Metaverse is a 3D virtual world where people can interact and perform any activity – from work and shopping to leisure – using personalized avatars. The concept is considered the “next chapter of the Internet,” but the idea of developing immersive virtual environments is nothing new and was already explored by games like Habbo and Second Life in the 2000s. Despite this, the term only gained popularity in 2021, when Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s name change to Meta and made it clear that from then on, the company’s main goal would be to build a metaverse.
But Meta is not the only company interested in developing the 3D universe. Large technology companies like Microsoft and Roblox are also investing heavily to compete for a slice of this next stage of the world wide web. In the following lines, Techidence explains in detail what it is and how the metaverse works, so you can learn all about the virtual universe that promises to be the future of the Internet.
It is not possible to say, however, that the metaverse proposed by the big techs will become a reality – or when it will happen. For the idea to get off the drawing board, many other technologies need to evolve. Check out all the details below.
- What is metaverse?
- When did the metaverse come about?
- How does the metaverse work and what is possible to do there?
- How to enter the metaverse?
- Do you need glasses to use the Metaverse?
- What is the relationship of the Metaverse with NFTs and the cryptocurrency market?
- How to buy land in the Metaverse?
- Which companies are investing in the metaverse?
- Is the metaverse the future of the Internet?
1. What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is a virtual universe where people can interact with each other through personalized avatars. It is considered a kind of immersive 3D Internet, in which communication, leisure, and business exist in an interoperable way. It is a parallel world to the physical world in which we live. The operation of the metaverse involves several other technologies, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and cryptocurrencies.
2. When did the metaverse come into existence?
Although it gained popularity in 2021, when Facebook changed its name to Meta, the term metaverse first appeared in the science fiction book “Snow Crash”, published in 1992 by American author Neal Stephenson. In the book, characters use the digital world to escape from a dystopian reality.
Outside of books, the concept is not new either. Games have already explored this idea of a 3D universe even before the subject gained so much appeal. This is the case of the games Second Life and Habbo: both were successful in the 2000s for offering immersive experiences in a virtual world.
3. How does the metaverse work and what can you do there?
In a press release at the time of the announcement of the change from Facebook to Meta, Mark Zuckerberg explained what will be possible to do in the metaverse as follows:
“You will be able to do almost anything you can imagine – gather with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create – as well as completely new experiences that don’t fit into the way we think about computers or phones today,” the executive said.
Zuckerberg’s speech makes it clear that the metaverse will be an environment where users can replicate their lives in the physical world, including doing everyday activities, such as going to church. This has already happened in Brazil. The Baptist Church of Lagoinha was the first to join the platform and hold an online service, called LagoVerso.
Companies are also seeking to ensure their participation in the digital universe. In March 2022, the First Metaverse Fashion Week was held. At the event, brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, and Dolce & Gabbana held 3D fashion shows and offered an immersive shopping experience with 2D products. The idea was to do a kind of test drive between the fashion world and the metaverse.
4. How to enter the metaverse?
The metaverse conceived by Meta is still under development, but other platforms already allow you to enter immersive 3D environments. This is the case with the Second Life game, which follows a proposal very similar to Mark Zuckerberg’s idea. Created in 2003, the game intends to be an extension of the real world and allows activities such as going to the movies, participating in music clubs, and other activities aimed at socialization among users.
There is also The Sandbox, a multiplayer game focused on creation and exploration very similar to Minecraft. There you can buy land and create buildings, mazes, and other types of constructions. The difference between the platform is that each has its token, called SAND. It is used in any kind of negotiation between users within the 3D universe.
Another way to have an immersive experience is on Decentraland. Founded in 2017, the platform is considered the largest metaverse project of today and can be accessed through a web browser. Decentraland is hosted on the Ethereum blockchain and therefore its economy runs through this cryptocurrency. Users can invest in NFTs and even buy land.
5. Do you need glasses to use the metaverse?
It is not necessary to have virtual reality glasses to explore the metaverse and interact with it, although the equipment contributes to improving the user experience. The glasses can provide a sensation of deeper immersion, since, with them, the person feels as if he were inside the virtual environment.
By the way, it is important to point out that metaverse and virtual reality are not synonymous. Virtual reality is a technology that, using a computer system, creates a simulation of an environment, “deceiving” the human senses by imitating reality.
The metaverse, on the other hand, is an integrated virtual space where people can connect. Virtual reality enables and enhances the experience in the metaverse – it is a slice of the digital universe, but it is not everything. Building the metaverse will depend on many other technologies, including cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
6. What is the relationship of the metaverse to NFTs and the cryptocurrency market?
NFTs are a kind of digital certificate, established via blockchain, that assigns originality and uniqueness to digital assets. The acronym comes from “Non-fungible Token”. In the metaverse, NFTs can be employed to give users controlled access to various platforms. They would thus be a key to entry and transit in the virtual universe.
Blockchain-based games, such as The Sandbox, make extensive use of NFTs. In this game, players use non-fungible tokens to sell virtual real estate to other players, for example. In the metaverse, users can perform this and other types of transactions.
Imagine you have an avatar in the metaverse and want to use your free time to watch a movie. You then go to the movie theater and buy a ticket for the movie. After the movie, you go to a bookstore and buy a book. The ticket, as well as the book and other items, is paid for with cryptocurrencies.
7. How to buy land in the metaverse?
Land in the metaverse is a piece of virtual land. The platforms that promote immersive 3D experiences make available for purchase a part of the environment for the user to build whatever he wants, as long as it is within the standards set by the company. The spaces are entirely virtual and are hosted on blockchain, which makes them NFTs.
Just like in real life, the land within the metaverse can also undergo real estate speculation – which is why many users are starting to invest in the virtual pieces of land. Brands are also keeping an eye on the land: For them, buying a plot in the metaverse also means buying an advertising space – just as social networks are today.
To buy land in the metaverse you need to create a virtual wallet and purchase cryptocurrencies. The most common ones are Ethereum (ETH), MANA, and SAND (The Sandbox’s cryptocurrency). First, it is important to note which currencies are accepted within the chosen platform.
Once this is done, simply access the respective marketplace, choose the lot you want to buy, register your digital wallet, and make the purchase. The games Decentraland and The Sandbox have their marketplaces and allow the purchase of virtual land directly from the platform.
8. Which companies are investing in the metaverse?
There is a wide range of companies investing in the metaverse. Facebook’s name change to Meta, for example, shows that building the virtual universe is the company’s main goal for the future. The company had already announced a US$50 million investment to build “inclusive and empowering” technologies with a focus on the metaverse.
However, it is important to note that the metaverse is not a project unique to Meta. Microsoft, for example, has announced that it is working on Microsoft Mesh. The digital universe would be integrated with the manufacturer’s other products, including Microsoft Teams. The idea is to allow users to participate in virtual meetings with their 3D avatars.
Roblox, Epic Games, NVIDIA, and Decentraland are a few other names among the tech giants that are investing to play a major role in what is being called the “next phase of the Internet.
9. Is the metaverse the future of the Internet?
Many technologies need to evolve to ensure that the idea of the metaverse is realized. For example, 5G Internet needs to be more accessible, because the 4G connection is not capable of sustaining the data flow of virtual reality and augmented reality platforms accessed simultaneously by numerous users. Similarly, home PCs need to have the greater computing power to provide access to the metaverse for everyone.
A crucial point, however, concerns the binomial of privacy and security. Experts fear that just as with cell phones, the equipment used to enable the connection of the real world to the metaverse will collect data from users, favoring the misuse of this information by Meta and other large companies.
It is already known that the Meta Quest Pro virtual reality headset, for example, will use cameras to estimate the direction of the user’s gaze and “personalize experiences.” The goal, according to Meta, is to enhance the user experience of the device, but, likely, the technology will also be used to customize ads within the metaverse. It’s worth noting that the company has been involved in several privacy scandals – most famously, Cambridge Analytica, even impacting election campaigns.
In short, the metaverse has the potential to become the “next chapter of the Internet,” but it is not possible to say whether it will become a reality. If so, this will only happen in a few years, when the technologies necessary for the development of the virtual universe are more mature and accessible.
It is also worth mentioning that the changes brought about by the metaverse will require greater preparation from the market, consumers, and investors. No matter how much this virtual universe opens up new possibilities and facilities, it will not replace the real world.