‘Metaverse’ is the buzzword of the moment, but what does it mean? Is the metaverse going to transform the way we live, work, and interact, or is it just a bunch of hype? With Mark Zuckerberg just announcing that Facebook’s parent company’s name has been changed to Meta, it’s evident that the internet giant is serious about pursuing metaverse potential.
The metaverse is said to have the potential to alter how we do business, visit friends, shop, and network, but it is only a concept at this point. So, what is the metaverse, why is Meta so committed to making it a reality, and what will it entail for businesses and consumers?
What exactly is the metaverse, and where did the term originate?
Although the phrase “metaverse” has recently gained popularity, it is not a new term, nor was it coined by Zuckerberg.
The term “metaverse” is a combination of the prefix “meta” and the word “universe,” and it refers to a virtual cosmos that may be accessed through virtual reality (VR) technology.
In his novel Snow Crash, science fiction novelist Neal Stephenson created the term in 1992. Characters in the novel use avatars, which are virtual replicas of themselves, to join the metaverse.
Avatars can transcend reality and inhabit a virtual reality world in the metaverse, however, the metaverse in Stephenson’s work was an escape from a world that was dark, dystopian, and propelled by corporate greed.
Since then, the term has grown in use, particularly in the gaming industry. Anyone who has played a role-playing game (RPG) in which they enter the game world and interact with other players and characters in real-time is likely familiar with the concept of a metaverse.
For years, futurists have used the word to describe how humans can connect digitally in the future. There is no universally accepted definition of what the metaverse is, but Meta characterizes it as follows:
“A collection of virtual locations where you can collaborate and create with others who aren’t in the same physical location as you.”
You’ll be able to socialize with your friends, work, play, learn, shop, and create.” Meta, like many other digital companies, is eager to take the metaverse concept from a hazy concept to a tangible reality by building the tools needed to make it a reality.
The term “metaverse” now refers to interconnected, virtual communities, or worlds, where individual avatars can interact.
We can travel into the metaverse using virtual reality (VR) headsets, augmented reality (AR), smartwatches, and smart glasses. Because a global metaverse that anybody can access does not yet exist, the majority of Meta’s metaverse ideas are still in the speculative stages.
What does Meta have in mind when he thinks of the metaverse?
At the company’s 2021 Connect conference, Zuckerberg exposed spectators to his company’s vision for the metaverse, merging both 2D and 3D worlds into one virtual community.
Its metaverse will include existing Meta products like WhatsApp and Messenger, as well as a slew of new tools for businesses and content creators, such as virtual residences, workplaces, and eCommerce prospects. Users will have complete creative power over their virtual worlds in Meta’s metaverse vision, constructing everything from lakeside houses to space stations where they can collaborate, talk with friends, or study.
The metaverse will merge the physical and digital worlds using virtual reality, augmented reality, and other contemporary technological techniques. This will be a significant expansion of Facebook Horizon, now known as Horizon Worlds, which was launched in 2019 as a virtual reality (VR) gaming and game production platform that can be accessed using Facebook’s Oculus VR headsets.
Horizon Workrooms, a beta version of which was added to this project in 2021, allows remote teams to collaborate. Meta presented its mysterious ‘Project Cambria’ at the Connect conference, a yet-to-be-released premium VR headgear that customers will ostensibly use to enter the metaverse. The company also intends to create a smartwatch that will most likely be compatible with the new VR technology.
What is Meta’s motive for expanding the metaverse?
Meta, according to Zuckerberg, sees the metaverse as a priority and will devote a significant amount of time, study, and energy to bringing it to life. But why is that?
“When I began Facebook, we largely typed text on websites,” Zuckerberg wrote in his most recent Founder’s Letter. The internet became more visual and mobile when we obtained phones with cameras. The video became a richer means to communicate experiences as connections became faster.
From desktop to web to mobile, from text to photographs to video, we’ve come a long way. “However, this isn’t the conclusion of the story.”
The metaverse, he believes, is the obvious next step in how we use the internet and social media. The brand aspires to play a vital role in architecting this transition, developing a new environment where we can connect, to create a future where more and more of us will spend time online.
People will be able to connect in the metaverse, and Meta sees this as the next step forward, with tools that go beyond apps and social media to improve our ability to connect with others.
Some critics believe the name change to Meta is an attempt to shift attention away from Facebook’s recent bad press, including the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, the company’s exploitation of personal data, and various security vulnerabilities.
The brand’s name change, according to Meta, is to better incorporate all the firm does, not just the social media app Facebook.
What about monetary motivation? Could the creation of a metaverse boost Meta’s profits? Yes, in a word. Consumers will not only buy technology to access the metaverse but will also have plenty of shopping options within the metaverse itself, with users purchasing everything from new avatar costumes to browsing shops, according to Zuckerberg.
The days of massive profits in the metaverse, on the other hand, are yet years, if not decades away. Some observers believe that bitcoin will play a significant part in metaverse commerce, although how transactions will take place is still up in the air.
How do other businesses feel about the metaverse?
The metaverse is of relevance to more than just Facebook. Most analysts envision the metaverse as a global space that anybody can use, rather than something controlled by a single corporation.
As a result, many companies would become involved and collaborate in the same space, similar to how websites collaborate today on the internet.
“The metaverse will not be built by a single corporation. It will be developed by creators and developers who will create new interoperable experiences and digital objects that will “open a significantly larger creative economy than that which is now confined by today’s platforms and laws,” according to Zuckerberg.
So, how do other businesses get involved? It’s no surprise that other tech companies have seen the metaverse’s promise and are spending time and money on its development. Here’s how a few major corporations envision their products and services interacting with the metaverse.
Working from home is not only practical but also efficient since many employees like the convenience and flexibility of remote work. Not everyone is eager to return to work, so it’s no wonder that software giants like Microsoft are exploring how the metaverse could make remote employment more convenient.
Microsoft recently announced that 3D avatars and immersive digital workspaces will be added to Microsoft Teams, allowing businesses to create ‘digital twins’ of their actual offices that can be accessed by distant workers. Microsoft Mesh, a virtual collaboration tool that blends virtual reality and augmented reality to construct digital places, is slated to be ready in 2022.
Microsoft Loop, a new app, will make it simple for remote workers to move, sync, and share documents and resources over a digital collaborative canvas. Microsoft has also stated that it intends to expand its gaming products into the metaverse, with the possibility of bringing Xbox titles into 3D in the future.
A platform for video conferencing Zoom has also stated that it sees itself playing a significant role in the metaverse’s digital working environments in the future. However, CEO Eric Yuan stated in a recent interview that he believes this is still a few years away.
With Amazon’s massive market share in eCommerce, digital entertainment, and cloud computing, it’s safe to assume the business is thinking about how Amazon’s shopping and media consumption may work in the metaverse. However, it has yet to make any pronouncements on the subject.
A platform for online gaming Roblox has a strong presence in the metaverse. You may not have heard of it, but your children most likely have.
Roblox is a virtual platform that allows players to design their games. While playing the games is free, players can spend virtual currency called Robux to purchase game add-ons, and the corporation profits handsomely.
Roblox has essentially established a platform that allows people to create their metaverse and has demonstrated that it can be successful, so it’s a key player to keep an eye on in this arena.
5. Epic Games
Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, see a lot of potential in the metaverse as well. The company announced a $1 billion round of funding in April 2021, which included a Sony Group Corporation investment, to bring its vision of the metaverse to life.
Why would a shoe company want to be a part of the metaverse? Nike is planning for the day when customers will want to buy virtual things for their avatars, such as Nike sportswear.
After all, if you and your friends are shooting virtual hoops, you want to look nice while doing it. Nike has filed various trademark applications to sell virtual goods using its emblem and brand.
However, this highlights the larger question of how trademarking and counterfeit goods will be controlled in the metaverse, with Nike taking precautions to protect itself before the metaverse is created.
When it comes to international tech governance, the concept of the metaverse raises more questions than it solves. Who is the metaverse’s governing body in a virtual world? How do organizations protect metaverse users’ privacy, facial recognition, and personal data?
Meta has alluded to this in its keynote speech, stating that its metaverse vision includes measures for user safety and even avoiding avatar identity theft, but little is known about how the metaverse would be governed, regulated, and controlled to secure user privacy and protection, if at all.
With so many legitimate concerns about social media use today, ranging from negative mental health effects on children to the spread of vaccination disinformation, it’s easy to see how the metaverse may open up a whole new set of significant challenges that we haven’t even considered.
Meta announced various governmental and NGO alliances in November 2021, including the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Israel, to collaborate on how to sustainably construct the metaverse.
How do you access the metaverse?
Are you ready to explore this fascinating new world? Not so fast, Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse is still years distant. Many of the metaverse goods Meta is working on, according to him, will not be available for at least the next 10-15 years. But how will we reach the metaverse when (or if) it becomes a reality?
Users will purchase their virtual reality headsets to take them from their living room into their metaverse environment, which will play a key role in metaverse access.
While Facebook already has its own Oculus headset and has promised the launch of a newer headset in 2022, Samsung and HP are among the companies that have their own VR headsets.
Users will put on their headset whenever they wish to visit the metaverse via their internet connection, but those without a costly headset kit will likely have to make do with less immersive options.
Once you’ve entered the metaverse, your avatar, which you designed and developed, will represent you. Users will have complete control over the virtual version of themselves, including height, weight, skin color, head coverings, body type, and even facial hair.
There will almost certainly be plenty of shopping options, allowing users to buy clothes and accessories for their avatar.
To ensure that the appropriate person is connecting into their metaverse account, security procedures will need to be prioritized during the metaverse login process. Passwords, retina recognition, and two-factor authentication are examples of such measures.
How will it affect our way of life?
“In the future, you’ll be able to teleport as a hologram to be at work without having to commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parent’s living room to catch up.” Consider how many physical items you have today that may one day be replaced by holograms.
Instead of real items made in factories, your TV, your perfect work setup with multiple monitors, your board games, and more will be holograms designed by creators all around the world,” says Zuckerberg.
Will the metaverse, on the other hand, become a digital utopia where we can instantaneously interact with friends from all over the world, watch concerts, and play board games? Is it possible, though, that the platform will never reach critical mass?
It’s still too early to tell how the metaverse will affect our lives, if at all. Social chats with friends may become more immersive, and gamers will undoubtedly enjoy the metaverse’s possibilities.
Imagine jumping into your favorite game with all of your friends and immersing yourself in the game’s environment rather than just playing on a 2D level? A fully developed metaverse might alter how we socialize, rest, and even date in seemingly infinite ways. However, not everyone is keen to engage in digital socialization.
And, while the metaverse itself will be free, the high-tech equipment required to completely immerse yourself in it will always remain a barrier to entry.
There’s also the question of human connection to consider. Loneliness is a real and intense emotion that millions of individuals experienced over the last two years of the pandemic, whether we’re socializing or working.
Can a coffee in the metaverse ever match with catching up with your friends down the road at the café? Since nothing can replace a hug, a handshake, or a smile, loneliness and isolation may still be a factor in the metaverse.
How will it change the way we work?
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that 9-to-5 office employment and long commutes are no longer acceptable. More people are opting for remote work, looking for firms that allow them to work from home, or foregoing traditional career paths in favor of freelance or entrepreneurial endeavors.
When it comes to working from anywhere in the globe, the metaverse has the potential to revolutionize how we connect for business, especially on a global scale. There’s a lot that can be done online rather than in person, from virtual office spaces to interviews.
The metaverse has the potential to turn monotonous team meetings into 3D experiences, allowing you to position yourself in your virtual office and feel as if you’re truly sitting next to your coworkers.
If the metaverse can work with our current office software and technology, you could easily bring up a PowerPoint presentation you created offline and show it to colleagues in your metaverse boardroom. Alternatively, give an avatar colleague a file to download at their leisure at home.
Workers can work from home, eliminating the drive and allowing them to spend more time with their families and friends. It’s simple to understand why this would be enticing, but are businesses willing to give up their cubicles for good?
Despite the benefits of remote work for employee morale and retention, many companies still have worries about productivity and time management, which prevent them from fully enabling employees to work from home.
In terms of commerce, the metaverse is likely to provide a plethora of new shopping options. Business owners will be able to set up shop in the metaverse, content creators will have a new platform to share their work, and the way we shop online may alter, allowing you to stroll into a metaverse clothing boutique, browse for new outfits, and have the physical things delivered to your home.
Gaming and recreation purchases are also expected to play a role in the metaverse, with in-game purchases, character accessories, and extra lives being just a few examples of how gaming firms might profit in the metaverse.
What about digital marketing? Yes, ads could appear almost anywhere, with businesses creating specifically targeted metaverse ad campaigns, similar to what we see now on the internet and social media.
Would consumers be willing to pay a fee to access an ad-free version of the metaverse in the future? It is possible to achieve anything. If the metaverse takes off, it has the potential to improve professional collaboration by making it more effective, faster, more productive.
What is going to happen next?
Despite all of the current buzz surrounding the metaverse and Meta’s participation, it’s still a case of hurry up and wait. It’s apparent that businesses regard the metaverse as having enormous promise and are willing to commit time and money to make it a reality.
Many people are thrilled about the new cooperation and connectivity opportunities that the metaverse will provide, but there is still a lot of work to be done before the metaverse becomes a vital location where we live, play, and work.
Businesses and governments are debating topics such as metaverse infrastructure, privacy concerns, and international governance in the next years. However, technology advances at such a rapid rate that the metaverse may be here before we know it. Will the rest of the world be ready?