The term “metaverse” seems to be popping up everywhere recently. Is it the future or just the latest buzzword? Also, what does the term actually mean and what should we know about it?
What Exactly is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is the combination of 2 concepts that you are likely familiar with already, virtual reality and a digital alternate life. Technology speculators have long imagined a future time when we would value our digital or virtual life as much as our real one. The metaverse looks to bring this dream into fruition. There is not 1 metaverse, but several metaverses with new ones added constantly. Time will ultimately tell which one/s succeed and which ones fail. In theory, we would spend much of our personal time and possibly even work in these virtual worlds or metaverses. Just like in the actual world, we would still need currencies to exchange goods and services, clothes to wear for our digital avatars and activities to engage in.
Over the last year, technology giants including Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft have been posturing for position in order to gain market share in the Metaverse. Facebook plans to build it’s own metaverse complete with a digital 3D world where you can interact socially with other visitors via your avatar. They even renamed the company from Facebook to “Meta” showing strong conviction in their belief that the metaverse is the future for their platforms. Microsoft has recently purchased video game developer “Activision Blizzard” for $68.7 billion and stated the metaverse was a reason for the purchase. Google has worked on several virtual and augmented reality projects over the last several years and Apple has devices in the pipeline as well.
At this time the term metaverse may still seem a bit vague, but discussing what the internet was in the early 90’s may have had a similar feeling. There may have been clarity that this would be a game changing technology, however exactly how it would materialize was open for interpretation and impossible to determine. Currently, the largest metaverses are The Sandbox and Decentraland which run on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain. Virtual land and virtual assets in these metaverses exploded in value over the last year and are sold as NFTs on popular NFT marketplaces like OpenSea. They also each incorporate the respective tokens (SAND and MANA) as currencies within the virtual worlds. Both tokens have had astronomical price hikes and are now worth billions of dollars as investors flock to participate in the growth of these metaverses.
What will the Metaverse look like?
We can look to video games as a compass to how some of these worlds may look and feel. Games like Fortnite and World of Warcraft offer virtual worlds where players can interact as well as buy and sell goods. Fortnite offers virtual events and even incorporates virtual reality via the oculus virtual reality headset. Several years back a world named “2nd life” ambitiously tried to become our home for our digital avatar life, but failed to catch on as expected. Some speculate that the technology was not ready and the timing was a bit premature, however with the exponential growth in technology and people spending more time online than ever before this may be the perfect time for the right metaverse to take off in popularity.