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What is Metaverse?
“Metaverse” appears to be the hottest buzzword floating around the internet at the moment. Yet, there is much confusion surrounding what the metaverse actually is.
According to Wikipedia, the metaverse is “a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection”. People often refer to the term as “the future of the internet”, but what does this mean exactly? Some see the metaverse as an immersive video game. Others state the metaverse could be the “worst version of Zoom”. There is a lot of controversy around the topic. Also, there are many different views on how this technology will affect our lives.
The metaverse is an immersive spatial construct. As a BBC News reporter articulately stated: “if you think of the internet as something we look at, you can think of the metaverse as something we’re inside of”. Leading tech giants believe that the metaverse will eventually become a globally-adopted experience for everyday activities. Accordingly, users will experience the metaverse as a customized avatar of themselves. Since the pandemic, the number of people working from home and part-time remotely has exponentially increased. As such, the metaverse could introduce exciting and socially-engaging virtual workspaces. CEOs and co-workers could enact board meetings as they would in real life. As a result, this could reduce screen fatigue and the social element many people have been missing since working in isolation.
In addition to work environments, the metaverse offers the opportunity for immersive gaming experiences, taking gaming to a whole new level. Also, the metaverse has the potential for permissionless digital economies. This allows anyone, anywhere with internet access, to create and run a business that offers digital goods and services. Moreover, this new technology presents many exciting and novel marketing avenues for physical businesses.
Different Types of Realities
Alongside the evolution of the metaverse, there is an emergence of different types of technologies to make the experience more “real”. With various “realities”, it can sometimes be overwhelming and confusing. However, we will discuss the different types of technology that structure the metaverse’s foundations below and when and how to experience them.
First, you can categorize the different types of realities between the relevant types of hardware needed to experience them. For example, you can use a smartphone or desktop computer with augmented reality (AR) and mixed realities (MR).
Augmented Reality (AR)
- AR is the process of overlaying virtual objects within the real-world environment.
Mixed Reality (MR)
- MR is similar to augmented reality (AR). However, virtual objects can be “tied” to or “anchored” on a real-world object.
To experience the immersive realities, one must utilize specialized headsets or glasses (we’ll discuss metaverse hardware later on in this article). Further, headsets can also accommodate AR and MR. However, phones, tablets, and computers cannot (yet) facilitate the following technologies:
Virtual Reality (VR)
- VR is a fully-immersive digital environment, completely irrelative and separate from the real world.
Extended Reality (XR)
- XR is a term that refers to all the different types of realities: AR/MR/VR.
How is Blockchain Used in Metaverse?
Blockchain technology is a form of distributed ledger technology (DLT). Variations of DLT technologies exist with the communal goal of decentralization and developing a censorship-resistant internet. This is known as Web 3.0 or Web3, with transparency, immutability, and security at the heart of its ethos.
With thousands of cryptocurrencies and decentralized applications (dApps) available, there is an international community of developers and enthusiasts presenting innovative solutions to help people gain financial independence through decentralized finance (DeFi). DeFi technologies and protocols are easily transferable into the metaverse to create in-game digital economies. As such, many platforms and applications exist within the metaverse to aid users with building and managing a marketplace business. As a result, users can easily sell assets and offer services.
Another aspect of blockchain technology that is fundamental to metaverse operations is non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs represent unique pieces of information or data. Accordingly, all avatars, accessories, environments, skins, and in-game assets can be publicly viewable and tradable on a blockchain as NFTs. Thus, all transaction histories are infinitely available and immutable with verifiably scarce digital assets.
If you think back to 25 years ago or so, the metaverse is akin to being, in 1994, understanding the concept of the “world wide web“. No one could really comprehend, let alone predict the global utility and dependence on internet access like it is today. Therefore, it is difficult to foresee the exact future utility of the metaverse in the coming decade.
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On October 28th, 2021, the world’s leading social media company rebranded from “Facebook” to “Meta”. This is in accordance with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s future vision of the metaverse. Zuckerberg plans on making Meta the number one “social technology company”, with more than a $10 billion investment thus far. With a focus on community, Meta promises to bring novel, engaging, and immersive 3D virtual reality (VR) experiences using its Oculus VR headsets.
Meta states that the project is a collaborative one. The global giant is working with third-party researchers and innovators developing immersive technologies to create social connections in the metaverse. Further, Meta is working with a set of “responsible innovation principles” that guide the direction of development. Specifically, this focuses on “transparency, control, inclusivity, and empowerment”.
In addition, Meta is investing $150 million into international learning and development. The company has set aside funds to cover the costs of teaching developers new augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) skills. Further, this training is currently free, available to anyone (in English only), and offers a professional certification program providing valuable accreditation upon completion of the courses. Meta is looking to inspire, educate, and fund the next era of immersive content and metaverse content creators.
Thanks to blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), anyone can access and play blockchain-based games within the metaverse. Also, blockchain gaming is ameliorating the “play to win” framework with the “play-to-earn” model. This rewards players with cryptocurrencies and NFTs for completing tasks and challenges throughout the game, available to trade for fiat.
Metaverse gaming applications comprise many different types of games. This includes role-playing games (RPG), massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), strategy, and turn-based games. Current popular decentralized blockchain games include Axie Infinity, DeFi Kingdoms, Decentraland, and My Neighbor Alice.
Blockchain technology and non-fungible token (NFT) standards mean players actually own in-game NFT assets. Plus, ownership of all assets is transparent on the blockchain. Traditionally, players require multiple user accounts across different games. However, with blockchain, players can use the same avatar (including points and assets) across multiple different games. Currently, this only applies within certain gaming ecosystems, such as Gala Games or Enjin. These applications offer numerous games within one platform but are not interoperable with other chains and ecosystems.
Future of Metaverse
Analysts suggest that we are still in the “early adopters” phase of the adoption curve concept with the metaverse. Therefore, we can expect plenty more development in the pipeline. The ideal concept of a metaverse implies true global decentralization, autonomy, integrity, freedom, and the ability to discover, create, and explore beyond what the imagination can envisage. With this said, there is a lot of work and development to be done to achieve such a vision.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome with metaverse technologies is interoperability. At present, smart contract-enabled blockchains such as Ethereum host gaming applications that can offer users an entire ecosystem of immersive, engaging play-to-earn activities. While some of these applications are interoperable with other application ecosystems, they are few and far between. It is far easier for applications to become interoperable with applications on the same chain than integrating with gaming applications on other blockchains. This is because different blockchains use different infrastructures, token standards, consensus mechanisms, etc. Although blockchain interoperability is a core focus for many developers, few blockchains can offer seamless interoperability with all chains throughout the industry.
This means, at the moment, that the metaverse is fragmented. Different social platforms, chains, games, and applications may offer immersive interactive virtual reality (VR) experiences, but they are not all connected. Therefore, there is a need for some form of a universal standard to be integrated across every virtual reality (VR) platform providing communication, transaction, and interaction across each application. Until then, the metaverse is a cyberspace reality of multiple sovereign ecosystems. Now, this leads us to the next challenge.
Centralized vs Decentralized
The ethos behind blockchain technology is largely decentralization and digital peer-to-peer transactions with no requirement for third-party intermediaries. Many say that the technology was “given” to us by the pseudonymous developer(s) Satoshi Nakamoto as a revolutionary way to “remonstrate” government manipulation and centralization issues in the financial industry. However, this technology can apply to a vast array of industries. Thus, any business that facilitates digital transactions can benefit from integrating blockchain.
Blockchain technology can facilitate the decentralization of a project. However, just because a project uses blockchain, it doesn’t mean it is decentralized. According to Statistica, “social media giant” Meta has a combined 4.2 billion monthly active users (MAU) across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Thus, there are concerns surrounding security and centralization with Meta’s upcoming metaverse social application. Some believe this could lead Meta to monopolize both the metaverse and real-life social platforms.
With this said, if there were a transparent interoperable communication standard between centralized and decentralized virtual reality (VR) experiences, this would allow users to have autonomy over their movement between worlds or applications. Also, this could offer transparency over promoted experiences displaying a profile’s individual algorithm. Further, with decentralized applications (dApps), users control their data and can decide how and when to use/sell their details.
The metaverse brings the opportunity to create digital virtual decentralized economies. Moreover, with decentralized applications (dApps) or marketplaces, users can sell virtual goods, avatar accessories, and even services. Also, some believe that there will be a demand for users who can create welcoming and relaxing virtual environments or special unique avatar accessories. As such, the possibilities are endless! Further, users can trade cryptocurrencies from decentralized economies and convert assets on crypto exchanges to fiat currency or stablecoins.
The concept, application, and adoption of a virtual digital economy are currently low priorities for most governments. Hence, it will need to be a consideration within the coming years. Despite all of this, the adoption rate and investment in applications within the metaverse are exponentially increasing. Moreover, some people have given up their full-time real-life jobs for building their virtual marketplace full-time as it was more profitable.
The metaverse and virtual digital economies will encourage people to re-evaluate how they spend their time and earn a living. The metaverse brings an unimaginable potential for new income avenues, regardless of location, age, status, or gender.
Metaverse Glasses and Headsets
As we have briefly discussed, to get the whole experience of virtual and extended realities is to use a virtual reality (VR) headset or augmented reality (AR) glasses. Meta owns Oculus, the largest provider of VR headsets. Also, Meta is working on its own range of AR glasses. Meanwhile, Microsoft has released its AR glasses, the HoloLens. Many more up-and-coming VR headset brands and businesses are hoping to jump on the VR bandwagon.
Accordingly, the virtual reality (VR) headsets available at the moment could need some innovation and aesthetic inspiration. Many consider the headsets to be “clunky” and the AR glasses not yet socially acceptable to be seen in during one’s work commute. Plus, there are increasing cases of people getting motion sickness from wearing a headset for too long. There are rumors that Apple will be offering an attractive solution to these issues towards the end of 2022. However, the tech giant states that their glasses will not be for full-time use and is steering clear of encouraging their customers to fully immerse themselves within the metaverse. The glasses from Apple will assist in driving directions or work applications rather than recreational use.
Another element of the virtual reality (VR) experience is sensory input to create an extra layer of reality. Different projects attempt to induce physiological responses to VR environments and artificially recreate sensory experiences. This includes Olfactory Virtual Reality (OVR) that uses “our most primal sense to create meaningful interactions in a digital landscape”. Coupling the OVR Scent device with a VR headset will stimulate the brain’s olfactory (scent) responses. This part of the brain is also connected to emotions and memory, inducing a much deeper, meaningful experience. As such, OVR is offering a wellness package for corporate and clinical use that is scientifically proven to reduce stress.
Additionally, Meta is in the prototype stage of creating a sensory glove. The glove will use air pressure to recreate the sensory feeling in the hands to match what is being experienced on the VR headset. For example, throwing or catching a ball in the metaverse would include the weight and movement of a ball on your hand when wearing the glove.
Exploring the Metaverse – Summary
The metaverse is a work in progress that can mean different things to different people. For some, the metaverse will be for immersive gaming experiences. For others, it may be for remote work meetings, social meet-ups, or running a decentralized marketplace offering goods and services for other users. The ultimate ideology of the metaverse is truly interoperable across all virtual reality (VR) platforms with reliable, trustless transactions between parties. Furthermore, blockchain technology can help enable this vision thanks to its transparency, security, and immutability.
For a deep dive on decentralized finance (DeFi), check out our “DeFi Explained” article next! Or, why not check out our “Crypto Investing” article to discover how to purchase cryptocurrency to transact within the metaverse! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @MoralisAcademy! Let us know your thoughts about our “What is Metaverse?” article!