What is the metaverse? definition
A clear definition of the metaverse does not currently exist. Rather, there are discussions about what the Metaverse could be, what it isn't, what it should or must be, and what goes with it. If you ask Matthew Ball, his Essays on the Metaverse Making waves in 2020, the Metaverse is an "expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that offer continuity of identities, objects, historicity, currency, and permissions, and are synchronously shared by unlimited users in custom ways." experience." (Source: www.matthewball.vc/all/forwardtothemetaverseprimer)
Although big tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Satya Nadella (Microsoft) and Jen-Hsun Huang (Nvidia) are investing billions in it, the Metaverse is currently just a thought construct. Nevertheless, properties can be defined that exist from the Internet and technologies such as Augmented Reality, Extended Reality and virtual reality. Matthew Ball emphasizes that it is not just an evolution of the Internet, but a whole new form of computing. In the Metaverse, digital spaces do not exist parallel to “reality”, but as a fusion of cyberspace, virtual reality and the physical world. Mark Zuckerberg describes it as the "embodied internet" that users not only look at on screens, but in which they are. (Source: www.bbc.com/news/technology-57942909)
Features of the Metaverse
The following properties and characteristics of a metaverse can already be defined today:
- Real-time rendered, unconstrained, persistent 3D spaces in which users move freely as avatars
- 3D collective spaces where users explore, create, play, work, socialize, and conduct business without being in the same physical space
- Companies do not "own" the Metaverse, as it is a collectively shared technical infrastructure
- Cross-device and cross-system virtual rooms can be created by users and made accessible to other users
- Extended- und Mixed-Reality-Technologien are used and enable interactions between digital and real spaces, e.g. B. VR glasses, digital assistants, smart/voice user interfaces (VUI), neural chips, Machine Learning, artificial intelligences and artificial neural networks
- Compatible virtual and real currencies form a unified economy for digital and physical spaces
- A totality of virtual and physical spaces requires compatible technical standards, protocols, interoperability, digital ownership, blockchain technologies and uniform legislation
Metaverse: where did the idea come from?
Technical innovations such as smartphones, smart glasses and iPods come as no surprise to science fiction fans. Ray Bradbury already described wireless earpods and portable media players in his classic "Fahrenheit 451" (1953). Digital assistants such as Alexa and artificial intelligence have already appeared in science fiction novels such as “2001 – A Space Odyssey” (1968). Tablets, smartphones, video calls, robots - the world of the 21st century is populated with technologies that used to be just "pipe dreams" and fictions.
The same is true for the metaverse, which first appeared as a term in Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash, but is much older as an idea. The merging and interaction of reality with virtual 3D spaces can be found in the cyberpunk genre of the 1980s as well as in modern film interpretations such as "The Matrix" (1999) and "Ready Player One" (2018). But the Metaverse isn't just fiction today. Practical examples of this have long existed.
Example 1: Second Life
Since 2003, the online 3D infrastructure Second Life has enabled users to move as avatars in self-created virtual spaces, make contacts, do business, play games or communicate. Second Life was developed as an open source platform by Linden Lab and had around one million users in 2013. SL is not strictly an online game as there is no "goal" and no definition of "win" or "lose". In addition, numerous companies such as Microsoft, Intel, IBM or Adidas operate "in-world" shops, which revealed new possibilities for virtual marketing. Now over 17 years old, Second Life is considered one of the earliest versions of a rudimentary, practically implemented metaverse.
Example 2: MMO - Massively Multiplayer Online
Massively multiplayer online games like Fortnite, World of Warcraft (WoW), Minecraft, Roblox or Final Fantasy XIV are very popular. So-called MMOs are virtual persistent worlds that thousands of players use at the same time. MMOs can be divided into different concepts or genres. There are online role-playing games, strategy games and virtual battlefields. Users of games such as WoW or Final Fantasy XIV move through thematically limited online worlds in skins or avatars, play globally with other participants at the same time, buy virtual objects with real money and follow their own or predefined game campaigns.
In sandbox MMOS such as Minecraft, Roblox and Animal Crossings, on the other hand, players can design virtual rooms relatively freely and interact with other players. Since MMOs are currently thematically limited and offer little overlap with physical spaces, the boundary to the metaverse has not yet been crossed here. This could change if MMOs are networked and gamers can move freely between different MMO spaces with their avatars.
Metaverse and its importance for e-commerce
The Metaversum not only offers users new opportunities to experience virtual spaces. Companies are also opening up new e-commerce options. The Corona crisis showed how flexibly a connected world can react to limited contacts when social and business life shifts to the metaverse. The Metaverse opens up new marketing strategies, especially with regard to the live analysis of user data, online shopping and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. This includes opportunities to expand customer groups, give your own brand visibility and interact with customers directly and worldwide.
Advertising and marketing campaigns are carried out via Targeted Ads, The keyword analysis, Brand Building und Social-Media-Marketing go far beyond that when social digital spaces are not limited to apps, web addresses and interfaces such as smartphones and laptops. An example of this is concerts and events that have been relocated to virtual stadiums and locations due to lockdowns. Other examples are digital counterparts of real locations and products that enable online viewings, fittings in virtual changing rooms or digital inspections (e.g. of used cars).
The Facebook Metaverse: Metaverse as a vision of the future
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is one of the strongest advocates and biggest investors in the Metaverse. In 2021, he announced plans to turn Facebook into a Metaverse company in the coming years. Facebook recently provided $50 million in funding through the XR Programs and Research Fund to advance research and development programs on the Metaverse over a two-year period. This also includes studies on the potential of AR wearables such as the planned smart glasses by Facebook Reality Labs. According to Facebook, Metaverse is the new “computing platform”. For this reason, the online giant invests an estimated several billion dollars a year in the development of basic technologies.
Facebook's currently largest Metaverse project is called Horizon Workrooms and focuses on the "Metaverse for Work". Currently available as a beta version of the Oculus app, Horizon Workrooms supports new forms of hybrid work models. Horizon users can actively collaborate with colleagues elsewhere in the form of avatars in virtual conference rooms. Remote training programs, further training opportunities or customer advice should also be considered here. With an estimated three billion monthly active users, Facebook is the largest social media company in the world. So the “Metaverse for Work” is just a first step into a world where users interact, create, play and buy in the metaverse without sharing a physical location.