Unwrapping the Metaverse
Metaverse — a term that became viral in 2021, courtesy of the name change of a social networking site, was first used back in the 80s in a well-known novel. So, what exactly does it mean? A concrete meaning might still be debatable as it is still growing and evolving. But, an explanation of it could be attempted as — "a virtual creative space on the internet that is accessible to anyone looking to build or experience it. It draws on the experiences of AR, VR, NFTs, Bitcoin, and Cryptocurrency to create a universe that lies beyond the realm of what’s seen around."
Let’s look a little deeper into what the Metaverse was thought to have meant back then and what it signifies now; in an ever-evolving and rapidly increasing digital world.
What is the Metaverse
The definition of the Metaverse has been quite fleeting. There are different people and organisations who’ve put together their understanding of it. Gartner defines a metaverse ‘as a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality. It is persistent, providing enhanced immersive experiences, as well as device-independent and accessible through any type of device, from tablets to head-mounted displays.’
Eric Redmond, the Global Director, of Technology Innovations at Nike suggests that ‘The Metaverse crosses the physical/digital divide between actual and virtual realities.’
While the exact meaning of metaverse continues to change courtesy of its ever-evolving spectrum, the fact that it’s here to provide holistic digitised experiences stays true.
The History of Metaverse
Neal Stephenson, the author of the 1992 book Snow Crash, was the first to coin the term metaverse. The book is about dealing with the spread of malware that has the ability to cause brain damage to real people existing in the real world. Stephenson visioned Metaverse to be the successor of the internet.
And going by where Metaverse or the experience of it is headed, it’s safe to say, he envisioned it quite right.
What happens in the Metaverse?
We have experiences that are augmented and virtual. Metaverse provides the experience of a world within a world. So, one gets to enjoy, visualise and understand a world that is beyond boundaries. A world that transports you into a different place, time, and experience, without having to move from where you’re at.
However, the immersive world within the metaverse isn’t just for consumer-facing businesses. Instead, there have been multiple business apps within the metaverse range, right from imparting knowledge to product demonstrations to collaborations and the like. The overall digital landscape has particularly seen a shift of sorts. One that has been necessitated by intellectual curiosity and a desire to go forth with the ‘test-and-learn’ mindset. In fact, the metaverse could soon evolve the way people connect, interact, view, and transact on the internet.
The Future of Metaverse
According to a study conducted by Gartner Inc., by the year 2026, around 25% of people online will be spending at least an hour on the Metaverse, and around 30% of organizations would provide services that were Metaverse ready. This can be for several different purposes, right from education, and entertainment to shopping and work.
In the last year, the metaverse hype has provoked several tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Shopify, and Infosys to go ahead with massive investments. Facebook too went for a rebranding and went with a Metaverse theme. Similarly, in the cryptocurrency space, metaverse tokens are seen to be some of the better performing coins in the market, managing to outperform Ethereum and Bitcoin too.
While the metaverse has the capability to actually replace several aspects of the real world, it’s not all glittery. With the fascination and experiences revolving around it, the addiction might be detrimental too. With people looking to spend hours surrounded by AR and VR, investing not just time but substantial money too, it’s necessary to wait and see its viability, in the long term.
The metaverse will bring forth a new era of digitisation by creating experiences that’ll make people believe they’re actually in it and these experiences will always be in a state of flux. It’ll be an open-source, i.e., not open to being designed by just one individual or organisation, as it would contradict the very basis of its being. For the metaverse to exist, several VR worlds must co-exist and collide, ensuring multiple entrants participate and continue their growth and recreation.
Whether good or bad, it promises to bring forth a new era of digitisation that’s previously been unmatched and is sure to find a lot of takers; in businesses and individuals. Now whether the experiences it seeks to deliver are for the good of the world, only time and its use will be able to decipher.