What is the Metaverse? The Metaverse is the future of the internet! At least for the proponents and tech enthusiasts on this planet. It is probably more of a video game if you ask the other group. Mark Zuckerberg announced several months ago that the parent company of Facebook, Instagram & Co. would be called Meta. This marked the beginning of an exciting time because with this announcement; the term metaverse had finally arrived in the general public.
The Metaverse describes a platform for social contacts that is perceived via so-called VR glasses. But it has since become apparent that the term metaverse is not standardised. Instead, several companies describe their Metaverse in terms of their respective business models. And technology developers are constantly adding more applications. But what they all have in common is that while they do not have an exact idea of the Metaverse as a whole, they want to make money from it.
Virtual spaces between which one can quickly move and interact with other people or their avatars. This, or something similar, is the best way to describe the Metaverse as it is currently conceived – social contacts between digital images of ourselves. And in the middle of it all, companies that want to sell us digital objects with or without collector’s value via NFT. Brave new (virtual) world?
From Internet to Metaversum
The internet has existed since the 1970s. Originally intended as a free space for everyone, over time, a few companies developed that collect data from their users and use it for their purposes. This alone is not necessarily reprehensible, but the fact that they grant hardly any rights to the owners of the data, i.e., the users, and deprive them of their data sovereignty is.
“The avatars designed for the multiverse have to work with experience. It has to be open source and is easily improved upon by its users. Major corporations control the current avatar systems.”Tony Jones
However, people have changed and developed a new demand for their data and its purpose. Unfortunately, the internet cannot fully meet this demand and is largely dominated by data silos and monopolies. Can the Metaverse do better?
Probably not, because a few market leaders are in the front row even in the race for cyberspace. No one really knows yet what the Metaverse will look like. First impressions can be gained via Decentraland or Roblox, for example. While more and more internet use is shifting from desktop to mobile devices, the internet will become more of a metaverse in the next few years.
First and foremost, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta must be mentioned here because it has at least ensured that the scene is discussing the Metaverse. As a direct negative consequence, however, it must also be pointed out that the company lost around 250 billion US dollars in stock market value after the renaming announcement. This is a lot of money and a massive shock for Silicon Valley, which is so used to success.
To date (as of 12.05.2022), the meta price shows unusually low values of 180.02 US dollars per share. However, the deep fall is also explained by the generally weak values of the stock markets at the moment; after all, we are in exceptional global circumstances and challenging economic times. But back to the giants in the metaverse business, or rather, one of them.
I have already mentioned Decentraland, but Sandbox and Axie Infinity are also there. These platforms specialise in trading digital objects and NFT or are based on the play-to-learn approach and blockchain. In addition to the possibilities of acquiring virtual properties and selling them to the highest bidder or holding them speculatively, the gaming platforms, in particular, are in a pioneering role in developing the future Metaverse.
Antechamber of the digital future
Virtual flat viewings, the raising of digital pets, participation in virtual concerts of famous stars, and music by the hottest artists – the digital space should primarily provide entertainment and sales. The necessary infrastructure is coming or is supposed to come, from chip giants Nvidia to Microsoft’s VR goggles, Amazon cloud servers and IBM’s recently announced new business model for the Metaverse.
This is about a new computer model that replaces the PC-based client/server approach, will be networked and modular and is to be considered a fundamental change in the technological requirements of customers. Microsoft does not only want to present new technology but is convinced that its ideas represent a revolution. For example, co-workers could have themselves replaced by virtual avatars in video meetings and send the double callers to meetings in virtual reality.
In addition to the extensive web services for developers, Amazon also relies on its own Metaverse Game. The 3D AWS Cloud Quest is supposed to help solve technical problems for people with the cloud and act as an e-learning module. To this end, Amazon is constantly looking for new employees to develop new augmented reality headsets, for example.
Apple is also working on such headsets and wants to invest more in VR data glasses. Whether it’s infrastructure, software, hardware, or accessories: it seems as if the Metaverse is also dominated by a few tech giants and the market is already divided up.
VR Glasses and Augmented Reality
The Metaverse could permanently change how we perceive ourselves as social beings and experience society. But also, how we work, live, educate ourselves or go out. Regardless of ethical, cultural, religious, social, or other boundaries, VR glasses and augmented reality immerse us in the virtual world of the Metaverse.
Companies in the IT, telecom and tech industries have focused their efforts on developing metaverse applications and environments. The main focus is on data glasses, which are necessary for entering the virtual worlds. Because while we understand and perceive the internet superficially as a plane, we dive into the Metaverse. This plane is open. It is more profound and requires the exit from the real world with the help of special glasses.
“Online worlds like “Decentraland” or “The Sandbox” are now marketing themselves as “metaverses”. These are virtual worlds that are modeled by the real world in the broadest sense – only, according to the promise, more colourful, exciting and limitless”.
Customers buy such glasses to get the way, an open gate, into the Metaverse. Connected to millions of users simultaneously, this poses enormous challenges for manufacturers and providers. Quite a few say that it will take years before we are ready to swap the physical world with the digital world.
The connectivity needed for this is supposed to come from 5G, but the roll-out is lagging in many countries worldwide. Some are even talking about 6G and edge computing. This is because existing networks would not be sufficient given the upcoming data load.
What are VR glasses?
Virtual Reality (VR) has proven to be a real trend in recent years and is now unalterably linked to the Metaverse. Users can trade in virtual space and experience different perspectives with VR glasses. The integrated display in the glasses provides animated images and completely covers the eyes.
This way, it prevents the perception of ambient stimuli and allows complete concentration on the Metaverse. Every movement of the head is transmitted virtually. So-called standalone VR glasses like the Oculus Quest improve many aspects of VR glasses for smartphones or game consoles.
They are portable and comfortable to wear. Oculus, the company behind these glasses, was taken over by Facebook in 2014 and is to be renamed Meta Quest sometime this year. In the future, all VR glasses should be able to capture and recreate every body’s movement in the game or metaverse. Freedom of movement in all axes plays a significant role.
To achieve this, sensors are used on the head, hands and feet that calculate the distances between the sensors and the position in space. Such glasses already exist from Polygon, but their price is very high, and therefore, these glasses are not yet suitable for the masses.
Metaverse – Hype or real chance?
The Metaverse will be a great thing. That much seems clear. But how far the technology has come is also shown by the modest presentation of Mark Zuckerberg himself so far. Would you have recognised him? With much imagination, probably, but the comic-like 3D avatar of the Facebook boss still has room for improvement, I’d say.
Hardware and software are developing rapidly, and the possibilities seem endless, which shows the Metaverse’s colossal potential. Unfortunately, despite the positive aspect, it looks as if the market will again be divided among a few suppliers. The many jobs created by the development should not go unmentioned. Meta has predicted up to 10,000 new jobs in this context.
BMW uses the Omniverse Enterprise from chip manufacturer Nvidia as part of its smart production solutions to virtually map individual processes. Roblox and Epic Games are already showing impressive market shares with hit games such as Fortnite, and millions of users are only too happy to follow them into the virtual gaming world.
The Metaverse is unstoppable, its implementation only a matter of time. Whoever brings it to the market first will be one of the massive winners. But there is room for further co-existence and so there will not be one Metaverse but several metaverses, which ideally will even be interoperable one day. Who knows what the future will bring? But it will be digitally networked and equipped with virtual worlds.