cameras. All of this is for global connectivity with no local connectivity.

The number of depression, anxiety, and suicide cases throughout the pandemic has been huge. There is more mental health issue in the world than it can ever be precedent. The lack of human interaction, being closed up in a room, the feeling of isolation is high contributors to mental issues. The creation of the metaverse can give rise to such issues to a paramount level that cannot be imagined. As metaverse advocates, virtual meetings rather than real human interaction. In the near scenario, there might not be any need for physical office space for even running an office.

The impact on the other front can also be ascertained by understanding how it can impact the transport sector, eating joints, or restaurants. While sitting at your dinner table, you are having dinner with your friends in the virtual space. I mean, the food industry can be at a loss. If there are no commuters who go to places for work, to eat, to learn or even to read and even to visit, where does the transport and aviation industry land. Why spend thousands of dollars for a vacation while enjoying a virtual vacation sitting in the comfort of your bedroom.

The argument becomes-if the technology is augmenting to fit our realities or are we augmenting ourselves to fit technology. Douglas Rushkoff argues creation of the metaverse is more of augmenting humans and the reality of nature to suit the technology. While technology was invented to cater to help our daily lives if it takes away the essence of human nature, what does metaverse reduce a social human being to?

There will be more criticism that will come along, with the way metaverse will interact with our daily lives. Because its impact is going to be huge, the impact on human interaction is also going to be great. One can only anticipate the lengths of the impact.

The metaverse in the future

The metaverse, however, is something that cannot be stopped. Rather it is only going to get bigger and bigger in the near future. Mark Zukerberg plans to use the concept of metaverse to augment how we work. It means that he is strongly moving towards creating a remote work lifestyle. This can be a reality because it owns most of the social media outlets that induce these ideas and making it a reality for him won’t be a far-fetched dream.

There will be more virtual ownership of assets and cryptocurrencies can become a daily affair of the future. With more and more influential people investing in creating their avatar for metaverse, this will only give rise to the NFT market places and the 3D ideas.

Ending thoughts

The meta-universe platform where every actor comes together virtually is something that is a far-fetched idea but not something that cannot be achieved. Besides the metaverse technology devices that will enter the market, more noise and conversation will happen on who controls the meta-universe and who earns the revenue of such a space.

Now that huge giant companies have come forwards and are seriously betting and investing in the creation of metaverse, there will be smaller and other tech companies that will join the bandwagon of a social media giant like Facebook. The fact is that this such support for the metaverse will force smaller stakeholders and companies to join the bandwagon. There will be more virtual space stores around the world that will sensitize the idea of the metaverse before it becomes a reality.

Through the metaverse, a possible scenario can be the democratization of the virtual space or the virtual landscape. This means that metaverse will be accessible to individuals and parties. There will be a huge impact on the economy of the developing countries that are still to catch up with the developed countries. What the metaverse will bring in the future is more so anticipated and what impact it will bring on our lives needs to be waited and watched.

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