I visited a friend and was surprised to see a virtual reality gear on her table. She told me that she occasional goes to a virtual cinema with her virtual friends to watch movies. I realized that the metaverse is more tangible than I thought.
Facebook has recently re-branded itself with a new name to focus on the metaverse. South Korean “millennials” and “gen z” are also gathering in virtual alternative worlds. The term metaverse is fast becoming a buzzword in tech and business, but what does it really mean?
According to Elizabeth Halcroft, from Reuters: “the word metaverse is quite a broad term, but generally it refers to online spaces that allow people to interact in a more immersive way than a traditional website. This could be through the use of virtual reality so wearing a VR headset, but people also use the term metaverse to refer to virtual environments where you have an avatar a little cartoon person representing yourself and you can walk around and interact with other people's avatars like in a video game. Fans of the metaverse see it as the next stage in the development of the internet.”
Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook will transition from being a social media company to a metaverse company in the next five years. They have already invested heavily in developing virtual and augmented reality headsets and glasses and will reportedly create 10,000 jobs in the European Union to bring their metaverse plans to life. Zuckerberg said that: “we should not really have to have to physically be together to feel present or collaborate or brainstorm.”
Facebook is certainly not alone in this space. Other investors and companies are getting excited about being a part of the next big thing. The term metaverse is popular in Silicon Valley with Microsoft also talking about converging the digital and physical worlds, because of the global health crisis over the past 18 months more people have been working from home and going to school remotely, spending a lot more time online and missing out on human interaction.
At the moment we connect with people who are not physically near us by going to websites such as social media platforms or using messaging apps and video calls, but now some people think there's more demand for online spaces where human interaction can be more multi-dimensional and life-like allowing people to immerse themselves in digital content rather than simply viewing it.
There is also a specific type of metaverse which uses blockchain technology, the same technology that's behind Bitcoin. One of such blockchain based virtual worlds is decentraland. In there users can buy digital assets such as clothes, and even land using cryptocurrencies.
Fashion companies are noticing the trend experimenting with making virtual clothing which people's avatars can wear in metaverse environments. While the metaverse offers a new space for people to socialize trade game and even attend music concerts, right now it's still no comparison to the real world.
We all have watched science fiction movies that are set in fully fledged meta verses or alternate digital worlds that are almost indistinguishable from real physical life, but that's still in fiction at the moment the most. Virtual spaces look more like the inside of video games than real life. (The writer is a member of the International Press Association)