In recent years, you’ve probably heard the so-called “Metaverse,” along with many inaccurate descriptions such as “it’s going to be the next internet” or “it’s going to revolutionize e-commerce.” In fact, the Metaverse is both more and less than many commentators make it out to be.
So, what is the metaverse? What does this mean and why is it so important? Specifically, why is it important for small businesses and entrepreneurs? Read on for answers to these questions and more.
So, what is the metaverse?
Virtual worlds are connected, VR-enabled digital worlds that persist through the Internet and cloud technology. Compare it to the internet.
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Once you create an account on Google, you can take that Google account to many other sites, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Similarly, you can make an avatar on the virtual world that you can take with you when you visit different domains, platforms or worlds connected to the virtual world network.
For example, you can:
- Create a metaverse avatar for work purposes.
- Bring that metaverse avatar to a fully digital workplace meeting so people around the world can collaborate.
- Bring your virtual world avatar into the games you play with your friends.
- Take that Metaverse avatar to the Digital Store to purchase digital items for your avatar, such as new clothes.
In many ways, virtual worlds are intrinsically related to Web 3.0: the next “iteration” or version of the Internet. Web 3.0 pays more attention to the persistence of user identities across domains and websites, and incorporates more VR and AR technologies, further blurring the boundaries between the online world and the real world.
People often confuse the terms Web 3.0 and metaverse; however, they are fundamentally different. Many Metaverse platforms are now accessible using Web 3.0 technologies and integrate Decentralized Finance (DeFi) into their economies in the form of cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
Web 3.0 is based on the idea of decentralized control and ownership of the Internet. The Metaverse is not concerned with technological ownership, but with the creation of shared digital realities.
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Today’s virtual worlds are part theoretical and part accessible — for example, you can buy a VR headset, make an avatar and instantly jump into a virtual reality world.
However, the virtual world is not yet fully interconnected, and its various platforms or domains remain largely siled. That said, the Metaverse is progressing toward realizing its ultimate potential.
How does the metaverse work?
The Metaverse works by combining new hardware technologies, such as fully immersive VR headsets, cheap enough for the average person to buy commercially, along with cloud technology and enhanced servers.
Simply put, the Metaverse is a series of linked worlds or digital domains that people can access using the same user ID. Since the metaverse relies on VR technology, your user ID is connected to a 100% unique digital avatar.
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What is the history of VR and AR technology?
The earliest examples of VR and AR technology were created in the 1960s and 70s. Over time, as people began to master the full capabilities of their computers, they began to imagine what it would be like to wear a hardware headset and display an all-digital or virtual world before their eyes.
In the 1980s and 90s, new technology involving headsets that projected a fully realized 3D world emerged, primarily as a novelty or training device for military personnel. It wasn’t until the 2010s that the average American started buying a VR headset, usually for playing games or immersing themselves in virtual worlds.
The idea of a “metaverse” is not new.in a novel by niel stephenson avalanchewhere the main character interacts with a fully immersive virtual reality environment, movies such as matrix Metaverse-like technology was also shown.
However, it’s only in the last few years that technological advances have become powerful enough to emulate these ideas and make them a reality.
VR and AR technology
Note that there is a fundamental difference between VR and AR technologies.
VR, or virtual reality, overlays a digital virtual world on top of the real one, usually using a headset such as PlayStation Oculus.
AR or augmented reality technology adds digital or virtual elements, icons and other content to the real world. AR technology can include wearing smart glasses or playing smartphone games such as Pokemon Go.
Potential Applications of the Metaverse
While it’s still early days, the Metaverse has many potential applications, some of which you can already see being used in the real world.
For starters, many people may be using virtual worlds to work remotely. You’ve probably heard businesses asking their employees to use their 3D avatars on Metaverse to attend virtual meetings. Or maybe you’ve attended these meetings yourself.
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Regardless, the Metaverse allows employees to collaborate as they would in the real world, even if they have offices across the globe. Live Zoom meetings in virtual spaces or corporate real estate are closer than ever before, similar to the environments in movies like Ready Player One.
Employees and their managers who have had the opportunity to work remotely report increased productivity and work-life balance. These and other benefits help paint a picture of how Metaverse technology can drive efficiency and productivity for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Of course, many people are already using Metaverse technology to play games. VR gaming has become popular among those who can afford VR headsets. While the graphics and controls are still in their earliest iterations, the technology will likely only improve over time. Ultimately, VR gaming may become the most common way to play games.
Video games such as Fortnite, Roblox, and Second Life may bring NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and other developments to the gaming side of the Metaverse, powered in part by social media. This will allow players to sell virtual items for cryptocurrency, providing real-world value to the game economy.
Gamers can expect metaverse tech companies to push the gaming frontier further into sci-fi territory, just as virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Quest have already done.
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More people are likely to use virtual worlds to socialize online. Digital hangouts, like metaverse coffee shops or dance clubs, may take place on specific platforms or in specific virtual worlds. In the future, people might use Metaverse to go on dates, interview job candidates, or hang out with friends without ever leaving the comfort and safety of their homes.
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The virtual world will almost certainly be used to buy real-world and digital goods online. There are already virtual world stores that you can browse with your avatar to buy digital items for your character, like clothing or accessories.
But imagine going to a Metaverse car dealership to check out a graphically realistic version of the car you want to buy before going there in person. This is a possibility that the Metaverse could have achieved.
As a side note, the Metaverse may evolve to require the use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
“Alternative” real life
In the long run, virtual worlds may continue to replace all aspects of real life. Whether this is good depends on your philosophy and how you think about technology and the internet.
Overall, there is no absolute limit to what the Metaverse can do and what it allows people to achieve.
Has the Metaverse become more popular?
There is a lot of debate and discussion about whether the Metaverse is popular now and whether it will be more popular in the future.
According to the Pew Research Center, the Metaverse is currently at the bottom of its popularity compared to where it is likely to rise in the future. In other words, the virtual world, especially as it becomes a necessary part of many workplaces, may only become a more integral and regular part of everyday life.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Metaverse will be exactly what Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft, Apple, and others have predicted. However, it seems inevitable that both the Metaverse and Web 3.0 will become more popular as time goes on and adoption increases.
Current Metaverse Platforms
Even today, there are tons of metaverse platforms that you can experience and view. Here are just a few examples:
- Decentralized Paradise: A blockchain-based social environment where you can explore virtual worlds, build things, trade or earn money.
- Sandbox: A virtual 3-D world hosted on the Ethereum blockchain network. You can build things, earn money, interact with others and enjoy new virtual experiences.
- Blacktopia: A VR world is represented as a 21-story structure “built” by 21 million bitcoins.
- Meta Horizon World: A VR platform through which users can hold and host business meetings, socialize, and participate in various virtual activities such as gaming.
- Meta hero: A unique metaverse platform that allows users to scan real world objects and move them into the metaverse instead of building them in the virtual world.
The Importance of the Metaverse
This all begs the million-dollar question: Does the Metaverse matter?
It’s hard to say whether the Metaverse will reinvent the workplace. However, it’s safe to say that the Metaverse is very important and will likely become even more so in the future.
Presenting yourself graphically and accurately online can be attractive to many people. What’s more, the metaverse could finally allow people to interact in a physically real virtual environment on a global scale.
Even though the metaverse graphics are relatively simple now, you can rest assured that in a few decades, those graphics will probably be great.
Virtual worlds are likely to lead to people spending an increasing amount of time online, with wide-ranging implications for socialization, the economy, and other major sectors.
Bottom line: Virtual worlds have the potential to change the way the world works in the same way that the Internet did in the 1980s and 90s, if not more.
related: Metaverse is the future of commerce. Here’s how to plan it.
What is the future of the Metaverse?
Ultimately, virtual worlds are the next iteration of digital technology, combining VR or virtual reality hardware with advanced cloud-based software platforms.
In theory, the Metaverse has the potential to revolutionize the way humans work, communicate and play games. But whether Metaverse will be as successful as proponents like Mark Zuckerberg hope it remains to be seen.
Looking for more? Entrepreneur’s Guideglitches, and resources to help you understand the evolution of the Metaverse.