The Metaverse is the Next Big Thing – But What Is It Exactly?

The Metaverse is the Next Big Thing – But What Is It Exactly?

First conceptualised in Neal Stephenson’s novel ‘Snow Crash’ in 1992, the term ‘metaverse’ back then referred to an alternate virtual reality in which all kinds of virtual spaces could be explored using a digital avatar.

Though the metaverse was simply a far-fetched, futuristic work of fiction at the time of its publication, we may now be on the brink of achieving that reality – at least within the next couple of decades.

So, what is the metaverse?

Because the idea of the metaverse is so new, there isn’t a standardised definition that encapsulates what the metaverse is exactly, especially since it doesn’t exist yet.

However, Facebook – now known as Meta, demonstrating the organisation’s commitment to bringing the metaverse to life – defines the metaverse as “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you”.

Across the perspectives of different metaverse authorities, it’s generally agreed that the metaverse will be centred on social connection and virtual experiences that can be achieved online.

How close are we to achieving a true metaverse?

Right now, some entities have qualities of the metaverse. 

If you own a form of cryptocurrency or if you’ve purchased an NFT, you’re taking part in an exchange that will be standard practice in the metaverse – where you use a virtual currency to obtain a virtual possession in return.

For years, video games such as Fortnite and the gaming platform Roblox – whereby thousands of games created by different developers can be accessed in the same virtual world – have embodied metaverse attributes.

Indeed, virtual experiences have already been hosted in these virtual spaces – one example is the Travis Scott concert, held within the Fortnite space in April 2020. 

Likewise, in a virtual world known as ‘Decentraland’, where users can purchase plots of virtual land and build places and experiences, fine arts broker Sotheby’s created a replica of one of its galleries in London and hosted their first show virtually in the space.

In terms of the technology to support our progression into the metaverse, we’re closer than we’ve ever been before, with Virtual Reality headsets and similar technologies making leaps and bounds in the last couple of years.

Currently, VR is mainly used for gaming, with VR headsets are capable of tricking the human eye into experiencing the world they observe through the headset in 3D. 

Moreover, Meta – formerly Facebook – have been developing VR realities for purposes outside of gaming, with their Virtual Reality meetings app dubbed ‘Workplace’ and a similar development for socialising called ‘Horizons’, in addition to Oculus VR headsets and Augmented Reality glasses.

What will we be able to do in the metaverse in the future?

The possibilities of the metaverse are as limitless as the possibilities of our physical reality, maybe even more so.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that, in the metaverse, you should be able to “get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create – as well as completely new experiences that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today”.

He further hints at a future in which people can “teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office” or visit “your parents’ living room to catch up”.

Likewise, metaverse authority Tim Sweeney – CEO of Epic Games, developed Fortnite, envisions a future where carmakers are “going to drop their car into the world in real-time, and you’ll be able to drive it around” in a world where participants can explore different spaces, brands and experiences in one interconnected space.

Indeed, it seems that this interconnectivity is one of the only barriers left to overcome between now and a future where the metaverse exists. 

Evo Heyning, the co-chair of the Metaverse Interoperability Group, states that her organisation is working on “bridging virtual worlds” so that users can hop from one virtual world or space to another.

Why are investors getting excited about the metaverse?

Many at the top of social media, tech and gaming believe that the metaverse is more than just a possibility – it’s the next inevitable step for our already digitally transformed world.

As such, many companies are making the metaverse their top priority in both development and where they’re choosing to put their money.

With this in mind, many investors are directing their capital towards Meta, Epic Games. Companies such as Nvidia and Qualcomm, among many more whose technology is likely to support the creation, development and maintenance of the future metaverse. The growth of these companies since the metaverse buzz is already skyrocketing.


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