What is Metaverse and why is it gaining popularity?
- Published | 01 March 2022
The term Metaverse could be tracked down to 1992 when a novel called Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson got published. The novel described a virtual reality dataspace, which was then called the Matrix. The metaverse in Snow Crash happens to be a 3D VR space that could be accessed via personal terminals as well as VR goggles that project numerous similarities with the Oculus Quest and other headsets. The 3D space could also appear to be an urban environment that has been developed along a single hundred-meter-wide road, which has been regarded as the Street. Upon the streets, the developers could create their small streets, build buildings, signs, parks, and the things that may not even exist in Reality. If this part of the equation seems familiar, it’s because people have resorted to massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), which happen to share similar properties.
In its sequel novel, Second Life (which was released in 2003), users could customize their realistic avatars, create virtual items, own properties, trade exchange goods and services, and others. Virtual experiences as described in the Second Life could be translated into proto-metaverse. The technologies that augment the capabilities of the Metaverse include Virtual Reality (which could get characterized by consistent virtual worlds that could still exist when the user is not engaged) and augmented reality (which helps combine the digital as well as the physical worlds). However, the technology may not be required to be accessed explicitly by VR or AR. A virtual world, just like games could get accessed via PCs, phones, and game consoles.
Metaverse Scenario thus far
The world has been witnessing a paradigm shift in what all may become possible by combing VR and AR. Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook) is estimating that the technology may take next five to ten years to arrive at some of the major mainstream functions of the Metaverse. However, some of the aspects of the Metaverse technology have already been existing. Super-fast broadband speeds coupled with VR headsets as well as always online virtual worlds have already showcased what Metaverse has in store for the users.
If a user spends ample time trying to figure out what the Metaverse has to offer, they might end up hearing things like “they relate to fictional stories such as Snow Crash novel), Ready Player One (showcasing a virtual world for the user to work, play, and trade). They might almost like to amalgamate the definition to that of the holograms and other heads-up displays, much like the characteristics or features that have already been portrayed in sci-fi movies.
Some of the promising examples:
- Meta: The IT giant, which was formerly recognized as Facebook, had been one of the first companies to have ever surfaced the topic of the Metaverse. The company changed its name to Meta in such a pursuit to depict their intentions toward the technology. Meta has demonstrated their interests by allocating significant investments toward Virtual Reality over the years. Meta has always been envisioning how a virtual world could penetrate with humankind using digital avatars that could connect the user's work, travel as well as entertainment, all using the VR headsets. Zuckerberg has thus far been very bullish for Metaverse, affirming to change the way that the world is consuming the internet. Amid rebranding announcements, he stated that the upcoming platform and medium is expected to become even more immersive and embodied with the internet where the user could experience it all and would not be kept away by just the looks of it.
- Microsoft: The technology giant also happens to be one of the pioneering companies to have brought the idea of Metaverse to the world. The company has already been utilizing holograms and is working on the development of Mixed as well as Extended Reality (XR) applications with the help of its Microsoft Mesh platform. The platform has been combining the real world with that of AR and VR. In November 2021, Microsoft demonstrated its plans of bringing mixed-reality, comprising holograms as well as virtual avatars to that of Microsoft Teams software by 2022. The U.S. Army has also been found to be working with the giant on the Aaugmented Reality Hololens 2 headset for the army soldiers to rehearse, fight and train.
Recent Developments in Metaverse Space
- In January 2022: The Sandbox (market-leading decentralized gaming metaverse, which also happens to be a subsidiary for Animoca Brands) announced that the company is committing more than USD 50 million toward Brinc (another leading global venture accelerator) for The Sandbox Metaverse Accelerator Program. It is anticipated to target over 100 startups for augmenting the open metaverse platform. The applications have now been declared as open and the first cohort for the program is expected to take place by the second quarter of 2022. The Sandbox Metaverse Accelerator Program has been a dedicated track found under the Launchpad Luna (the accelerator) that was launched back in mid-2021 owing to the partnership between Animoca Brands and Brinc. The new program is now focused on bolstering over 30 to 40 startups per year over a span of three years to invest, mentor, support, and educate the development of startups as well as their projects while offering higher access to more potential partnership opportunities across the expanding networks of The Sandbox, Brinc, and Animoca Brands. Startups that would get accepted into the program are expected to gather an initial investment of over USD 250,000 each. The Sandbox has also represented their plans on offering grants of more than USD 150,000 in SAND tokens for the performers who demonstrate excellent capabilities.
- In January 2022: eToro (which is popular social trading as well as investment platform) announced that the company is launching its Metaverse-themed smart portfolio which would be dubbed as MetaverseLife. It is aimed at providing investors with long-term exposures to financial assets comprising stocks, key projects, and crypto-assets that are going on across the metaverse industry. As the ultimate peripheral between the real as well as the virtual world, the Metaverse has been representing an opportunity for the evolution of the internet that is known today. The MetaverseLife portfolio comprises stocks and other crypto assets that showcase the Metaverse as a whole. It is more inclined towards enabling the platforms that are expected to be developed with the help of these metaverses, including Meta Platforms, Roblox, and Blockchain platforms like Decentraland, Enjin, and The Sandbox. The portfolio may also comprise some tech giants that are anticipated to contribute to the worldwide adoption of the metaverse. The companies involved in such a pursuit include Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Microsoft Corporation, and Nvidia Corporation.
- In January 2022: Nvidia Corporation announced that the company is expected to offer its software free of cost to artists as well as other creators that have been working on developing virtual worlds for the Metaverse platform. The company also stated that they have been in talks for several technology partners across the marketplace where artists supply the 3D content that they had developed. Nvidia has also been seeking to transform its leading position across the supply of computer hardware for the metaverse platform to an array of software tools, thereby developing, brainstorming, and distributing content within these virtual worlds, which has become a business opportunity helping Nvidia to double its shares over the past year. The Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas, Nevada witnessed Nvidia announcing their plans of distributing the free version of "Omniverse" software to artists for building virtual worlds. Back in November, the company had announced plans on charging prices that would start at around USD 9,000 every year for corporate customers.
- In September 2021: Meta announced their plans on investing in the research and development of metaverse technology. The company announced on investing into the XR Programs and Research Fund with a two-year USD 50 million investment across the programs as well as external research for assistance in this pursuit. With the help of the fund, the company is collaborating with varied industry partners, governments, civil rights groups, academic institutions, and nonprofits for determining how to develop these technologies more responsibly. Some of the initial partners under the program include the Organization of American States for job training as well as skills development for creators, students, and small business owners. On the African continent, the company is supporting Africa No Filter, Imisi3D, and Electric South for supporting creators who have pushed the boundaries for digital storytelling with the help of immersive technology via “Amplifying African Voices.” With the “Women in Immersive Tech”, the company is supporting women as well as underrepresented groups, thereby driving Europe’s augmented, virtual, and mixed reality sectors.
- In March 2021: Metaverse Group (which happens to be the holding company for Metaverse Property) announced that the company is intending to launch the Metaverse REIT (Real-Estate Investment Trust), which could become the very first REIT that would be aimed at Metaverse land assets. Metaverse REIT is planning on owning and operating a myriad of high-quality properties across Decentraland, Crypto Voxels, Somnium Space, Upland, Sandbox, and other viable Metaverses. However, the intention is to create it as the world’s very first 100% Metaverse REIT. The substantial recognition of NFTs, as well as the Metaverse land assets, has resulted in pushing the motives of the founders of Metaverse Property (Michael Gord and Jason Cassidy) for incorporating a REIT model for their Metaverse land assets. In such a manner, they could create the asset class much more attractive for the conventional audience. The REIT is also anticipating augmented support from the portfolio of DLT ASA (a publicly-listed digital asset as well as Blockchain network).
What does the future hold for Metaverse?
Even though the Metaverse may demonstrate excellent growth opportunities, the implementation, technological developments, technology penetration, data protection laws, transparency, and other aspects of the technology have still been eluded from the mainstream conversations. It showcases that the interest on this human-technology integration may soon bring about a breadth of challenges that are unheard of. It's important to consider these factors in order to move ahead in the desired Metaverse direction at the pace that we would want to. The AR and VR penetration in itself may be garnering some attention over the past years, however, the very thought of integrating people's lives with such technologies may not prove out to be feasible in the short to medium term as the technology may be expensive in the beginning. However, one thing is sure, with the largest of the tech gaints showing their strong inclination towards this space and committing huge investment, the journey of how the whole Metaverse space moves ahead is going to be very exiciting.
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