Metaverses: Basics You Should Need About Them
Proponents of metaverses describe them as an inevitable development of the Internet – a virtual world in which billions of people live. A world where our 3D avatars have even better experiences than in real life. Such a world doesn’t yet exist, but the first attempts to create it will be discussed in this article
A Brief History
The term “metaworld” was first used in 1992 by writer Neal Stephenson in his novel. It’s a virtual world where people interact with each other just as they do in the real world. Another oft-cited example of a metaverse at work is Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel and its 2018 film adaptation.
Here are a few milestones in the development of the metaverses:
- Linden Lab’s 2003 launch of a three-dimensional virtual world with social networking elements of Second Life, in which users could do what they liked. You could create virtual goods, build, make art, explore the world, and interact with other users.
- Satoshi Nakamoto’s launch of Bitcoin in 2009.
- The launch of the Oculus VR headset on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
- Vitalik Buterin and Gavin Wood’s 2015 launch of Ethereum, a platform for creating decentralized applications.
- The first experiments with NFTs, non-interchangeable tokens, in 2013-2014 and their rise in popularity in 2020-2021. NFTs give the owner proof of ownership of a song, a work of art or digital real estate. They can be bought or sold in the metaverse.
- There is already a Metaverse Group that deals with digital real estate in different virtual worlds, such as Decentraland.
- Meanwhile, Nike sells and buys virtual clothing. In collaboration with Roblox, the company has created its own virtual world, Nikeland. In it, users can play by dressing up their avatars.
- The game Pokemon Go in 2016 completely covered the real world with augmented reality.
- In 2019, the online video game Fortnite became the most popular virtual world, gathering 250 million players at a time. In 2020, 12 million people attended Fortnite for rapper Travis Scott’s concert. The performance lasted 12 minutes and Scott earned $20 million.
- That same year, Microsoft introduced the Mesh platform. You can connect to it from almost any device, and users will be represented by avatars from AltspaceVR: this social network, acquired by Microsoft in 2017, allows you to create virtual events.
How Metaverses Work
While the metaworld has not yet been created, there is only a vision of how it will work. In general, it’s a digital ecosystem built on VR/AR technologies and blockchain-based economy. A single continuous space for all users, in which people live, work, move freely, own assets and exchange them. Maybe one day users will be able to do not only simple actions but also to play at the best online casino South Africa or even arrange huge international events for both entertainment and education. Mark Zuckerberg in 2021 called it a three-dimensional Internet: the Internet used to be text-based, then it became visual – with photos and video, and the next step is 3D. Now, though, video games such as Fortnite are also called Metaverses.
Digital assets in the metaverse are common to all platforms and are transferable. For example, items from one game can be used in another. Metaverses will also support the transfer of digital items into the real world using holograms. How it will be implemented technically isn’t clear yet.
Transferring from platform to platform requires their owners to cooperate, which may be unprofitable. Why would the creators of Fortnite create a portal to transport the player to another virtual world? They have no motivation to do so, and it probably won’t be that easy to implement.
Perhaps entering the meta universe will be done through augmented and virtual reality devices. Another device that is important for the development of the realism of metaclasses is special suits for transmitting tactile sensations when interacting with virtual objects.
What We Have Now
Right now you can only try the rudiments of metaverses. These are mostly video games, such as Roblox and Fortnite. Businesses use metaclasses to support remote work or training: Horizon Workrooms, for example, is a virtual space for remote workers. The app allows you to create workrooms that you can enter as a 3D avatar or from your computer via video call. Hand, eye, face, and facial expression tracking is supported for avatars. Inside the rooms, you can use your own keyboard brought into the 3D space, as well as a virtual whiteboard. The app has several room types for different meeting options. For example, a presentation, where everyone looks toward the board, or a round table.
Another metaverse is Horizon Worlds. This is a set of virtual worlds where users can interact with each other, shop, work and have fun through their avatars. Now the project is experiencing difficulties: the company had planned to attract up to 500 thousand active users, and attracted less than 200 thousand. Users complain about empty worlds, the lack of legs for avatars, and the fact that access to Horizon Worlds requires the inexpensive Quest 2 VR headset: it costs from $400.
Another example of a rudimentary meta-universe is Microsoft’s Mesh. There, users can create a digital avatar and apply it during meetings. It’s also possible to attend via video broadcasting.
Chinese tech giant Baidu has announced the launch of its Xi Rang meta-universe. The developers hope that the platform will be used in games, education and advertising, as well as for conferences and exhibitions.
Another metaworld that exists today is Decentraland, a virtual world powered by Ethereum blockchain. All content there is created by users, and this content is traded as NFT on an internal marketplace. Decentraland also hosts exhibitions and seminars. Inside the virtual world, products and services are advertised.