Imagine a place where you can stay young forever, have a city named after yourself, and even become president—sounds like a dream? Well, if not in the real world, such a dream can come true in the virtual world of the Metaverse. Some believe that the Metaverse is the future of the Internet, where people can enter the digital world of the Internet in the form of their avatars and surfing.
The emergence of AR, blockchain and VR devices over the past few years has sparked the development of the Metaverse. Additionally, the unprecedented growth of highly advanced technologies in the gaming industry provides immersive gaming experiences that not only give us a glimpse of what the Metaverse might look like but show that we are closer than ever to experiencing our virtual worlds.
The Metaverse is a set of persistent, shared 3D virtual environments where you (in the form of your digital avatar) can visit places, purchase products, subscribe to services, collaborate with colleagues, play games, and even customize the scene around you To suit your tastes and requirements, as well as the digital assets you own. So virtual reality is a virtual world or a world that will allow you to go into the digital world – yes, not in the digital space.
Over the next few years, I expect people to shift from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company.
“Over the next few years, I expect people to shift from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company.”
The concept of the Metaverse has been depicted in The Matrix, Pokemon Go, Minority Report, Ralph Break the Internet, Black Mirror, and countless other movies, video games, and TV shows. However, people still look forward to experiencing the immersive Metaverse in the real world. Interestingly, companies like Facebook and Microsoft have announced million-dollar plans to create the Metaverse.
A Brief History of the Metaverse
The concept of the Metaverse was first proposed in 1994 in Snow Crash, a science fiction novel that is now a classic by American author Neil Stephenson. In his book, Stephenson defines the Metaverse as the advanced stage of the Internet — a virtual substitute for physical reality. The following year, ActiveWorlds Inc. launched Active Worlds, an online virtual world based on the Metaverse discussed in Avalanche.
Before Stephenson’s novel was published, metaverse-like virtual environments had appeared in some MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) and other novels based on retro-futuristic themes. Still, no one discussed the Metaverse with this clarity, Such as an avalanche.
From 1998 to 2004, companies like There Inc., Blaxxun Interactive, Linden Labs, and IMVU developed their own 3D virtual worlds, games, applications, and online social networking sites.
These platforms provide users with virtual avatars to interact, play and purchase items in their virtual environments using digital currencies and rewards.
Of all these platforms, Second Life from Linden Labs is the most successful app based on the Metaverse concept. As the name suggests, users can experience a second virtual life in the game and participate in different activities that can only happen in the Metaverse of Second Life. Launched in 2003, the game is still active today and played by hundreds of thousands of users worldwide.
In 2004, Indian-American inventor Bhargav Sri Prakash launched the Vmerse metaverse, a consumer-oriented real-time virtual reality simulation designed to support real-world applications such as college recruiting processes, alumni relationship management, emergency response training plan, etc. The University of Michigan uses Vmerse to assist applicants from underserved community segments through admissions.
Other institutions in the United States, Stanford, LSU, and many others, later implemented the technique. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State uses Vmerse to guide international students through admissions to U.S. universities.
Google also launched (beta) an online virtual environment called Google Lively in July 2008. The service allows people to chat and view photos and videos in virtual rooms whose design can also be customized to suit users’ preferences. However, Google Lively was shut down on December 31, 2008, as it failed to attract users or generate profits for Google.
Over the past 10 years, High Fidelity Inc., Sinespace, Facebook, Epic Games, Sorilax, and many other brands have launched many other 3D apps and games ( Fortnite, Minecraft, etc.) to provide an improved Metaverse experience.
How does the Metaverse overwhelm the real world?
Although it’s still a while before people experience the real Metaverse, as shown in the movie Player One, metaverse-based technologies are already starting to impact reality, and there’s every reason to believe so:
- Blockchain-based platforms powered by cryptocurrencies and NFTs are used in many Metaverse games to purchase virtual assets. For example, Republic Realm, a digital investment firm, used NFTs to purchase $913,228.20 worth of virtual land in a virtual world called Decentraland in June 2021. Many artists, players, and even investors buy virtual assets on the platform worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. These transactions often use cryptocurrencies.
- 3D modeling artists with the skills to create restaurants, galleries, offices, and other structures in the Metaverse can earn $1,000 to $6,000 just by designing a single building. NFT (Non-Fungible Token) artists are organizing virtual events to showcase their art, and they’re even charging entry fees (in crypto tokens) to visitors of such events.
- Theoretically, the Metaverse is an open world where your age, gender, race, or religion doesn’t matter. Because you can hide your real identity behind your avatar, people can trade, collaborate, create assets, invest in virtual real estate, customize their worlds, exchange identities, and so much more; all they need is an internet connection, a smartphone, and a VR headset. In 2019, Kyle Giersdorf, a 16-year-old boy from Pennsylvania, won a prize worth $3 million after winning the Fortnite World Cup.
- COVID-19 has triggered massive growth in almost all online services and metaverse-related industries, such as blockchain services, NFTs, and gaming. NFT sales crossed the $2.5 billion mark in 2021. The entire gaming industry is now worth around $300 billion (due to the unprecedented increase in mobile game users during the coronavirus outbreak). Since the pandemic, Bitcoin and many Other cryptocurrencies also saw an uptrend.
- Many real-world events like concerts, business meetings, auctions, fundraisers, and even marriages are starting to take place in the virtual world. In April 2021, famous American rapper Travis Scott performed a virtual music performance in the Fortnite game. The digital event attracted more than 20 million live viewers.
The unrestricted flow of NFTs and cryptocurrencies in metaverse-based immersive games forms a virtual economy (metanomics). According to a report, about 2.5 billion people around the world are involved in transactions that take place in different metaverses. Such numbers are enough to bring about drastic social, technological, and economic changes in the real world.
The Future of the Metaverse
Even when combining the total sales of Hollywood, the music industry, and the rest of the world’s film industries, those numbers still fall short of the revenue generated by the games industry alone. The AR and VR industries are expected to contribute $1.5 trillion to global GDP by 2030.
These impressive market figures, Big Tech’s growing interest in the Metaverse, and surging demand for augmented reality-based devices suggest that our world may be more engaged with virtual worlds in the coming years. However, a truly meta-experience, where humans can no longer tell the difference between the real and virtual worlds, is yet to be achieved.
Maybe that’s for the best; “Avalanche” is not a romantic novel. *spoiler alert * a brain-eating virus ends up spreading through the metaverse * spoiler alert end*. When Vanity Fair recently asked Stephenson about the prospect of the social media tech giant making his idea a reality, he offered “a low chuckle and a very, very, very long pause.”