Alternate Universe- the term we use without a thought to describe our cloudlands. What if alternate universes really existed? What will it be like to fulfill our strangest fantasies? Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world of our desires? Let’s escape into the Metaverse.
Metaverse is not a new technology, it’s a combination of multiple segments of existing technologies. Some of them include VR (Virtual Reality) to immerse us in the digital space, AR (Augmented Reality) blending real and virtual worlds, and video, to actually ‘live’ the experience. The projection of holographic images makes the virtual world pop out into reality.
Quoting Andrew Bosworth and Nick Clegg, “The metaverse is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same space as you.” To simplify things, it’s living inside a digital universe.
The Existence of the Metaverse
Metaverse already exists in online games like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox. These gaming companies can and will be a part of the evolution of the metaverse.
Who’s Giving the Metaverse a Boost?
No one organization is capable of pulling the entire stunt of creating the Metaverse alone and overnight. (Come on, it’s an entire universe we are speaking of!). Nor is this one single product. It’s a brew of many. Specialists and their teams are coming together to present their expertise in development and creation to give the thought a distinct form.
Now I’m sure the four lines I’ve used to describe what metaverse is, have made your concepts of metaverse even more blurred. Which actually is the case. Metaverse, as a picture, is kinda out of focus. Some of it seems known to you, and some of it seems delusional.
De-fogging Your Concepts on This Brainchild
To understand the Metaverse is no rocket science. Let’s create a metaverse of our own and understand it. Shall we?
Imagine yourself putting on a VR headset. Suddenly you are in a room, designed with the most ravishing furniture of your choice. You open your digital wardrobe and glide through the dresses. You don’t like the first one. Swap. The second one. Swap. The third one feels okay. You select it. Your avatar (digital twin) is now dressed in that dress.
You have your office to attend. You teleport to your office. All your colleagues are present. You attend a meeting, present several slides, gossip with them and come back home. Did we forget something? Right. You have something to shop for. You now have a shop beside you. You pick up some essentials, pay with metaverse payment tokens and have them shipped to your address.
You decide to hang out with your friends today. The only problem is, you have the least energy to drive up to their place and spend time. Well, you live in the metaverse! You call your friends over to your ‘metaverse house’ and they (their digital twins) instantly teleport to you.
Weekends are interesting too. You have a friend attending a concert in another part of the world. You put on your VR headset, again, teleport to the place and enjoy the concert with her. Virtual being more real. Seems like sci-fi? Well, it’s not.
Remember watching an episode of Doremon where he digitally projects people, places, and things using one of his gadgets? Nobita, though not physically present at Sunio’s holiday party, had the entire fun of it from his room. Who as children (and sometimes adults) did not want to swap lives with Nobita (except getting 0 on every examination he takes)? Well, it seems like our dreams are coming true.
The Metaverse- Thoughts Behind the Name
When Neal Stephenson in his novel ‘Snow Crash’ first coined the term ‘Metaverse’, who would have thought he wasn’t just writing a science fiction. He was writing the future! There he described people in their avatar forms living in a 3-D virtual world associating with other avatars and bots. They buy real estate and develop buildings on it, forming a colony.
How Did the Term Become So Important in a Flash?
Metaverse gained the ‘word of the year’ fame. It is the next big thing. But how did it gain so much importance? First would be the great marketing teams of the companies bringing metaverse to reality. Investors and big tech companies are really hyped up and energized for the metaverse release. The internet, though evolving every day, was stagnant at some point. Introducing the Metaverse is a breakthrough to the future.
The Metaverse, Activating Everyone’s Curiosities
Facebook and Microsoft are not the only companies interested in the Metaverse. Shopify has been using the technology for quite some years now and is definitely interested in expanding it. Video game maker Roblox corporation, Nvidia corporation, a graphics processing unit company that developed the Omniverse, and Fastly, a cloud computing service, are equally interested in incorporating the technology.
Games and What More?
Apparently, it may seem that the Metaverse is all about games. But there’s more to just a colorful appearance. It is what the future of the internet is gonna look like. The recent rebranding of Facebook to Meta manifests the notion even more. Meta is completely indulged in making metaverse a successor of today’s internet.
Doesn’t the Metaverse Already Exist?
You may be reading the article with a bugging thought- how is it different from what we see today? To some extent, the metaverse is present even today in several applications. When you buy optical frames online, you get an option to try out the frames before hitting the “buy now” button. The same goes while choosing which hair dye would look good on you.
Several paint companies use metaverse to help customers choose through the colors. You get to fix the places where you wanna keep your furniture in your apartment, with accurate measurements, before buying them.
You can also watch live real-world events like football matches and award shows in several Oculus venues. You get to enjoy it with friends and family as well.
The MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) already do create a digital world where people, as avatars, live their regular lives, buy lands, clothes, accessories, and looks. Remember playing GTA? Exactly that.
How to Be a Master of the Metaverse World?
When an ancient human traveled to the present using Doremon’s time machine, did he initially understand how we function? He was even amazed to see an electric light bulb. The same is the case with metaverse. We don’t know of it because it does not properly exist yet. As I always say, learning is easier than it seems. Now tell me, are you familiar with the terms AR, VR, Metaverse, Crypto, NFTs, Oculus, VR headsets, Horizon Home and workspace, 3D avatars, and holographic images by now? That’s what you need to start off. And as for the rest, you will get to know them eventually.
What’s the Difference Between the Metaverse and VR Then?
No, they are not the same. According to Zuckerberg, “Metaverse is an embodied internet where instead of just viewing the content, you are in it”. That does not quite clarify things. Metaverse is not just limited to VR. It is Virtual Reality and much more. Also, metaverse does not compulsorily require VR headsets. Metaverse is likely more vast than VR. It will be the entire online universe in the future.
How Does the Metaverse Help You, an Employee?
If you are in a regular 9-to-5 sector, or you are an entrepreneur, whether you work with a team, or you work solo, if you have to attend meetings for long hours whether with clients or with project teams, the metaverse is for you. Mesh for Microsoft and Facebook’s Horizon workspace offer similar experiences.
In hybrid work, a part of the employees turn up to offices and the rest use remote environments as their workspaces (most of the time from the coziness of their homes!). Attending meetings, and participating in group discussions play a huge part. Workspaces in metaverse will allow a worker to join discussions in their most comfortable forms, as avatars.
Metaverse: The Making
The following companies have been experimenting with the metaverse for quite some time now-
- Apple in a 2019s meeting, two potential future products, the N421 smart glasses, and the N301 VR headset were introduced. It is believed that Apple is gearing up to release AR products in 2022.
- After Google’s failed Cardboard project, it successfully developed the Glass which was a small camera mounted on a frame of non-prescription glasses.
- Microsoft released the HoloLens in 2015. The slightly modified and more expensive version was introduced in 2019 with better camera quality.
- Valve– the index VR headset is probably one of the most powerful VRs in the market.
- Magic Leap– though their first release was not successful, magic leap is planning to release Magic Leap 2 in 2022.
- Facebook, oops, Meta- the Oculus Quest headsets are hit all-time in the market.
Real-World Uses of the Virtual World
Metaverse promises to take the internet to its next level. Metaverse guarantees a larger imbrication of our virtual and physical lives. Socialization will no more seem a burden. We will get to be in our rooms and with people at the same time.
The Mesh from Microsoft and Horizon Workspaces from Meta ensures increased productivity in workers. Shopping is made easier. We get to actually try on different dresses before buying them. The tension of the dress not meeting your expectations or not looking good on you, lessens.
Do I even have to say anything about the entertainment industry? It never misses a chance to amaze its users with animations and state-of-the-art thoughts. With the evolution of the metaverse, the entertainment and gaming industry will reach its heights. Tesla incorporating metaverse for test drives makes it even more interesting.
Obstructions to the Growth of the Metaverse
Nothing, I repeat, nothing in this world is picture-perfect. Then how can we expect the idea of metaverse to be an exception?
Though the companies demand that metaverses will work even without VR headsets, to experience 3-D features, they are a necessity. The VR headsets feel very clumsy and people experience several difficulties while putting them on. Also, it is not easily usable in public places, unlike mobile phones or laptops. The preliminary videos of metaverse eliminate the uncomfortable parts of wearing literally computers over your eyes for long hours.
For holographic images to appear midair, the other person has to wear motion tracking suits, which are very scary along with the undeniable fact that they are uncomfortable.
Also, if our facial expressions are to be reflected through the avatars, how is our face being scanned? With or without a headset on? The haze remains.
In Meta’s recent creative video, it is difficult to understand what the metaverse actually is. The VR and AR headsets and the motion tracking bodysuits are costly and not accessible to the majority. Even if it is accessible, the wearables are extremely agonizing to wear. So, if someday the suits become lighter and cheaper, we will be a part of the metaverse too. And till then we have our existing technology to entertain us.
What is Facebook’s definition of the Metaverse?
Facebook is infamed with unrolling fake news. People like my sister, who are not enthralled by sci-fi, were introduced to the term Metaverse from Facebook. Naturally, they had difficulty believing it was true. Also, the concepts of metaverse seemed too hypothetical. But assurance from this tech-lover, Metaverse is true.
The CEO of Facebook, a.k.a. Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, adds more layers to Metaverse in an introductory video. He predicts the product can launch in a span of 5 to 10 years. The most important aspect of the metaverse is connecting. Instead of just looking at screens, the Horizon Home and Horizon Workspace allows you to be “physically” present at the space in form of avatars during family meetups and working in group projects.
When it comes to entertainment and gaming, no one’s ready to compromise. Already many games provide an otherworld where you can roleplay a character and live their life. Metaverse is a bit different from it. You can think of it as the movie “Free Guy”, living one’s life as a video game. Yes, with a realistic sense of depth and illusion, metaverse gives you a similar experience.
Metaverse makes our digital existence even more similar to reality. When you buy a pair of Adidas sneakers from a showroom, the sneakers are not just limited inside the showroom. You can wear it wherever you like, match it with whichever clothes you think fit. This brings me to the third point of the metaverse. Teleporting between applications and places, which was not possible earlier. As the CEO likes to put it, in metaverse, there’s no limit to innovation and thinking.
When online is the new learning platform for over 1.6 billion students from 192 countries, a segment of Metaverse was expected to be dedicated to education. With the immersive learning experience, students not only get a classroom experience, but it’s also beyond that. Medical students can have practical involvement in practice-surgery, without the fear of failure. Swimming in a pool of microorganisms is possible too. You can get into the insides of a machinery and see how it functions. Well, your avatar can. And your avatar is the new you!
Microsoft is Giving a Different Angle to the Metaverse
Microsoft Teams on the other hand is already set to offer immersive meetings and 3D avatars. The version is expected to launch one year from now. Mesh for Microsoft aims at making the metaverse more personal and fun. Their arena of focus is human expressions.
Looking at a screen with rounds of initials all day long can be hectic. Studies show the productivity of workers decreases, and employees cannot concentrate for over 30 minutes in meetings at a stretch. As John Roach claims, “They (office workers) miss the body language from across the conference room table that says things that can’t be said”. (I second him!)
Social media introverts find it extremely difficult to even show up to online meetings, let alone speaking in them. The Mesh for Microsoft allows you to be present in the meetings in a form you are comfortable with, either in the form of 3D avatars or keeping your videos on. The avatars to boot reflect your exact facial expressions. This helps in improving the rate of participation in meetings which in turn will help in building relationships between colleagues even in a remote environment.
In many ways, Microsoft Teams or Zoom or Google Meet is already a form of a Metaverse. When you are there in the meeting in form of an image, avatar, or a video, you are present in that environment, though not in 3D form. The Microsoft Mesh is just this idea, but much more enhanced.
Microsoft Teams do not need a HoloLens (pair of mixed reality smart glasses developed by Microsoft) set to activate the metaverse mode. 2-D forms of it are present as well, making it accessible to everyone. Sliding in your HoloLens headset makes it more fun, enveloping, and individual as you get a visual of “actually being in the room.”
Crypto and the Metaverse, the Ultimate Tie-up
Metaverses cannot use customary paper bills. (Of course! You cannot insert currency into your phones or computers!) This is where cryptocurrency comes to the rescue. Existing metaverses already use cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange. The blockchain security and digital currency technology make transfers happen in a knee jerk. Some cryptos used by metaverses are-
- Decentraland MANA– MANA is the local crypto of the game Decentraland. The game allows its users to role-play, own lands, play and earn, own looks, and many more. The transactions take place through MANA. The crypto uses Ethereum blockchains.
- The Sandbox SAND– SAND is the crypto of the Sandbox game. The game allows its users to flexibly use the crypto in other virtual spaces, outside the game, as well. It uses Ethereum blockchains again.
- Star Atlas (ATLAS)– the ATLAS crypto uses the Solana blockchain which is known to be cheaper and faster than the first two.
The concept of ownership of virtual assets, earlier unknown to the world, is becoming increasingly common due to the introduction of the metaverse. And after Facebook’s rebranding and announcement of the recent launch, we are getting accustomed to the term even more. All thanks to you, Mark!
NFTs, the Masterkeys to the Metaverse
To know the link between metaverse and NFTs, let’s get a clear concept of what an NFT is. NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens are cryptographic tokens whose ownership details are coded. Does not clear things up?
These tokens are like unique identification cards. Each represents completely different identifications. So, they cannot be interchanged. Nor can it be frauded. Not to mention, it makes them extra secure when coupled with the Ethereum blockchain technology. The NFTs store extra information and so function differently and more efficiently than normal crypto coins.
NFTs, give you ownership of the asset you are holding. Any other person cannot just download it with a simple right-click. Real-life identities and virtual avatars are connected with the help of NFTs. And as my really artistic explanation made things crystal, NFTs mean no one can scam your identity!
The Door to the Metaverse
The question remains. How to enter the Metaverse? To fully enter the Metaverse, all you need is an Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality Headset. A wearable technology, the Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality headset has six in-built external tracking cameras to record any movement and sensation within a space. The Oculus Touch controllers feature a joystick, buttons, and triggers that help to hold and interact with virtual objects. The haptic feedback gives a very real, tangible sensation while holding virtual objects. Walking in virtual spaces and interacting with avatars is the most interesting and overwhelming of them all.