Everybody is talking about the metaverse. For many, the term connotes futurism and ambiguity. With no objective definition or understanding of it, the lexeme stems from a work of nineties dystopia.
Debate surrounds the metaverse – does it currently exist? If the answer’s no, how and when will we be able to enter it? Others argue that it has been around for a while but there was no name attributed to it.
As WIRED rather aptly sums it up: “The paradox of defining the metaverse is that in order for it to be the future, you have to define away the present.”
So, what is the metaverse?
It seems everyone is in agreement that the metaverse is an overarching, ‘umbrella’ space in which competing virtual realities will co-exist. Amalgamating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), most will need the accompanying hardware to enter it or achieve optimal experiences.
XR Today defines the metaverse as a “unified space where users can perform interactions with virtual objects and with each other by using self-sustaining elements of the surrounding virtual world.”
It’s important to note that the hardware is not a requirement, and lots of people believe that you can access the metaverse via your PC or smartphone without a VR headset. However, many aspects of the metaverse may be reliant on such devices.
With a huge emphasis on the financial potential of the metaverse, many large companies have already invested heavily. Set to capitalise on virtual commodities, the metaverse will be a pixelated replica of the world we know today.
From the option to buy clothes for your avatar to purchasing land within the virtual space, cryptocurrency stands at the forefront of metaversal innovation. The capacity for retailers to infiltrate the metaverse is infinite, displacing technical conventions and positioning it as a sphere for all sectors.
Isn’t the metaverse already here?
Whether or not the metaverse is already in existence is certainly debatable. For example, one of the metaverse’s offerings will be the ability to attend live concerts from your house through the power of VR. Yet tens of millions ‘attended’ Travis Scott’s musical performance on Fortnite in 2020.
Further to this, Abba’s reunion tour is set to take digital shape later this year as artificial intelligence (AI) has rejuvenated the band into avatars which look like their younger selves. The performance will be streamed at a physical location in London, with thousands able to gather and watch it.
Of course, VR headsets have become commonplace amongst gamers. Particularly due to the impact of the pandemic, many companies have digitised various aspects of their businesses, such as gyms who took their training online.
Do these immersive experiences constitute the pre-existence of the metaverse? Is the metaverse merely an evolving concept being slowly built by technological advances?
Most talk of the metaverse as a thing of the future, however some have already reported issues from their own experiences of it. With time, hopefully we will gauge more understanding of this virtual world of possibility.