Metaverse 101: Everything You Need to Know
While the technology and infrastructure are not yet fully in place, we are closer than ever to the dream of experiencing full VR or virtual reality as easily as it now is to access the internet. Perhaps the closest modern approach to creating such a feat is the Metaverse, which seeks to create not only VR experiences for individuals but the ability to interact with multiple other people in an entirely virtual world with avatars, digital property, and much more. Learn more about just what the Metaverse is, why it is so vital for the future of VR, and how to join up and experience it for yourself.
What is the Metaverse, and Why Is It So Important for Future Technology?
For those less than familiar with the canon of science fiction literature, the term "metaverse" originates from Neal Stephenson's seminal 1992 novel "Snow Crash." It describes a shared virtual reality where one can dispatch one's enemies in between bouts of shopping and socialization. While the concept of a virtual world overlaying our own, which anyone with the means can jack into, goes back a long way in the realm of science fiction. You can experience the closest modern equivalent in the Metaverse. Although many technologists have predicted that some form of Metaverse may become the eventual successor to our current internet, there is much to be done before this can become a reality.
It is undoubtedly true that a stable Metaverse would lead to incredible innovations in the fields of virtual communications, MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role-playing games), and the creation and sale of digital properties. To make this vision a reality, the three central pillars for the well-being of the Metaverse are standardization, presence, and interoperability. Standardization refers to having a set of technical standards to ensure efficient operations across various platforms, presence is enhanced using VR headsets and virtual animated avatars, and interoperability would allow users to effortlessly use the same items, avatars, and resources across the entire multiverse.
Why Does the Metaverse Matter, and Who is Invested in its Success?
The development and success of the metaverse matters because of its sheer potential for enhancing many aspects of work, life, and pleasure. Countless works of fiction, both past and present, have presented visions of a future with a functioning multiverse, allowing users to engage in unprecedented levels of immersive gaming, enjoy instantaneous face-to-face communication, and be present for meetings across the globe. Some games, including Roblox and Fortnite, already offer players the chance to experience the thrills of digital combat and explorations, while apps like Immersed and VRChat allow virtual meetings. A working metaverse would combine all these functions and more into sets of universal software and hardware to facilitate interactions across virtual space.
The technology surrounding virtual reality has come a long way since the days of the Nintendo Virtual Boy, including the development of incredible technology like wearable personal air conditioners and haptic fabric, which respond to in-game environmental changes. It is worth noting that there is perhaps no individual who is more interested and invested in the success of the Metaverse than Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook and a man so dedicated that he renamed the company to Meta in honor of the concept. Although some of the publicly released fruits of Meta's labor to create a functional metaverse have been mocked due to their lack of detailed graphics and other issues, the concept of the Metaverse remains crucial as a technological ideal to strive towards.
How Do I Join the Metaverse, and What are the Risks and Benefits of Doing So?
It may go without saying for those with a decent understanding of technology and its limitations, but it takes quite a bit of computing power and accessories to access VR spaces like the Metaverse. Even if you own a gaming PC that has been purpose-built to deliver impressive output, it may not be enough to use a given metaverse efficiently. If you want to join the Facebook or Meta version of the Metaverse, you will specifically need to own an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset which was designed with metaverse interactions in mind.
Some things that work against the concepts of standardization and interoperability are the fact that there is no one set of standards for joining a given metaverse as they currently exist. Depending on the individual service you are attempting to access, you may need to own either expensive VR headsets, AR goggles or glasses or simply access to a web browser. For metaverses based on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology like Decentraland, you will need to own a cryptocurrency wallet to purchase virtual real estate, which you can edit and adapt.
Given that some metaverse platforms will require you to own cryptocurrency, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and other digital assets to use their services, the risk of your accounts becoming compromised is as prescient as ever. If someone were to gain access to your funds and virtual avatar, you could also easily experience a whole new form of identity theft. There may also be an increased risk of unpleasant online interactions with people engaging in various forms of cyberbullying, so follow the guidelines for protecting yourself online to stay safer.
The Metaverse is currently experiencing some growing pains, but the concept will hopefully come to fruition in one form or another. Check out Meta, Decentraland, and other metaverse experiences to find out more for yourself.
About Dan Martin: Daniel Martin is a technology researcher and writer with more than a decade of experience. He is a professional librarian and an experienced tech teacher, writer and blogger. Specializing in technology, Dan has taught courses in technology and writing at the college level, developed web pages for businesses and higher educational institutions, written on tech topics for leading national publications and created numerous how-to guides.