What is the metaverse, why is everyone talking about it, and do you need to go there

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Metaverse is a mixture of virtual and augmented reality. The idea invented by science fiction writers back in the 20th century is that it is a limitless three-dimensional digital world, which, according to the idea of ​​modern technogiants, can be entered as easily as the Internet.

For now, it looks like a slightly more immersive version of virtual reality (VR), but many believe that the metaverse is the future. Instead of a computer, the metauniverse offers a VR headset to plunge into a virtual world that will combine digital environments. Unlike today’s virtual reality, which is used mainly for gaming, this virtual world can be used for almost anything – work conferences, games, concerts, watching movies – or just for relaxation. You will be in this world in the form of your 3D avatar.

Metauniverse can become for people not just a “computer game” that they play after work, but a place where they will solve all their affairs: work, study, communicate and make all purchases. In fact, by design, you will be able to spend most of your time in this space.

But since it’s only a concept at this point, there’s no single, agreed-upon definition of the metauniverse yet.

One of the first attempts to implement the concept was back in 2007. Then a computer game with elements of the Second Life social network became popular. About a million people participated in a variety of activities there: they could visit virtual versions of famous places, shop for virtual and real clothes, and even have virtual sex. In addition, Second Life users earned money, and some even became millionaires. However, this social network could not hold people’s attention for a long time.

In addition, there is already a Decentraland platform – a “decentralized virtual world” running on Ethereum. It is a virtual metaworld where users will be able to buy and sell digital real estate while exploring the world, interacting with each other and playing games. Decentraland users have their own avatars and nicknames. You need VR glasses to immerse yourself in the world. As well as Sandbox, Mirandus and Axie Infinity platforms.

Interest in the idea of ​​a metaworld was strongly influenced by the pandemic. Against the backdrop of lockdowns, the demand for remote work and online entertainment has grown. Although there are many concepts of what a metauniverse should be, most of them are based on human interaction. This drew additional attention to the topic from large companies. Among them are Facebook, Microsoft and Epic Games.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke loudest about the development of the metauniverse in July of last year, who even renamed his company Meta in the fall to confirm the seriousness of his intentions. The company intends to invest $10 billion in creating a “metauniverse”.

According to Zuckerberg, it will be a complete virtual world for communication, work and entertainment, where users could feel the physical presence of each other.

“A lot of people think that the metaverse is virtual reality, which I think will be a big part of it. And this is the part where we invest the most — VR technology provides the most capacious form of human presence. But the metaverse is not only virtual reality. It will be available on all our AR and VR platforms, as well as PC, mobile and game consoles. Many people also associate the metauniverse primarily with games, but I don’t think it will be only them, although entertainment will be a big part of the process,” said Zuckerberg.

Microsoft also announced the creation of its metauniverse and decided to start by changing the traditional office life based on its Azure cloud technology. The company announced that already in the first half of 2022, virtual spaces and 3D avatars for communication, data exchange and work will appear in its Teams video conferencing service.

Meta and Microsoft will obviously compete strongly in the age of the metaverse. The latter has invested in this area for years, working on the HoloLens mixed reality glasses and buying various startups, including the social virtual reality platform AltspaceVR. However, they are not united in their aspirations.

The American game studio Epic Games calls its online game Fortnite the basis for the metauniverse. In April, the company attracted $1 billion in investments for the long-term development of the metauniverse. $200 million came from Sony, with whom Epic Games plans to develop advanced technologies, as well as work with the field of entertainment and socially interconnected online services. According to Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, the metaverse should provide a better experience than Fortnite, Netflix and all other entertainment services combined.

He recently told the Washington Post that he envisions a world in which a car manufacturer, promoting its new model, “launches it into the virtual universe and anyone can ride it.” Or, for example, you go online shopping and before you order something, you try on clothes in a digital environment.

Because in the metaverse, users can buy virtual land and other things like clothes for avatars in the form of a crypto-asset called a non-fungible token (NFT) – it is attracting interest from a whole range of brands. For example, Nike bought virtual sneaker maker RTFKT to trade in the metaverse.

In addition, we can already observe several examples of real transactions with virtual assets. For example, a lot of land on The Sandbox platform was sold for $57,171. However, this is far from the highest amount that people are willing to pay for virtual “land”. The record is currently held by a 565-square-meter plot on Decentraland, sold for $2.4 million. It was purchased by Tokens.com, a Canadian service for digital fashion shows and e-commerce services with fashion brands.

It is currently unknown when the real metauniverse will appear. Thus, Mark Zuckerberg optimistically declares that he will implement the project in 5-7 years, and Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney believes that it will take decades. There is also no consensus on how the competing metauniverses will coexist, what they will look like, and what the implementation of this concept will lead to in general.

For sure, we can say only one thing – this idea has a great potential to change our life in the same way that it was changed by the emergence of social networks, and maybe the Internet in general.

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