The “metaverse,” the catch-all name for the imagined immersive digital world beyond the real world, has recently gotten much attention. That attention increased exponentially following Facebook’s name change to Meta and its new goal of making the metaverse a reality.
While the announcement was flashy and the intro video equally so, Meta’s push has undoubtedly set off a spirited debate on what the metaverse will and should be. Mark Zuckerberg and Meta aim to all but own the metaverse, including quietly acquiring critical players in the space.
Just recently, Morgan Stanley called the metaverse “the next big investment theme,” but cautioned that while companies like Meta might be making much of the concept right now, it is many years from being a reality.
This is a correct analysis of the state of the industry. None of what Meta talks about, or what Zuckerberg shows in the video, is the metaverse. At best, Meta’s version is merely a concept, with what you saw simply Zuckerberg in front of a green screen and good post-production computer graphics.
The truth is, we don’t quite know what the metaverse will be, much less what it will look like. And one company attempting to control (and monetize) it all is unsettling. The internet took off because it was an open and decentralized platform that no one person or entity could control. The metaverse could be thought of as “Internet 2.0,” where the vast amount of digitized content becomes something tangible, more practical.
Think of a future student learning about the solar system. In years past, we’d have turned to textbooks or Google to read about the planets. The student could board a virtual spaceship in the metaverse, speed off to see the planets “up close” themselves, and perform “experiments” in learning rather than the two-dimensional world of a book or web page.
Of course, there’s the NFT craze as well. NFTs have been the target of much criticism from their detractors for selling the digital equivalent of snake oil. Like in our real lives, in the metaverse, we will want to personalize and accessorize our “spaces.” NFTs provide the assets that form the base of this customized space.
And there’s a lot of interest in NFTs. The total NFT market cap is over $6 billion, up sixfold in just the last three months alone. And with interest higher than ever now with the metaverse in the headlines, this is only the beginning.
Of course, NFTs also hold promise in other areas, such as gaming, where holders could move these assets from game to game. Decentralizing the methods to acquire digital assets makes them more valuable, as they are helpful outside of where you initially obtained them.
The metaverse will need some type of social fabric to knit everything together. Up until recently, however, this didn’t exist. While NFTs and the ‘Play-to-earn’ model have made it to crypto gaming, these games, and the NFTs within them, existed in separate “bubbles.”
Facebook and Epic Games are creating their own metaverses with well-established communities, but these are centralized platforms that will likely never adhere to the blockchain.
Gamerse looks to change that. The company is building what it calls “the first-ever NFT gaming social ecosystem,” serving as an aggregator for popular NFT games and their assets. In addition, Gamerse is developing a ‘share-to-earn’ model for NFT gaming, where NFT gamers and publishers alike are rewarded for participating in these communities. The metaverse will not work unless the social component is solid, and efforts like Gamerse’s share-to-earn model show promise to strengthen these connections.
With the social component addressed, the next step is building the world and the gear necessary to access the metaverse. We’re decades if not centuries away from the Holdecks of Star Trek, so our access is limited to the VR headsets we’re all accustomed to.
But in the meantime, how can we make the experience more “real?” That’s what AEXLAB is working on. The company’s upcoming first-person shooter game VAIL VR is the culmination of years of work on that front.
VAIL VR creates an immersive experience, featuring full-body presence, interactivity, and spatial audio that genuinely brings you inside the action. The company also has solutions for haptics, firearm simulation, VR-human interfaces, and even NFTs of their in-game pets to connect the experience to the blockchain.
One group from Switzerland, called H3RO3S, is taking a different path, merging the metaverse with real life. They’ve developed a P2E game where the goal is to help others. The company plans to offer a system where completing tasks across over 45 talents allows you to earn points and NFT assets. Each talent has 10 corresponding tasks. Users can earn points for requesting and completing these tasks for one another and earn $20 per day or more.
Think of this as a decentralized take on the gig economy. While you are an “independent contractor,” the gig apps still control what jobs you receive and how you complete the task. H3RO3S puts the worker in control, taking out the middleman. This sort of cooperative, equitable framework is exactly what the metaverse needs to function fairly and efficiently.
These immersive games and activities blur the boundaries between the real and digital world and bring the metaverse to life.
Once the technology is there, the next important step is building the “things” that fill our virtual spaces. As we said previously, NFTs are a logical choice for the safekeeping of these assets and to transfer the idea of ownership to the digital world. Many games are releasing NFT collectibles, but they are only beginning to scratch the surface of the power of NFTs. NFTs can be used as a DeFi tool. There’s nothing stopping new projects from adding more power and utility into their tokens.
Other NFT creators, like Roaring Leaders, serve as the basis for the quality and craftsmanship we can expect of assets in a future metaverse. The jungle-themed deflationary NFT collection designed by Marvel Studios artist Marvel Comics artist Carlos Dattoli includes 10,000 assets. Holders earn $ROAR tokens every day by staking their Roaring Leaders NFTs. CyberKongz has a similar structure, where each staked Kong rewards the user with $BANANAs.
With staking, you can neither list nor sell your NFTs. However, doing so increases scarcity without having to burn the asset. $ROAR tokens open up additional capabilities, including breeding, Jungle store items, exclusive mints, and merchandise. Using $BANANAs also let you add lore to your Kong, a name, and also breed them.
Both methods give tangible value to owning (and holding) NFTs. The future metaverse will be made up of these very same assets being acquired right now. Of course, both tokens give the user voting rights. A metaverse will be nothing if it’s not equitable.
With the building blocks of the metaverse currently being built, the question remains who will be the one to put it all together. While Meta is going all in, we think the decentralized web is where the real metaverse will reside.
No one corporation or person should have control over whatever form the metaverse ends up being. Users should have a say in how the metaverse is built, how their data is used within it, and how they incorporate it into their daily lives.
Big Tech has given us little reason to believe that it will treat the metaverse differently from what it has done with social media, and everything will be tracked and monetized. If you think online advertising is annoying now, imagine it in an immersive digital environment like the metaverse.
But the world doesn’t have to wait for these companies to do what we all know they’ll do. The decentralized and open metaverse is being built by companies that won’t try to make money off of everything you do.
The social, technological, and asset foundations of this new digital world already exist and are out of the grasp of “Big Tech.” And that’s good news for everyone because, in this future, the people hold power and decide what the metaverse will be.
Disclaimer: The author holds tokens in some of the above-mentioned companies. The opinions in this article belong to the author alone and should not be considered investment advice.
Photo Courtesy of freepik.com