The metaverse–it sounds like a phrase out of a science fiction book, but it’s here now. What’s more, you and I are becoming more involved with it every day. But what exactly is the metaverse?
What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is the fusion of our physical reality with virtual reality. It refers to a supposedly future form of the internet with persistent 3D virtual spaces that users share. These spaces are linked together as part of a virtual universe where people can play, socialize, or work.
While you only enter the internet when you go onto it, the reality is that as we connect using modern devices, we’re on the internet most of the time. For example, you use your smartphone to set your alarm, check your email, use Google Maps, pull up a document from the Cloud, give your presentation, find a restaurant near you, and purchase movie tickets, among others.
Note that this is not even an exhaustive list of the many ways most people in the modern world are almost continuously connected to a virtual world. Now imagine taking that to the next level where you are literally immersed in both the physical and virtual realm all day long. What might that look like?
What Does the Metaverse Look Like?
When you hear the word metaverse, you might think of something like the digital backdrop portrayed in The Matrix. The truth is that some aspects of the metaverse would be similar to our science fiction concepts, but those are limiting in how they conceive of it. So, what does it look like?
It’s difficult to describe the metaverse, but it’s kind of like the universe that exists in the physical reality. Our planet and our individual experiences happen within the construct we know as the broader universe, but they are not the universe, just aspects of it. In this analogy, the metaverse is like the universe; it is the integrated superstructure where you live, work, and play.
You might be thinking, “Isn’t that like the internet?” It is very similar in that the metaverse provides the superstructure for your individual experiences within different virtual reality spaces. A key difference is that it is seamlessly merged with physical reality. It might seem a little confusing at first; however, It’ll help to look at a few attributes of the metaverse.
This just means that it continues indefinitely without resetting or pausing, much like the universe continues to exist regardless of what happens to our planet.
It’s synchronous and a living experience–this refers to the idea that the metaverse exists consistently in real-time, just like in physical reality. It continues on and updates in accordance with user activities.
There’s no limit to participation.
This means that everyone can be active in the metaverse even as they maintain their individual agency and control.
It’s an economy
This means you can do business in the metaverse and produce work with value, just like in physical reality.
It spans the physical and digital realities.
Everything in the physical reality will have a digital signature that you can access as an individual participant. Still, there will also be closed platforms that require membership to participate just as there are closed clubs in the physical reality.
It offers interoperability of data and digital content
That means you can take something you developed in one virtual space and transfer it to another experience. For example, you could transfer a car you designed in Rocket League to your Roblox experience in much the same way you transfer your actual car to different physical reality experiences.
It has a lot of content from experienced contributors.
This means that a very wide range of entities and individuals will be creating content, much like what happens in virtual reality (VR) games now. These games have incredibly detailed worlds and content created by individual participants, but in other areas online, you are more limited in the content you can create in your experiences. Interestingly, these limits will virtually disappear in the metaverse.
Now, you might be thinking that we already have that with the internet, and you’re not wrong, but the difference is in the direct peer-to-peer interactions and level of integration with the physical reality. You can think of the metaverse as a gateway to the digital world and a key part of physical reality.
Moreover, with a fully integrated metaverse, you won’t need third-party platforms like Facebook and Google to experience virtual reality. For example, you use Facebook’s platform to communicate with your ‘friends,’ but your communication is with the platform itself rather than directly with your friends. In the metaverse, you’ll experience direct peer-to-peer interactions.
Interestingly, you will be in the driver’s seat for your own experience. You will choose the virtual spaces in which you want to participate, and you will be able to experience synchronous, live contact with hundreds of thousands of users.
That sounds great, doesn’t it? But is it safe?
It’s important to note that many of the technologies to create the metaverse already exist, but what does that mean for your data, and will big tech monopolies control it like it is now?
The Metaverse and Your Data
Because of the constant connection to the internet in each and every part of your life, the companies involved in the creation of the metaverse could know pretty much everything about you and abuse that privilege, but by giving users control over their own data and preventing monopolies like Facebook from even existing in this brave, new metaverse, that problem is solved.
That can be done using technologies like Blockchain, which is a way to record information that is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to hack into, change, or cheat. Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology (DLT) where the transactions made are recorded with a cryptographic signature known as a hash. It is also a decentralized database which makes it an extremely safe way to participate in the metaverse economy.
The Metaverse and Monopolies
To work, the metaverse has to include a shared virtual reality, and in the first two iterations of the internet, there was almost no other way to accomplish that but through companies that hold a monopoly over how data is integrated and manipulated. The metaverse will still require that some companies manage large virtual spaces, but unlike Facebook and Google today, they will be designed to transition easily into one another across numerous virtual reality platforms.
Systems like Blockchain and Web3 can be used to secure the system. Web3 refers to the third iteration of the web in which users and machines interact within a system of peer-to-peer networks without the need for monopolies like Google. Blockchain and Web3 create a system that will focus on the individual participant and experience without compromising privacy.
In fact, several companies are already seeing great success in helping build Web3 and the metaverse. These include gaming companies like The Sandbox, Decentraland, and DIGITALAX, which has built a fashion content supply chain and the first interoperable 3D file format using Ethereum blockchain technology and NFTs.
To Sum It Up
With your home, computer, smartphone, devices plugged into the virtual reality, and your data under the control of a few monopolies, hackers could potentially learn everything about you from your bank account balance to the type of toilet paper you prefer.
By moving from peer-to-peer networks to a decentralized, fully integrated metaverse, you don’t have to worry about that. In reality, the metaverse is already in action, and you’re already a part of it, so it’s time to make it more secure and user-friendly.