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The metaverse: Everything you need to know (2022)

The metaverse: Everything you need to know

Discussions on the metaverse are comparable to trudging through a swamp covered in a dense fog. Conversations are marred with a range of different definitions and suppositions, focusing on multiple different parts of spatial computing. Some focus on virtual worlds where people can socialise; others on cryptocurrencies and NFTs. All of the concepts are mashed together into one mess, which confuses anyone who dips into the conversation.

But the boundless discussions is not surprising, either. Through all of the mysticism and hype is a genuinely exciting concept: the next evolution of the internet, where new types of services will rise up from the confluence of new technologies. The metaverse is the next stage of how humans connect together, and we are still exploring how it will exactly work when it arrives.

This article helps to shine a beam of light into the fray, outlying what the metaverse is and how we should consider its aspects in the future. Though convoluted, the next spatial computing platform is very exciting to follow. For now, here are a series of common questions, and some answers which may help with your journey.

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What exactly is the metaverse?

All good things start with a definition, but the discussion halts at the first hurdle. With multiple companies attempting to stake the ground with their services, the metaverse is still connected to a range of definitions that hamper its form. Some example definitions include:

  • The next evolution of the internet;
  • A virtual world where people connect together, such as a ‘Facebook metaverse’;
  • A virtual overlay of of the real world, such as augmented reality;
  • A carbon copy of the world portrayed in Ready Player One.

The difficulty comes from the volume of discussions on the metaverse, as people are working it out themselves. On my side, I prefer the internet of experiences as a definition. Instead of browsing the internet of evolution where you draw the information you need, the metaverse will be an internet of experiences where you can dip into what experiences you wish.

The definition of the metaverse is still being explored, and will solidify over the next few years. For now, the most agreeable version is that it will be a version of the internet that will be more immersive. But as the metaverse becomes fully-formed, it will be easier to define.

The difficulties of defining the metaverse
The difficulties of defining the metaverse. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske.

Is it real?

The metaverse is not real in any way at the moment. At best, we are at early discussions on what the metaverse actually is, and shaping how it will be formed in the future. Some companies may argue that they are running their own metaverse, such as Decentraland or The Sandbox. But the reality is that they are all micro-metaverses locked in their own walls, as opposed to a wider macro-metaverse where it connects everything together.

The metaverse will become real over time, as a consensus is reached on the technologies that underpin it. But any company that says they have created the actual metaverse, which everyone will use as an interconnected space, is likely misleading the user. No major metaverse that connects everything together exists. instead, we have a range of smaller ones that are closer to private virtual worlds than anything else.

With that said, there are a variety of smaller metaverses that symbolise visions of what it can look like. Though they are not strictly what the metaverse will be, they offer ways of interacting with others in joyful and interactive ways.

How does it link to cryptocurrencies, NFTs, or coins?

A few companies argue that the metaverse will incorporate some sort of cryptocurrency as part of its infrastructure, where it will form the basis of how goods and services trade together. Examples include The Sandbox and Decentraland, both of which trade ‘parcels’ of land or coins that can be swapped between users.

In the future, there may be a decentralised ledger where transactions are recorded over time. If the metaverse can work across multiple systems, then a decentralised network makes sense to keep track of payments and assets.

While it has its perks, it is not a necessity. Many systems can work without the need for cryptocurrencies or NFTs, trading in fiat currencies rather than tokens linked to the blockchain. While debatable, systems can work together to pugh for their success without the link to the metaverse.

NFTs and the metaverse
NFTs and the metaverse. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske.

Does the metaverse have a future?

We can be certain that the metaverse will come at some point. As a social species, we are constantly pushing to explore how we can connect together. The appeal of social media is that we can connect with friends and family members more easily, sharing life updates and conversing. The positive of the metaverse is that it takes the next evolutionary step, where people can share experiences alongside transferring information.

We are already seeing a variety of companies pushing for the metaverse as well. Meta pivoted their whole organisation towards it in 2021, renaming themselves and stating their focus on the next era of spatial computing. Mark Zuckerberg is particularly impassioned on it, driving the company forward alongside Andrew “Boz” Bosworth by investing heavily into their Reality Labs section of the company. Microsoft is investigating the area as well, but in the context of an ‘enterprise metaverse’ where it focuses on companies over companions.

With the range of large companies investigating the space, a metaverse of some type will likely rise up in the future. But the actual formation of it is very difficult to predict, and we will know for certain what it will look like in many years’ time.

Preparing for the future of spatial computing

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Meditative with the VIVE Flow. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske

Tom Ffiske

Editor, Immersive Wire

Tom Ffiske is the Editor of the Immersive Wire, a twice-weekly newsletter on the immersive industry.