Metaverse consists of two words, of ‘meta’ meaning beyond and ‘verse’ meaning universe. Simply put, the metaverse will change the way we access the Internet. So instead of going to the Internet, the Internet will exist around us.
The word “metaverse” was originally coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 dystopian cyberpunk novel Snow Crash. In the book, the metaverse is described (with a capital letter) as an “imaginary place” that people access through virtual reality goggles connected to the World Wide Web via a fiber-optic network. There, developers can construct buildings, objects and cities, as well as things that do not exist in reality, such as giant floating light stations, special neighborhoods where experimental laws apply and the rules of three-dimensional space-time do not apply.
In 2003, the famous Second Life took place in the form of a proto-verse, where individuals and companies entered the big doors and countries even opened embassies.
However, the vast majority of users of the final version of the Metaverse are oriented around the fantasy world called Oasis and the associated experiences from Earnest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One and the 2018 movie of the same name. In 2020, it will also officially open Decentralend to the public.
But then the famous October 2021 happened when Mark Zucerberg announced at the Facebook Conest conference that his company was moving to the Metaverse and that FB would be renamed Meta as a result. This changed everything in an instant, as all major players started talking about the Metaverse, and at the same time it triggered an avalanche of new technological solutions.
According to the observations of analysts, two things should make Facebook do it, namely Apple, which closes its ecosystem to other applications that can no longer follow users freely. In this sense, it was a logical decision for Facebook to start developing an independent ecosystem on its own devices (Oculus). On the other hand, market regulators in the US are also facing a challenge. They warn that Facebook has too much power because, in addition to the social platform, it also includes portals such as Instagram, Whatsup… and the all-encompassing ecosystem will be very difficult to regulate from this point of view.
What actually is a metaverse?
The vision of the metaverse is therefore best described as a profound and embodied experience of the spatial Internet. As the sum of all shared, existing virtual spaces, as the totality of all digital assets and data on the Internet. These spaces are shared and always available. They do not disappear when you stop using them, such as when you make a Zoom call.
The metaverse is a virtual space where we can effectively learn, build, play, store, have fun, communicate, and collaborate as avatars with anyone on Earth. At the same time, it makes the world smaller by connecting us regardless of our geographic location, and more important by opening up more possibilities. Over time, whole new categories will be added that do not really fit into today’s thinking about computers or phones.
Existing concepts such as virtual and augmented reality (we may finally get to the so-called sci-fi holograms) and Internet 3.0 will form the basis of the Metaverse. Imagine, for example, virtual simulation games come to life. You could create your own avatars and interact with other avatars in a very lively way, regardless of language differences or location. This could be a very important use case for the Metaverse as people increasingly rely on virtual interactions, both in personal and professional settings. In a retail environment, you could simulate the in-store shopping experience, view products, try them on, and have them delivered to your home from virtually anywhere. In addition, extensions to the XR landscape, such as haptic feedback tools, will allow us to bridge relationship gaps and feel the handshake and hug of our contacts wherever they are.
This could be the beginning of new environments where we can build a whole new economy based on new open concepts and the distribution of shared value.
In an ideal future, these open environments will also be standardized and interoperable, so that any part of the metaverse can connect to any other part without conflicting functions. However, experts predict that it will take some time before true standardization and interoperability is possible.
Building a strong metaverse for the future of technology is not just about creating the most fascinating VR experiences or a more decentralized Web. The success of the Metaverse depends on several components, and many of them depend on the ability to use technology and innovation ethically and sustainably.
The Metaverse will therefore be built on the following concepts:
Every participant can co-create it
It offers a first-person immersive experience
Guaranteed independence, privacy and management of data
Honesty and openness (in a world without trust)
Diversity and respect for everything universal,
Decentralization and global governance
Accountability and transparency
A fair exchange of values
American venture capitalist Matthew Ball, an early visionary of the metaverse, insists that the metaverse must be interoperable in a way that gives users digital autonomy over their own data and digital property.
Mark Zuckerberg, who plans to spend $10 billion on various metaverse projects this year, believes interoperability is critical in the metaverse. For example, if you have an avatar on the Oculus platform FB, you should also use it on the Microsoft platform. Without that, it’s just a collection of closed ecosystems.
What about enterprises?
Microsoft is upgrading its Teams platform to Mash while also buying Activision Blizzard Inc, the maker of “Call of Duty,” “Candy Crush,” “Diablo” and “World of Warcraft” and other successful game franchises for a whopping $68.7 billion. Samsung has set up store in Decentralend, Ralph Lauren has stocked its virtual stores in Roblox with virtual puffer jackets, plaid hats and other retro ski wear, and the latest company in this line is Walt Disney Co.
At the same time, there were rumors that Walmart was getting serious about the metaverse with plans to create its own cryptocurrency and create collections of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Their response was that they are constantly exploring how emerging technologies can shape future shopping experiences.
This year promises to be perhaps the biggest change in the metaverse space, as Apple also enters the field with its VR /AR glasses, which will thoroughly shake up the market and likely set new starting points for established metaverse strategies.
Analysts predict that digital demand for fashion and luxury brands via Metaversa apps alone will grow from current relatively low levels to more than $50 billion by 2030.
Key to all of this will be understanding new meta-business models that rely on Internet 3.0, decentralization, and the empowerment and monetization of data by individuals.
NFTs and Blockchain
Over the past year, there has been a “huge explosion” of interest and investment in NFTs (non-fungible tokens), also referred to as fibers of the metaverse by experts or blockchain technologies. A key component of NFT is the ability to transfer individual digital content, objects, properties or spaces from one metaverse ecosystem to another.
The key role of NFTs is that they allow you to own virtual goods in the metaverse and thus maintain or increase their value. The total value of all NFT sales that took place in 2021 was $23 billion, compared to less than $100 million in 2020.
Many of these NFTs grant their owners certain rights, including access to communities, items, and real assets of a certain value.
In other words, buying “real estate” on these platforms is like buying real estate in, say, Ljubljana, but in a world where anyone could create an infinite number of alternative and different Ljubljanas that are just as easy to access. In the long run, this will mean that the only reason users buy a plot or property in virtual Ljubljana is because it offers a better service than others.
Within the framework of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, in cooperation with the Ljubljana Technology Park, the startup company Multiversum and the community XR, we built the first Slovenian Protoverse – a virtual exhibition center – a digital twin of the digital hub, which, together with the physical spaces in BTC, forms the core of the meeting of interested parties, business representatives and policy makers. Such a virtual space represents Slovenia and its economic achievements on a global scale.
Moreover, Slovenia is the first country in the world to introduce non-fungible tokens (NFT – Non-fungible tokens), which will be used to promote the economy and tourism goals during the presentation at EXPO DUBAI 2020.
I feel NFT presents a collection of unique 3D digital exhibits and exclusive high-resolution panoramic or 360-degree photos. NFT in the form of gifts or visitors will receive digital souvenirs for free when they visit the Slovenian pavilion at EXPO DUBAI 2020.
In any case, Slovenia, as one of the leading countries in the development of the blockchain ecosystem, would need its own sloverse, where companies and research institutions can test their solutions and projects on the test infrastructure. Therefore, it is extremely important that the relevant institutions recognize the role of the Slovenian Metaverse ecosystem and support the XR community in its development.
Author of the article:
Aleš Pevc, Head of the Technology Office
Technology Park Ljubljana d.o.o.
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