Since Facebook announced its name change to Meta, the tech space has been abuzz with the term ‘metaverse’ and how this new virtual world will fundamentally change how humanity operates for the better part of the century. Although the metaverse we keep hearing about today is a far cry from Ready Player One’s OASIS, tech leaders like Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg are projecting that early semblances of a coherent metaverse could be here within the next decade.
Two years ago, most people might have turned a high nose to the idea of a virtual world where they spend most of their time working, playing games, and doing recreational activities. But the pandemic showed us that the internet is capable of helping us feel more connected to each other, and the metaverse could further help us be more comfortable in situations that call for a suspension of regular human interaction.
Of course, like all good ideas, there is an element of fantasy, making it difficult to predict how well they’ll perform. For all we know, the metaverse could implode, becoming the tombstone for companies like Meta. However, it could also be the next frontier for social interaction on the internet.
Anyway, if the metaverse is just half of what the biggest tech companies think it to be, it is super important for you to know how to get ready for that virtual world. But first, the question that everybody wants to ask but not in public.
What is the Metaverse?
Experts urge us to think of the Metaverse as a 3-dimensional internet. People call it the next iteration of the internet—one that we relate to not just by photos and videos and text, but by touch and interaction between elements rendered in Virtual or Augmented Reality that emulate real-world situations.
Mark Zuckerberg told Youtuber Sara Dietschy that Meta’s Metaverse is not something that each company will develop independently.
“It’s sort of like the internet”. He said. “It is not that each company is going to have its Metaverse. It is that we are trying to help build and accelerate some of the fundamental technology and platforms—whether that’s social platforms or creative tools, or commerce tools for the Metaverse. And these things have to plug into and be part of a broader ecosystem. Part of what hopefully will define the Metaverse is a much greater sense of interoperability and portability,” the Meta CEO added.
It could get confusing for many because when people reference the metaverse, they treat it like a single product or platform. Yet, we know of so many ‘metaverse’ platforms already, so what does Mark mean when he says no company is building the Metaverse independently?
Well, we can describe the metaverse in two ways. One is a direct parallel with the internet as we know it today, and the other is multiple products that act as online spaces where people can interact in immersive ways. So, let’s say the Metaverse (Capital ‘M’) is the internet; metaverses (small ‘m’) are platforms developed by Facebook, Microsoft, Nvidia, and co that give context and provide specialized products required for specific use cases. For instance, Meta’s Horizon Home is a metaverse world coming soon, which provides a recreational environment for online avatars to interact in social contexts. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Metaverse seems more suited to an enterprise environment where people in industries offices get work done virtually. There are also blockchain-based worlds, like Decentraland, which lets you buy virtual land. So all these ‘metaverses’, which can be paralleled as apps/sites on the internet, are products or services which will all exist on the Metaverse, the parallel version of the internet.
So now that we know what the Metaverse is let us briefly look through the things you would need (maybe even just hypothetically) to get prepared on some level for the not-too-distant future of the internet.
What Do You Need to Get Ready?
If you want to have any real-time experience with some of the best performing metaverse environments out there, you need gear. Meta (then Facebook) acquired Oculus in 2014, and although the company has continued to churn out gear and some nice game titles, up until this point, the most popular use cases for VR glasses have been for gaming. However, the metaverse allows for so much more, including fitness, teaching, enjoying experiences (like concerts), and even office work.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, has often mentioned that the price of gear associated with the metaverse will be kept as low as possible to encourage user adoption. Companies like Apple are also looking into the development of AR glasses. While we may not quite know the use cases Apple intends on focusing on, the company’s history tells us that these probably won’t come cheap.
Although a lot of companies don’t seem excited about it now, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrency could come in handy in this virtual world, and the possibilities are endless. Digital possessions that help characters represent themselves in a virtual world could be a big market in the metaverse-driven ecosystem. So, it may not be a bad idea to stop laughing at your blockchain-obsessed friends (that is if you don’t find the entire metaverse concept ridiculous in the first place). However, make sure you conduct your research when obtaining digital assets, as there are plenty of scams out there.
There is so much about the metaverse to unpack. Learning about the metaverse by reading the right articles, taking the right online courses, and following the right conversations can help individuals prepare adequately for the metaverse. Persons looking to be part of the developers who will bring this virtual dream into reality will need to familiarise themselves with the platforms and how to build for them.
It is also important to watch your literacy level to avoid pitfalls. Many early adopters of exciting technology fail to understand the magnitude of their decisions when adopting new tech. They ended up making mistakes that could sometimes be costly.
Security is also going to be a big bone of contention in this metaverse. It doesn’t help that a controversial company like the Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta seems to be heralding this new age despite its undesirable track record and penchant for user data. Hence, it is important to be careful when navigating these new virtual worlds.