Unpacking the next big thing in the digital universe and what it means for the world.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg renaming the company ‘Meta’ (we’re still getting used to that) was not just a clever PR rebrand, but signalling of the sign of the times; a tectonic shift in how we interact with technology, and how it will soon shape the landscape of the digital world. And we’re not just talking about a “Ready Player One” gamification of human lives, this is an area that investors and experts project to boom by
Imagine a world that combines your shopping, travelling and entertainment experience with the immersion of virtual and/or augmented reality. Metaverse is the working term for cyberspace that enables users to ‘live’ within a digital universe with the help of next-gen technologies.
The term “Metaverse” comes from the 1992 novel, “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, where he describes the “Metaverse” as a digital universe where people interact using 3D avatars.
The purpose of the Metaverse is the unprecedented marriage of our physical and digital worlds intersecting with our experience of gaming, watching videos, travelling, working, interacting and conducting business.
And that too, quite literally, Meta is developing a pair of haptic gloves that can simulate the feeling of human touch (“touch some grass” but virtually).
Online platforms like Fortnite and Roblox, where users live as avatars, attend concerts and hang out with friends virtually, come extremely close to describing what the future of the metaverse may look like; digital applications that harness the immersion of VR/AR/holographic avatars.
Metaverse may also boost productivity, the Oculus Quest headset offers several apps that create VR workspaces to streamline using multiple windows and rearrange them as per need.
Popular online MMO Minecraft, owned by Microsoft, is another fine example of the ‘verse. With up to
Big-tech giants like Meta, Microsoft, as well as the entire complex of cryptocurrency, are eyeing the metaverse as the next watershed moment in the history of digital interaction.
Metaverse is still a ‘what if?’. There is a high chance that term in itself might become obsolete by the time we come around to experience some of the projects it offers. As per Zuckerburg himself, the metaverse may take up to a decade till it is fully developed.
While a lot of the skeletal facets (VR/AR headsets, online avatar-based platforms) are already in place, what metaverse truly has to offer will only be expounded by time.
At the moment it refers to some AR/VR applications, virtual meeting rooms, games, ultrafast broadband networks and marketplaces. The bridge between that and its fully encompassing vision as a game-changer is yet to be realised.
And it has attracted the attention of some big names.
Meta (earlier Facebook): The social media giant, Facebook, rebranded as ‘Meta’. Entering the Metaverse following some
Meta aims to develop a suite of applications that shift life as it is into the VR and AR space. Users interact through lifelike 3D avatars; meetings, concerts, shopping, festivals, gaming, all done virtually.
Google: Google has been extremely tight-lipped about their AR endeavours, however in a recent interview with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang, CEO Sundar Pichai expressed his excitement at the future of “immersive computing, ambient computing,
Google Labs oversees their augmented reality development. Google announced ‘
Area 120, is an incubator under Google responsible for projects like Stacks, GameSnacks and Museletter is underseeing Google’s future AR expansions.
Microsoft: The computer giant is driving forward its metaverse expansion through its Mesh, platform, which makes use of holograms and mixed and extended reality applications. Microsoft Teams introduced its mixed reality avatar interactions to make meetings more interactive.
Microsoft has also revealed plans to build fully explorable virtual workplaces as a flash into the future. They have also collaborated with the U.S Army on the ‘
Apple: While nothing is concrete or official from the Cupertino-based tech giants, they were one of the earliest to the AR party, acquiring patents to a headset-based device in
Metaverse city: Seoul’s mayorship announced this year the
By 2023 the city will put in place a virtual redressal system where citizens can interact with avatar versions of administrative officials. The grand vision will pan out to make it the world’s first metropolitan in the metaverse.
Metaverse diplomacy: The government of Barbados decided this year to set up a ‘metaverse embassy’. This form of transferable diplomacy, across the meta-worlds, can perhaps chart a new and unique way for countries to engage with each other, and perhaps even multilateral diplomacy to thrive.
Metaverse: A world of exciting opportunities and discoveries
The ‘Metaverse’ is here to change things forever, its revolutionary capabilities will only unearth with time. But what we can see is that its groundbreaking ability to disrupt our interactions will be unprecedented.