‘Metaverse, the final frontier…’
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? And, if we’re being honest…it also sounds a bit overwhelming.
With the creation of new digital worlds, currencies and social platforms that together shape the metaverse, many of us are wondering: how will the digital world continue to change in the years to come and how do we prepare for it?
While we wish we could provide concrete answers to these existential questions, experts say we’re just not there yet. For now, the best way to prepare for the future is to find out as much as we can about the concept of the metaverse, its history and the people behind it.
We’ve gathered what we think are some of the most important questions answered about the metaverse, and we’re sharing them with you today – keep reading!
What is the metaverse?According to Wikipedia, a metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection.
Where does the Metaverse come from?The short answer is that it comes from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, which describes a computer-generated virtual world made possible by software and a worldwide fiber-optic network.
What was the original idea?The metaverse in Snow Crash is a 3D virtual reality space accessed through personal terminals and virtual reality goggles that have a lot in common with the Oculus Quest and other VR headsets that you may see on today’s market.
This 3D space appears to its users as an urban environment created along a single hundred-meter-wide road, known as “the Street”.
Stephenson writes: “Like any place in Reality, the Street is subject to development. Developers can build their own small streets feeding off of the main one. They can build buildings, parks, signs, as well as things that do not exist in Reality, such as vast hovering overhead light shows, special neighborhoods where the rules of three-dimensional spacetime are ignored [...].”
Are there other displays of the Metaverse throughout history?When it comes to the metaverse, our technologies have histories and even pre-histories – in fact, versions of proto metaverses have existed since the XIX century.
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, hosted in London in 1851, was the first of its kind, followed by Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and then Midway Plaisance. Modern history continued to develop these displays of technology, and worlds within the world, with attractions like Coney Island and Disneyland.
Metaverse: A new word for an old idea
According to Genevieve Bell, “The metaverse is a new word for an old idea.” She writes: “Just as there is a straight line from the Midway to Coney Island to Disneyland, there is a straight line from the White City, to the 1939 New York World’s Fair, to the Consumer Electronics Show. We can also draw a line between the Great Exhibition and today’s metaverse.”
Does the Metaverse Already Exist?The short answer is: no. From what we can tell thus far, the idea seems to be that the metaverse will be the next evolution of the internet.
“We’ve gone from desktop to web to mobile; from text to photos to video. But this isn’t the end of the line. The next platform will be even more immersive—an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build.” Check out this article for a deeper dive: The Metaverse and How We'll Build It Together -- Connect 2021.
What will power the Metaverse?In late January, Meta announced on social media that it would be developing an AI supercomputer.
If Meta’s prediction is true, it will one day be the world’s fastest supercomputer. According to this article, “several revolutionary uses of its supercomputer include: ultrafast gaming, instant and seamless translation of mind-bendingly large quantities of text, images and videos at once (for example, think about a group of people simultaneously speaking different languages, and being able to communicate seamlessly.) It could also be used to scan huge quantities of images or videos for harmful content, or identify one face within a huge crowd of people.
The computer will also be key in developing next-generation AI models, it will power the Metaverse, and it will be a foundation upon which future metaverse technologies can rely.
Who claims the Metaverse?Just as nobody owns the internet today, nobody will own the metaverse itself.
Brooks Canavesi believes: “There will certainly be many important players in the space, and companies like Meta, Microsoft, Unity, Epic Games, Roblox, and others want to be among them. That’s why they’re pouring billions of dollars into making the sci-fi dream come true.” You can read his article in full here: What Is the Metaverse: Where We Are and Where We’re Headed.
Will the Metaverse be safe?We’ll be honest: Information privacy is an area of concern for metaverses. According to this article: “related companies will likely collect users' personal information through interactions and biometric data from wearable virtual reality devices, making privacy concerns valid.”
Authors Arunima Sarkar and Nikhil Malhotra bring up great points here where they say: “New technologies have always demanded societal conversations about how they should be used — and how they should not. Supercomputers are no different in this regard. The age of AI also brings with it key questions about human privacy and the privacy of our thoughts.”
When will the metaverse be ready?If you’re wondering how long it will take before we move from various protometaverses toward the grand metaverse, the answer is: 10-15 years.
In the meantime, Brooks Canavesi says: “anyone who doesn’t want to wait for individual virtual experiences to form one massive world of worlds, can join platforms like Decentraland, Horizon Workrooms, or Roblox to get at least some idea of what the future will possibly look like.”
Are we mentally ready for the metaverse?According to Amy Kean, the only way to answer this one is to turn the question back to each and every one of us. She encourages us to ask ourselves:
“What would you do if you could live on the internet, even just for a day?
Where would you go if you could crawl inside it and paddle through the shallow pools of cyberspace?If you could inhale it?If you could wrap it around your body?
Answer carefully, this could be the future.”