In 1992, the American writer Neal Stephenson wrote the famous science fiction novel Snow Crash. The book described a three-dimensional virtual space, a lifelike simulation of the real world where humans interact with others. The concept of “metaverse” coined in this book has since then been used to refer to a new world based on virtual reality.
To put it simply, the metaverse is a virtual space shared by a group of people. The term “metaverse” consists of two parts, in which the prefix “meta”- The word itself is a combo of the Greek word “meta,” which means ”after or beyond” and the suffix “-verse” stands for “universe”. The metaverse is considered to be the next-generation Internet communications based on VR, AR, and AI.
A VR device is required to access the virtual world that connects various digital environments. Compared to the VR we commonly see in games today, metaverse will bring you a totally different virtual world, where you can carry out any activities as you do in your daily life, such as working, playing games, attending concerts, watching movies, and even interacting with friends or anyone else.
You can imagine the metaverse as the OASIS in the movie Ready Player One. All you need to do is create a 3D image of yourself, or “avatar,” which will be your doppelganger in the metaverse virtual world to experience, on your behalf, things you can’t do in the real world.
But so far, the metaverse is still a concept. There is no unified definition of it.
Typically, the buzz around VR and AR technologies come up every few years, but will fade quickly. Some think that the metaverse is a continuation of the VR craze, but in fact, the metaverse covers more extensive spaces than VR and AR do.
On March 10, 2021, Roblox went public on the New York Stock Exchange, with its stock price rose by 45% on the first day, making it the “first stock of metaverse”.
According to Roblox CEO, the metaverse has eight features: identity, friends, immersive, low friction, variety, anywhere, economy, and civility.
Most of the manifestations of the metaverse stem from games, and gradually integrate the Internet, digital entertainment, and social networks, and may integrate social, economic and commercial activities in the future. It connects the virtual space with the real world through core tools such as game engines, digital twins, digital natives, and virtual reality. At present, the four core applications of the metaverse include games, art, life and work.
The Internet today can no longer be called an advanced technology. The Internet content holds obvious attraction for users, and social media is reaching saturation. Under the circumstances, the emergence of the metaverse not only expands the dimension of user experience, but also breeds new content and forms. The “world” to be developed is expected to have overwhelming competitiveness and become a new generation of Internet and even an important part of people’s lives.
In October 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company renamed Meta, and had an investment of $15 billion to support the metaverse content creation, which drove the metaverse concept to be booming. Following Facebook’s renaming, technology giants from across the globe start to compete in the metaverse market. Whether it is a new player like Meta whose original business is mobile Internet, or a veteran player like Microsoft who has been involved in different sectors throughout the evolution of the Internet, all is trying to seize the opportunity in the metaverse market.
However, there are still many questions that remain unsolved before realizing the metaverse, discussions about which are heated among investors and tech giants. If the metaverse is really the future of the Internet, none of them want to be left behind.
In addition, we have an unprecedented feeling that the technology the world depends on is emerging in a new way. This feeling deepens when some technologies are no longer as “complicated” as they were before with the development of VR games.
In the early days when the metaverse was rising in popularity, opponents thought it was nothing more than a gimmick. However, the truth is that people are stepping from the real world into the virtual world that has actually long existed in a more immersive way.
The word “virtual” brings people endless imagination and creative driving force, while also producing many uncertainties. The privacy and information security issues in the metaverse world need to be solved and improved. Further, the real-name verification, which may cause problems even in real life, also needs to be seriously considered in the metaverse.
People have already been envisioning the metaverse in other forms, like in books, films and television plays, long before it caught the attention of the public in 2021. In_ The Matrix _released in 1999, for example, the characters can completely immerse themselves in the virtual world by wearing the device and feel the same as in the real world. They could not even tell if it’s AI or a real person they are talking to.
In the novel The Three Body Problem serialized in 2006, people were fully immersed in a virtual world when wearing the equipment. They got exactly the same experience as in real life, physically and emotionally. And in the Westworld adapted from the 1973 sci-fi TV series of the same name directed and written by American novelist Michael Crichton, we can see bodies invulnerable to swords, an arbitrary world…
In the hit movie Ready Player One released in 2018, you only need to wear a VR device to enter a virtual world that is completely different from the real one, and watch exciting and thrilling scenes happening right before you.
It now appears that all these works show the prototype of the metaverse. Science fictions are now evolving to become a reality that the public can access.
After Facebook changed its name to Meta, a joke in social media prevailed that the metaverse it plans to build could be renamed “Zuckerverse” - the largest sub-universe operated by Mark Zuckerberg. Managed by a privately owned listed company, Zuckerverse’s ultimate goal is to make profits instead of promoting it for public welfare.
Emerging concepts that are highly correlated to the metaverse include blockchain and cryptocurrency, as well as listed metaverse companies whose stock prices have skyrocketed. The data collection, technical support, and platform construction in the early stage of the metaverse rely on extensive human, material and financial resources. Therefore, it is never a charitable cause. When the metaverse becomes a reality, will it benefit ordinary people? It will at least influence the lives of ordinary people.
VR technology has come a long way in recent years, and its popularity has grown even more. In addition, the implementation and development of technologies like NFT and AI have also become the basis for the explosion of the metaverse concept last year.
The metaverse is an immersive virtual world, where necessary activities such as social interaction and trading are also accessible. However, since the development of trading in the metaverse is still in its infancy, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can be regarded as a direct and simple manifestation at present. NFTs are irreplaceable, unique, and indivisible, and enjoy low compatibility and item properties. Their market transparency and the single circulation channel make NFTs the economic basis for building the metaverse, which determines the uniqueness and verifiability of virtual assets.
In other words, the metaverse is composed of NFTs. Anything that is privately owned, ranging from houses to clothes, can be minted into NFTs for trading and socializing. More than that, NFTs have changed the way that virtual assets are issued. It allows users to mint NFTs by themselves, earn income, and transfer assets across platforms, contributing to maintaining the decentralization of the metaverse.
But people’s growing interest in NFT products, which provide a way to mark ownership of native digital assets, mirrors how the virtual economy works. A more advanced digital world may require better-performing, stronger and more stable network connections, which are exactly what 5G networks can deliver.
Anyway, the metaverse is still in its early stage for now. Maybe it is just an ambitious idea that no one can tell whether it will come true. Despite that, we will see tech giants compete to implement the concept in the next decade, or even for a longer period of time.
At present, some games have been considered to be the prototype of the metaverse.
In Fortnite, people may gather to enjoy a virtual concert to offset the limitations of being unable to go out due to epidemics; in Decentraland, many well-known big companies have already “invested in the metaverse”.
Also, in Grand Theft Auto (GTA), you can customize your character in a number of ways, and everything in the whole GTA world can be changed and customized. And the virtual assets can be traded there. This is so much like a metaverse.
In Minecraft, players can create a world according to your personal preferences. You will have the best possible experience in the VR version, which provides you with an immersive feeling as in the metaverse.
There are also some games that can use NFTs for trading, such as Axie Infinity and PVU, where you can collect different creatures, get rewards, and trade through NFTs.
Now, people develop a strong interest in the metaverse that is still exploring more potential and forms. How will the metaverse participate in people’s daily lives in the near future? Will it bring us a “double transcendence” experience that transcends both the physical world and the digital world?
Despite the huge convenience and pleasure that metaverse may bring, we should always keep a clear mind when participating in any relevant projects. Be sure to think twice when reading information and advertisements that tout the metaverse. For more information, follow Gate Learn.