Facebook’s parent company recently rebranded its name that focuses on the metaverse – a concept that has become the new buzzword in internet technology. Although Facebook’s rebranding may have popularized the idea, the notion of the metaverse isn’t new. In fact, the term has been floating around for years now, and everything from digital currencies to smartphones to virtual reality was a step in the whole process. But what is the metaverse?
Metaverse is described as the next version of the Internet. It’s a digital world where we can experience a parallel life to our real-world existence. But what is really the metaverse, and why is everyone talking about it? Together, let’s discover how this next big thing is revolutionizing our online lives.
What Is the Metaverse?
Depending on what its source is, the metaverse represents different variations of a single concept. The term “metaverse” broadly refers to a shared virtual environment where people can access and interact through the Internet. It’s also called a digital space made more realistic by virtual reality (VR).
You often hear the term metaverse in online gaming, where people can interact with others virtually inside the world’s digital twin. Metaverse is also connected to blockchain technology, creating a digital world where users freely engage. It also transcends the limitations of the real world. For instance, you can purchase and sell virtual properties and other assets using digital tokens, such as cryptocurrencies.
While many sci-fi books and films include metaverse-like systems, it is still not yet a reality. However, the idea of virtual reality is believed to be the next evolution of the Internet.
Where Did the Term Metaverse Originate?
The concept of the metaverse isn’t new. The 29-year old novel of Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, actually coined the term “metaverse.” According to the book, it’s an imaginary place made accessible to the public where people use avatars to explore the virtual environment. It’s a way for people to escape a dystopian reality. Inside the digital space, developers build properties, parks, and other such areas like free-combat zones, vast hovering overhead light shows, and places where 3D spacetime rules are ignored.
Facebook mentioned that the metaverse wouldn’t become a reality overnight by a single company. It will take years or even decades to build the metaverse, and tech companies still need to perfect many things before arriving at that point.
Recently, Facebook invested $50 million to fund non-profit groups that help in building the metaverse. Additionally, Facebook is currently working on wrist-based controllers that use augmented reality (AR). These devices work through reading the signals sent through the neurons by the human brain to our hands.
Here’s What a Metaverse Could Look Like
If you’re curious about what is the metaverse, here are some components making up the virtual environment.
Avatars to Represent Users
Whether it’s a call or video conferencing, long-distance meetings have some limitations. People can’t interact the same way they do in person. However, with new technologies such as virtual meeting spaces, people can overcome these concerns.
These spaces powered by Spatial allow team members to collaborate using AR and VR headsets, like Oculus Quest, iOS, Android, and even web browsers. Another feature is creating realistic and personalized avatars that can represent a user accurately in the virtual environment. The virtual presence feels more akin to a face-to-face meeting.
Virtual Environment For Avatars to Interact With
Another component of the metaverse is the virtual environment mimicking the space constraints of the real world, as seen in the online game – Second Life. In other cases, users can share spaces for an event or a particular game, like a concert held in Fortnite.
And such concerts are becoming more and more popular. Ariana Grande is the latest performer who offered a taste of music in Fortnite’s metaverse.
Currently, the digital world is like a big shopping center where stores use their own content, currencies, and IDs. However, in an idealized metaverse, everything must be interoperable. You must be able to carry over virtual properties, digital assets, and data as you move from one area to another. For example, if you purchase a car in a virtual store inside the metaverse, you must be able to use your car throughout the virtual world.
A small team called the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group was formed to help bridge the virtual worlds and build the metaverse. Their goal is to create a group of creators, artists, innovators, and developers to explore the concepts involved in the design and development of digital spaces.
Full 3D telepresence via VR or AR goggles
In an ideal metaverse, we will have ways to create digital twins – models that are the exact counterparts of the natural world’s physical objects, such as buildings, bridges, and cars. These models also create an experience of motion or touch for the user. VR and AR allow us to experience full 3D telepresence with other avatars in the same digital space. According to Meta, it’s like interacting with each other in a shared space and making eye contact. It advances past the “magic windows” of our screens.
Right now, we can see early efforts of this 3D telepresence like Meta’s Horizon Workplaces and VRChat. However, John Carmack, a legend in VR worlds and gaming, pointed out that these early efforts are still a far cry from the ideal metaverse. There are still many technical problems to overcome to have a 100 percent functional VR metaverse, where people can wander in and out of the virtual environment.
Examples of the Metaverse
Although the best of the metaverse is yet to come, here are some great examples of how it’s starting to manifest itself in creating compelling virtual environments.
Facebook’s Horizon Worlds
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, initiated new stepping stones towards the metaverse. Zuckerberg highlights that the next big thing would support the most significant experience of all – connecting people. Recently, the company introduced a $10 million Creator Fund to expand Facebook Horizon and support the creator and developer community.
Horizon Worlds, formerly Horizon, is an online video game using Oculus Quest 2 VR headset to connect and entertain people in VR-based spaces. The company announced it would add more people to test Horizon Worlds’ release to further its development.
Fortnite is another online video game that has become a global phenomenon with over 350 million registered players. It has become the most welcoming game that turned many celebrities into players and vice versa. Some of the one-off experiences are the Fornite concerts of Marshmello and Travis Scott in 2019 and 2020, respectively. While Travis Scott drew 12.3 million people in his virtual concert, Ariana Grande’s in-game event beat this number with a whopping 27 million global unique players.
Ready Player One
Ready Player One is a sci-fi adventure film based on the novel of Ernest Cline. It’s directed by Steven Spielberg and hit the theaters, raking in $53 million in North America. It has earned another $126.1 million internationally. So this shows the promise and excitement surrounding digital worlds.
The film’s main setting, the OASIS, seems like a digital wonderland in 2045, where most of its action unfolds. It depicts the metaverse concept, showing that life in the digital space is more exciting than reality. The OASIS has become the inspiration for many VR developers, and many of them are trying to replicate it.
Somnium Space is a VR world-builder platform that allows users to buy and sell land. It’s built on the Ethereum blockchain with its own cryptocurrency called Somnium Cubes, which is used for trading properties. The primary funding for this platform comes from selling VR properties, which can then be used for e-commerce, social networking, gaming, and other events.
IMVU is a social app based on 3D avatars allowing users to explore the metaverse, interact with friends, hang out at events, shop, and even earn real money through trading products. Founded in 2004, the platform has grown with over seven million users and 400,000 virtual products in 2020.
In this platform, the 3D avatars can hang out in a themed environment where you can express moods, laugh at things, show off dance moves, or just hug someone. In fact, the platform has even become a dating site with some chat rooms and special matching services.
How Far Are We From the Metaverse?
Several big tech companies have started outlining plans for creating metaverses. However, the metaverse mainly serves as a concept that existing digital spaces such as social media can be deeply integrated into our lives in the future.
For metaverse to become a reality, it needs countless innovations, technologies, new processes, and protocols if it’s going to work. The significant switch to the metaverse won’t happen overnight. Instead, its existence will emerge over time, and the change will be gradual as new products and services are introduced. However, it offers enormous potential for businesses and individuals.
For instance, a part of this gradual change is merging VR with social networking, which is believed to be the first step. Currently, Facebook heavily invests in AR and VR technologies to make this a reality in the next five years.
Metaverse: The Future of Reality
The metaverse is the next generation of the Internet. Although it won’t happen anytime soon, there is growing excitement around it, with the biggest tech companies worldwide racing to look for a first-mover advantage.
There are still many challenges and problems to overcome before we entirely move our lives online. Although we have become used to performing many activities online such as socializing, shopping, and working in virtual environments, we are still a work in progress in terms of the metaverse concept, where these things are joined all together.
The future of 2D animations, for instance, is expected to use the latest and emerging technologies such as VR and 360-degree video technology.
Now you know what is the metaverse. And for the time being, check out our 2D animation services to give your animations perfect timing and life-like motions.