The metaverse is coming, but why should I care?
Mark Zuckerberg changed his company’s name to “Meta” to reflect their new focus on future endeavours: bringing people together in virtual 3D space. Connecting through AR or VR devices into a shared and persistent digital world is often referred to as entering the metaverse. Not only by Meta. So, where does the idea come from, what will be possible and why should you care?
The term was initially coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”. In this great book about a sci-fi future people will spend their time in this digital space to work and meet, but also to get hacked as persons by a drug-like virus (the “snow crash”). What Zuckerberg does not say is, that it is a very dark and dystopian version of technology here, where people escape from their depressive real lives. Who would have thought that coming from Facebook!
But of course, another, positive version is possible, and it is now the time to build it and get the base right. Unlike in the mentioned novel, many other authors and scientists have very productive visions of the metaverse: the common idea is always to have a persistent, three-dimensional virtual space, where humans can meet remotely. This could be for work or leisure and could be summarized as a 3D internet that allows natural interaction with other people and things. Having such a space could dramatically help to bridge distances and share knowledge in an easy way. It will let people join without restrictions – not limited by their physical location or possible disabilities. It will save on travels for lower CO2 footprints and generate new business opportunities.
So, that`s because today companies like Meta, Microsoft or Apple are joining in on “the next big thing”, the metaverse. Smart as we are, the company I work for, edataconsulting in Spain, reserved the Spanish version of it years ago. I hope we don’t get sued for the domain www.metaverso.es by Meta! ?
As a private person you could for example benefit from a future metaverse by entering it to play in dreamlike impossible worlds, meet your friends, date, go to concerts or on a quick adventure or do your virtual shopping. New forms of entertainment and art will emerge. You can get creative, too!
Companies could base their entire business model on and IN the metaverse. Digital venues exist today, some worlds offer buying virtual lands and the purchase of digital goods and cloths is already a common thing (looking at Fortnite, Sand, Decentraland or the whole crazy NFT hype). Depending on one`s service offering some would always need a real brick and mortar store (e.g. letting people eat real food in a restaurant), some don`t. But all should have their representation or virtual flagship store within the metaverse: it is like having a website or Instagram account today. You need to be present so people can find you and don`t think you are outdated. You can get in touch with your (real world) clients and be part of the spatial internet early.
So, where is the metaverse today? Honestly, it is not there yet. At least not “the one”. Different companies have created their own spaces, Meta is pushing their own “Horizon” world and a whole ecosystem with their VR-glasses “Quest”, many other gaming platforms or social spaces exist in parallel today. It`s like the early internet with many research ideas and start-ups trying innovative approaches. The infrastructure is getting laid out now, but the realms are not connected yet.
But businesses like Meta would eventually limit the possibilities: consumers become trackable, and companies will exploit this to squeeze money out of them, while controlling the content. If there eventually was one single metaverse owned by a private company, we would be doomed. The metaverse needs to be an open platform like the early internet, where everyone can participate without boundaries and speak freely. Therefore, we should support the open approach. Some standards for this are in development already (like OpenXR or OpenARCloud). This becomes even more important when we let the computers fully sneak into our daily lives via AR-glasses, tracking every move of us. We must guarantee privacy, freedom of speech and allow small businesses to succeed with their tiny little but awesome idea. We don`t want to make reality obsolete or boring – we want to make the metaverse a great place, that adds helpful layers to reality!
If you feel like jumping into the metaverse today: go for it! Get some VR glasses, dive right in and let’s meet up! I’m in there, so drop me a PM, best via Twitter.
A happy Cyber-cheers!
This article has been previously published in a slightly different version for medium.com/edataconsulting.