What is a Metaverse? a new buzzword in internet technology
Getting into the Metaverse — Part 1
- 6 minutes read - 1073 words
Metaverse is the most enquired word after Facebook renamed itself to “Meta” to align to their metaversal vision. However, the term “metaverse” was coined 3 decade ago by Neal Stephenson, in his 1992 science-fiction novel “Snow Crash,” which envisions a virtual reality-based successor to the internet. In the novel, people use digital avatars of themselves to explore the online world, often as a way of escaping a dystopian reality.
Today, Metaverse is being considered as a $800 billion path with double digit growth in next 5 years, where industry is trying to get most out of it by co-creating with communities, and focusing on it’s cost-effective universal acceptance.
Metaverse is supposed to be driven by technology and business related to content, AI, ARVR, IoT, and Blockchain. However, the definition of metaverse is not very clear, it is very loosely defined by individuals and enterprises as per their interests, purpose, use-cases and understanding.
In this article, we will try to understand the metaverse in more detail and attempt to define it, and its characteristics. We cover the metaverse use cases and concerns in my next article.
Root of the metaverse has always been from science-fiction gaming and entertainment, so definition would also converge from there. Let’s look at Oasis of Ready Player One, could be one of its kind.
People come to Oasis for all the things they can do, because of all the things they can be
Dictionary meaning of the word “Meta” is “beyond”, a universe beyond this real life could be the metaverse. Just like what Second Life defines
If you are traveling beyond this life, where weight of tradition cannot follow…
There is an endless list of such games eg. Fortnite, Decentraland, The Sandbox, Moonieverse, where community based co-creation and play-to-earn kind on platforms are being built, these are some sort of mini-metaverses.
Metaverse can’t just be gaming and entertainment, it’s going beyond it. The way Meta and Microsoft defines it as new ways of collaboration, and human connection, and working in Metaverse.
Niantic, best known for bringing Augmented Reality at scale by games like Pokémon Go, they define metaverse as a better reality of the same universe and call it real world metaverse. Niantic aims to build 3D maps and augment the whole world with their Lightship platform for developers and creators communities. Google CEO Sundar Pichai looks at metaverse as immersive computing in AR. Google, who is pioneer in ARVR (XR), most of XR devices today run’s on Google’s Android OS today, and now they are building Operating System for AR, may be a key enabler to Metaverse devices.
After looking at multiple metaverse definitions from different enterprises, we can say there are few common aspects such as co-creation, openness, currency, self-sustainability, communities, sharing, collaboration and network. Before getting into a more formal definition of Metaverse, let’s first understand two words: “Metadata” and “Internet”. Metadata is the “other data”, “extra data”, that can refer something, for example email-Id, phone number, address, interests, what we like/dislike, things we own, places we go.. all are metadata for us. The way metadata is connected with us, let’s call it the Intranet of Metadata. Similarly everyone has metadata, and the way we all are connected is the Internet of Metadata.
Metaverse and it’s characteristics
Now we understand the metadata and internet, and the Metaverse can be defined as follows
“Metaverse is an universe built up on the network of metadata around us and about us. In a universe where the real and fake blur together, photo-realistic avatars are making use of virtual identities, virtual intellectual properties / assets, virtual societies and their own virtual currencies”
Here are the characteristics of Metaverse
Metaverse is Open and Independent — Metaverse has to be open to use, open to build on top of it, and It must not be controlled by any one.
Metaverse is One and Interoperable — Metaverse has to be one and only one, and interoperable and integratable across software and hardwares.
Metaverse is for everyone and self-sustainable — Metaverse should be accessible for everyone, and has to be self-sustainable where people can buy and sell things and earn to survive there.
In nutshell, Metaverse is the next Internet - it is touted to be the next natural step in the evolution of the internet with use cases to boot.
AI, XR, IOT, Blockchain, Cloud, 5G/6G will be the building blocks of Metaverse.
Getting closer to Metaverse
We are getting closer to the metaverse, it is the evolution of the internet. Today’s “connecting to the internet” is becoming “joining the metaverse”. Evolution is a natural process, and we will be getting into the internet, no matter how good or bad we feel.
Metaverse is not only about a few of the big enterprises we discussed in the earlier sections of this article, it is much bigger than all of them combined. 100s of XR devices already here and many are in making to catch the metaversal wave.
Number of development, partnerships happening to boost the adoption faster, for example Qualcomm Snapdragon XR platform will be boosting normal looking smart glasses development, joining hands with enterprise like Lenovo, Motorola, Niantic, Holoone and more.
Jobs markets and hiring situations are changing, there is a huge surge in demand of AR/VR engineers in recent years, however there is still a gap in the skills required for the metaverse and skills already exists. Metaversal development needs skills and creativity of an Artist, Scientist, Mathematician, Physics, Sound and Lights, and they have to be a movie director.
New jobs titles are coming such as Chief Metaverse Officer (to define metaverse strategy for the products, replacing existing social media strategists job), Metaverse Security/Safety Officer and Metaverse Planner. Storyteller role will be more common in experience designing for metaverse. Content Creators/free launcher economy will play big role and will make people self-sustainable in metaverse market. Play2Earn is getting popularized these days and, in future people might be earning just by being in metaverse.
We are going faster into the future than we think, in next 5 years, we will see what we have not seen in last 10 years. At this speed, we are getting into metaverse with new use cases to solve and new concerns to deal with. In the next article I have discussed key use-cases and concerns of metaverse, and what we can do about it.