The term Metaverse has never been more hype inducing than now, with Facebook changing its name to Meta and investing tens of millions into the development and promotion of company’s own metaverse.
Metaverse is a first-person simulated world with an immersive experience, providing a powerful sense of presence for huge groups of simultaneous users. It is basically like a parallel universe with its gates right inside your bedroom! Kind of like Narnia with less fighting and more interacting with people.
Metaverse is made up of two words: Meta which means beyond, and verse which is short for universe. The term was first coined in the 90s by Neal Stephenson in his book called Snow Crash, a science fiction novel in which Stephenson describes ideas such as Metaverse and Avatars that we see in the digital world years later.
VR vs AR vs Metaverse
It’s simply too easy to conflate the terms that describe new layers of reality such as virtual reality and augmented reality, but learning their differences might actually help to better appreciate and understand the concept of metaverse.
Virtual reality or VR is an immersive and interactive simulated environment that is experienced in the first person and users feel a deep sense of presence. Augmented reality or AR is not an entire environment that’s simulated by computers, instead it’s a new digital content that’s added to the real world and is also experienced in the first person. So with AR, you have an environment with a virtual/real duality.
Metaverse can be completely virtual and self-contained which then it’s called a virtual metaverse, or it can simply be additional layers of digital content embedded in our real world which is then called an augmented metaverse. So one can claim that the concept of metaverse encompasses both the VR and AR.
What is metaverse – VRand AR
CaptionA graph like this showing the boundaries of metaverse, vr and ar; credit to Louis Rosenberg from bigthink
Metaverse and Blockchains
Metaverse might be a digitally simulated universe inside a computer but the experience is meant to represent the reality as much as possible. So if you buy something in a metaverse market it’s 100 percent yours, and what better opportunity for blockchains and decentralized cryptocurrencies and NFTs to become the stars of the show. A metaverse could have its own in-game currency but it’s not nearly as safe and secure as a cryptocurrency, which is why many successful metaverse projects like Decentraland are using cryptocurrencies as their official money. The proof of ownership is another vital issue which can be addressed using NFTs, non-fungible tokens that can represent your ownership of in-game parcels of land, wearable items, cars, toys, etc. This way, the money you make in the digital metaverse has actual value in the real world. The blockchain technology can be implemented to record your customized avatar and digital assets, and also be applied to enable secure transactions within a metaverse.
Some Applications of Metaverse
The pandemic made everyone realize that offices are not the only place that you can get the job done. Metaverse takes things to the next level. Executives from all around the world can use the metaverse to participate in business meetings while sitting at home in their pajamas. Companies will no longer have to pay hefty prices for office spaces and the office team-work is not lost because metaverse is exactly designed to provide with a realistic experience where you and your co-workers can work together in the comfort of your homes.
Just like with work, education can benefit from metaverse and its cool tricks too. Not only the students can participate in classes, but they can also partake in scientific experiments, work with chemicals, or even do biopsies without needing to get their hands dirty. When the technology becomes cheap enough, students in remotes areas of the world will also have access to classrooms and laboratories.
Making a living
As mentioned before, users can make actual money in the metaverse by making trades, buying and selling real-estate, playing games, and organizing evens. The play-to-earn games will be an integral part of the metaverse experience, and users can sell their items in the form of NFTs, or use the metaverse’s cryptocurrency to trade in the market and make real-world money.
Metaverse is a parallel universe where time and space are very fuzzy concepts. You can make that trip to Paris that you’ve always wanted but never had the time for, or you can go back in time and join the horde of Genghis khan and sweep through the Chines and Persian empires.
A few Limitations of Metaverse
Acceptance by the public
New things have always had a difficult time being endorsed by the older generations. Some older folks still thinks of the internet as menace to society, just imagine what they have to say about new layers of reality! Millennials and Gen z on the other hand have embraced the concept with open arms and the communities are growing exponentially.
Loss the sense of reality
Metaverse offers a potent sense of reality and too much of it might become problematic for some people. If you spend most of your hours in a universe with millions of different colors and endless adventures, you might find the real world boring and mundane and prefer virtual interactions over the real ones. Children are especially more prone to get lost in the experience and there should be age-restricting policies that limit the accessibility of the metaverse for the younger folks.
The best Metaverse projects so far
Decentraland is the very first blockchain powered metaverse project, a virtual-reality platform that runs on the Ethereum blockchain where you can build and own real-estate, interact with other people and their real-estate, and explore the Decentraland metaverse. Players can make in-game payments using Decentraland’s official cryptocurrency called MANA. The assets in the game are in the form of Non Fungible Tokens or NFTs called LAND. Thanks to the blockchain technology, Decentraland is not governed by any central authorities, instead the decisions are made by the people who own the in-game tokens.
Another successful Ethereum-based metaverse project is Sandbox in which the developers have true ownership of what they create in the form of NFTs. Sandbox has its own marketplace for trading items using the in-game cryptocurrency called SAND, the Game Maker took which allows users to create, share and monetize their games on Sandbox’s online 3D gaming platform, and the Voxel Editor allows users to create, rig and animate voxel models. Staking is another cool aspect of the game in which you can make SAND by renting out your property on Sandbox.
Nakamoto is another metaverse project where participants can own, buy and sell real-estate and make improvements on their property. Nakamoto has its own fungible token called NAKA which has a market cap of $4 million and has a growing community behind it.
Metaverse can be thought of as a computer simulated parallel universe which tries to mimic the real world and add new layers of reality to the experience. Metaverse is free of so many real-world limitations such as time and place, which enables users to participate in business meetings, parties and events such as concerts and performances and online classes. With successful and popular metaverse projects such as Decentraland and Sandbox and the seemingly endless number of opportunities and applications of the metaverse concept, the new era of virtual reality seems inevitable.