Metaverse: The Future of the Internet?

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On 28 October 2021, Mark Zuckerberg made a huge announcement during the Annual Facebook Conference “Connect 2021”. He changed his company’s name from “Facebook”—the owner of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, among other apps—to “Meta”; a name that focuses on building the “Metaverse”.

So, what is the metaverse?

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines metaverse as “the concept of highly immersive virtual world where people gather to socialize, play, and work”. Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement simply popularized the term but it has been around since 1992. It was Neal Stephenson, an American writer, who coined the word metaverse and wrote about a computer-generated universe in his novel Snow Crash.

“Metaverse” is a lifelike digital world that you can experience through special equipment that makes the best use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology. You do not simply see this world through a screen, but you experience it as if you were there without leaving your physical location. Let us say you are in the house with your family, if you use special equipment, you can experience different realities from your surroundings and what your family members can see.

If you are still confused, it is something similar to the Holodeck from the famous Star Trek franchise. They would program the computer to transform a regular room into a universe of their choice, such as if you want to ride a horse, you will enter the room and see a horse, not a real horse of course, but you will enjoy the experience. The metaverse is a bit similar to that.

Does this mean entering a completely different reality from our own?

Well, yes and no; we can do that but we can also interact with elements of virtual reality along with our physical space. For example, you can see data about the best and fastest route to your destination when you are in the street through special glasses that integrate data from the virtual world with what you “really” see.

The metaverse is a universe built to “mirror” and “parallel” the real world at the same time. In an article published two years ago by Kevin Kelly, the Founding Executive Editor of Wired magazine, he narrates the experience of Adam Savage, the star of the TV show MythBusters, with augmented reality. Using goggles and a headset, he heard a whale then saw it swimming by his street! His experience is a glimpse of the “mirrorworld” also known as the metaverse.

Is Facebook the only company building the metaverse?

Absolutely not, but their announcement shed light on an existing concept, or let us say, a parallel world that many companies are already invested in and building. The companies that are most interested in the virtual reality world are gaming companies where the metaverse, in a sense, is almost a reality. Fortnite, Minecraft, and Second Life are “all interactive and world-building games” and are, you might say, the forerunners of the metaverse where players have an avatar and buy virtual goods.

Since Zuckerberg’s announcement, people have been and still are arguing about the metaverse technology? Is it going to make our reality better or worse? Fortunately, we do not have to wait for long to find out; the metaverse is closer than we imagine.

 

References

dw.com
forbes.com
merriam-webster.com
theguardian.com
theverge.com
wired.com
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