Tech | Virtual Reality | Futurism
What is the Metaverse?
Think of it as virtual reality, where people can play games and interact with each other
ON 28 OCTOBER Facebook renamed itself as “Meta” in order to set the standards for virtual reality known as the metaverse. Last year it announced plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to work on the metaverse. Plenty of other technology companies have similar ambitions. This year Microsoft paid $69 billion in cash to acquire Activision Alizzard, a video-game developer, for metaverse purposes. Google, Tencent and Nvidia have also dipped their toes into the metaverse lately. What exactly is a metaverse, and does it even exist?
First coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash” as a successor to the two-dimensional internet, Metaverse is a three-dimensional digital world in which humans, as programmable avatars of any form, interact with each other and also engage in other activities, such as mercenaries vying for national defense contracts. Users gain access to the metaverse through goggles, terminals and other equipment.
For decades, techies have dreamt of creating an immersive virtual space, or the metaverse where—at least in theory—we could buy goods and services with virtual currency, attend concerts, hold business meetings and do most things that we do in the real world. But this complete metaverse remains a long way off, as it requires sophisticated technology that does not yet exist.
But some rudimentary elements of the metaverse already exist in video games. Take Fortnite, an online shooter game, for instance. Players—in Fortnite—with personal avatars fight with the avatars of other players.
Another platform where some social elements of the metaverse can be found is Second Life: an online social platform, where users with digital representations of themselves socialize with others. And in 2016 Sony, a technology company, released the PlayStation VR, a virtual reality headset that is plugged into its PlayStation 4 console to play virtual reality games.
In recent years, tech giants have invested billions of dollars to advance the access point to the metaverse. But who gets there first is uncertain. So far, Meta has been the dominant player in the field—or some say Epic Games is winning the race. This year Meta earmarked $10 billion towards developing virtual reality headsets and other gadgets. Roblox and Snap are also battling for a piece of the metaverse.
Metaverse’s fanatics believe that it will eventually succeed today’s failing internet, while skeptics call it a fad. But, whatever it is, the metaverse is closer to reality than when it was first imagined 30 years ago.
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