A Simple Guide to the Metaverse – The Next Internet?

Amongst the hot topics of virtual reality, augmented reality and other blooming new technologies, the ‘metaverse’ is often treated as a buzzword thrown around with little thought. In this featured article, we’ll take a closer look that will hopefully leave everyone knowing the basics – here’s a simple guide to the metaverse!

Metaverse – Behind the Name

No, the word ‘metaverse’ did not originate from the Facebook Company rebranding to Meta back in 2021 – it’s actually the other way round.

Actually, the source of the word ‘metaverse’ is an interesting dystopian narrative by author Neal Stephenson in his book titled ‘Snow Crash’. In this narrative, a distant future has humans interacting with one another through a 3D, virtual-reality in which users inhabit 3D avatars and own virtual property – sounds familiar?

Apart from having similar elements to other dystopian stories, such as the popular title of ‘Ready Player One’, the original metaverse described in ‘Snow Crash’ is reflected in the technology being devised today which is why the name was adapted.

While the name has been around for a while, only now has technology managed to reach a point where these ideas could actually become a reality.

Defining the Metaverse

While there are many definitions of the metaverse, one commonly used definition is the following:

A virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.

Oxford Languages

As a virtual-reality space, it is a particular use of virtual reality – be sure not to get them mixed up. To reiterate, the metaverse is a form of virtual reality, with virtual reality being the underlying technology for its use. Learn more about the state of virtual reality in our other featured article discussing VR.

With regards to the definition, it sounds very similar to the definition of what the internet is nowadays. It’s for this reason that there’s so much excitement surrounding it. The metaverse, as a space with computer generated environment and other users, could allow for a 3D version of the internet, an upgrade to the current version, a reimagining of the potential of the internet.

Of course you could be thinking – if I’m playing an online VR video game and interacting with other users, isn’t that practically the same thing? The difference here is that a video VR video game is its own closed system, restricted to other gamers on the same platform with functions limited to the game itself while the metaverse is a single open network like today’s internet, with unlimited functions as we’ll discuss further.

While that’s the vision, there are still a few developments required before the metaverse reaches a state where it’s a heightened experience of the internet – we’re in the early days.

Understanding the Metaverse – Why Now?

Earlier, we mentioned that one reason why the metaverse is catching on now is thanks to the advancement of VR technology.

Though, there have been earlier attempts at harnessing this idea, as exemplified by the following:

  • Second Life – 2003
  • PlayStation Home – 2008 (closed in 2015)

And now, 1 year ago, the Facebook Company rebranded to Meta and revealed a demo of its ‘metaverse’:

Credits: Guardian News

In addition, Apple’s recently released Apple Vision Pro is another huge step forward, seemingly geared for a metaverse experience. Also, although we haven’t focused on it, augmented reality (less immersive than VR) is another technology to be used for interactions in the metaverse.

Beyond technology however, the applications in 2023 are what have enthusiasts curious through blockchain. Simply put, blockchain technology is an advanced database mechanism that allows transparent information sharing within a business network – data stored in blocks linked in a chain.

Stemming from this technology are NFTS (non-fungible tokens) which allow individuals to own digital properties. And just like that, ownership of property and business transactions are possible in the metaverse.

Also worth noting is the improvement in VR gaming technology, with the recent release of the Playstation VR 2 for PS5 as another landmark product in the scene.

In this potential metaverse, there are games to play, top of the line headsets to use, business transactions and seemingly, so much more to do.

The Future of the Metaverse – How Soon is Soon?

Right now, the metaverse does not exist, but is a hype-worthy topic which would shake the world. With companies such as Facebook pouring in $10 billion of investment in 2021, many big technology companies want to be the first ones into the ring.

With consultancy companies such as McKinsey & Company predicting a metaverse economy of $5 trillion in 2030, thanks to the heavy focus on e-commerce, it seems like a win-win for everybody.

Right now, the future of the metaverse is tied to many other technologies, such as artificial intelligence, VR hardware and software, blockchain, computing and 3D modeling to name a few.

Also worth noting, is that just like the internet, the metaverse will have its positives and negatives, requiring strict policies and legislation which varies from country to country to ensure a safe experience for all individuals of all ages.

Bearing this in mind, the next version of the internet is impossible to predict with regards to a release date, yet if an early version is available to the public by 2030, it wouldn’t be surprising.

While we could have definitely dived into more detail, we hope that this featured article helped develop some understanding of this novel concept.