Despite its newness, the metaverse already appears to be everywhere. The recent rebranding and investments by Facebook, er, Meta, sparked a fresh wave of interest in the metaverse.
It’s all over the news, in memes, on gaming platforms, and on social media. The word’s growing popularity is producing a sensation of impending doom as if our physical lives will be enveloped incorporating pixels and paywalled exchanges at any moment. However, games like Fortnite and Roblox have been advertising the metaverse for years, and the phrase itself is decades old.
What exactly is the metaverse?
Mark Zuckerburg’s rendition conjures up a vision of virtual reality: You use the Quest VR headset to attend business meetings as an avatar and a device on your wrist to surreptitiously text buddies.
When you go outside, you’ll put on smart spectrum glasses that capture what you see and hear as well as provide augmented reality. The metaverse will be accessible via phones, laptops, wearable technology, and headsets (or a combination of these), and it will be where you work, shop, exercise, socialize, watch movies, and play video games.
However, the word predates many of the technology that may make it a reality. The suffix meta- can signify “behind or beyond,” “more extensive,” or even “transformative,” among other things (like metamorphosis).
The second half of the word, -verse, is derived from the word “universe” and refers to a specific sphere or area (such as the Twitterverse) or a fictional world (such as the omegaverse (sorry! ), a speculative alternative universe literary genre in which characters are divided into alphas, betas, and omegas).
The term “metaverse” is used to describe a virtual environment that exists beyond, on top of, or in addition to the actual world.
The term was first used in Neal Stephenson’s dystopian sci-fi novel Snow Crash, published in 1992.
The Metaverse, according to the novel, is a collection of virtual and augmented realities centered around a super-long “Street” that individuals can stroll across as avatars and access via goggles and computers.
Users of public terminals are depicted as a fuzzy black and white avatar, whereas users of private terminals are depicted in full color and detail. Since then, the term “metaverse” has come to refer to a wide range of activities aimed at building a more permanent virtual world that pervades our daily lives.
People have been attempting to create immersive virtual worlds since the 1960s, a goal fueled by the film and video game industries’ efforts to create worlds.
Second Life, an alt-reality computer game where you play through an avatar and may do just about anything — like buy a house or get married — was launched in 2003 and is one of the most-cited examples of the metaverse. It was such a realistic environment that there was even a thriving kink culture — it doesn’t get any more realistic than that. There were enough committed metaverse aficionados by 2006 to convene a summit.
The Metaverse Roadmap, a project that mapped the path to completing the metaverse, was born out of that summit. “The merging of virtually-enhanced physical reality with [a] physically persistent virtual realm,” according to the Metaverse Roadmap.
In other words, it may resemble a second world overlaid over our own through the use of augmented reality, as well as a virtual area into which we can enter and exit, similar to the video game in Spy Kids 3.
Consider Snapchat filters or the Google function that allows you to view life-size 3D animal models.
“The Metaverse would not be the entirety of the Internet–but, like the Web, it would be seen by many as the most significant element,” according to the Metaverse Roadmap.
Many of today’s evangelists would declare that, for the first time ever, we have the technology, protocols, and infrastructure to step on the gas and make it true. It’s said to be the next logical step following mobile internet.
Virtual reality, augmented reality, Zoom meetings, social networks, crypto, NFTs, online retail, wearable tech, artificial intelligence, 5G, and more are all explored in the metaverse. It’s said to be the future! Because the future is unavoidable, it must be positive, right?
Many of those extolling the merits of the metaverse and maintaining that it is the natural next step is Silicon Valley voices, futurists (the Metaverse Roadmap’s John Smart), and other players with financial stakes in the metaverse’s realization. One of them is Mark Zuckerberg, as is Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist and prolific writer who has provided one of the most usable definitions of the metaverse and will soon publish a book on the subject.
The metaverse, according to Ball, is “a vast network of persistent, real-time generated 3D environments and simulations.”
Ball’s metaverse should be able to retain continuity of identity, objects, history, and payments, and it should be able to be experienced by an infinite number of people at the same time, with each person having their own feeling of presence. The metaverse is a persistent virtual world that allows people to be present, and it’s a place where blockchain technology might be utilized to pay for stuff we can transport with us through various experiences.
Imagine being able to use your Animal Crossing Sandy Liang fleece in your Twitter and Instagram profile photographs. Ball’s metaverse is growing and changing all the time.
Ball’s metaverse has a big influence on Zuckerberg’s. Zuckerberg’s avatar moved from platform to platform in his Facebook Connect presentation, wearing the same black t-shirt to demonstrate “continuity of identity and things.”
Zuckerberg’s metaverse is well on its way to housing an infinite number of people, with nearly 3 billion Facebook users. Throughout his talk, Zuckerberg emphasized how each aspect of the metaverse will create a “feeling of presence.”
Roblox and Epic Games’ Fortnite are frequently mentioned in metaverse discussions these days, and some argue that they are much closer to realizing the metaverse than Zuckerberg’s Meta.
Both games fit the criteria for persistent virtual worlds: they each have millions of people who come to play and socialize, there is some persistence in things (clothing and skins), and payment is accepted (Robux and V-Bucks). Millions of people watched Fortnite’s Ariana Grande performance, and these events, together with customizable avatars and emotes, are generating a sense of “presence.”
The most crucial thing to understand is that the metaverse does not exist. Zuckerberg has made it apparent that the metaverse is a long-term objective for him, as it has been for many investors, engineers, scientists, and futurists.
People despise Zuckerberg’s proposal, and there is no faith in Meta’s metaverse’s ability to accomplish anything other than incalculable harm, to the point of labeling it a dystopian catastrophe.
The metaverse is an idea — a thrilling one for some, and a terrifying one for others.
Welcome to the Metaverse was a conference hosted by Rhizome, a nonprofit art organization that is leading efforts to archive digital art and culture. Artist David Rudnick stated that “the notion of the metaverse is the ultimate centralization,” which runs counter to many of the hopes for democratization we once had for the internet. “When people talk about the emergent metaverse dream,” Rudnick explains, “they’re really talking about a space where you’ll be able to do everything [in a virtual world],” a commercial public space “that can derive value or some sort of ownership from all the interactions that take place on the platform.”
Fears and concerns about the metaverse are, at their heart, concerns about scale. Any increase of the virtual world’s negative aspects is likely to intensify them. What would it imply if a handful of for-profit corporations mediated so many crucial interactions? If Meta’s present social media domination is any indicator, there isn’t much reason to be optimistic.
Governments have a history of being slow to understand, let alone regulate, technical breakthroughs.
Can a government that doesn’t know what a finsta is entrusted with keeping the metaverse safe, ethical, and sustainable be trusted?
What would the human and environmental costs and benefits be if this were pursued?
For the time being, the metaverse is primarily fiction, a hypothesis, and fantasy with many spaces for the icy winds of the unknown to blow through.
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Information Source: Mashable