Metaverses: What are They and Why do We Need Them
Metaverse is one of the main words of 2021 according to Collins. Despite popularity in the media and the peak number of search queries in 2022, a lot of people do not know what this word means. Although metaverses are no longer fiction, but a real space for entertainment, education, work and marketing.
The metaverse development market has reached almost $48 billion. It is projected to grow to 678 billion by 2030. Large global corporations and small startups develop new digital worlds. Metaverses are often confused with virtual worlds and computer games, but the concept is broader. In this article, you will learn what metaverse is and why we need it.
What is Metaverse
The metaverse is a digital space that creates a simulation of reality and integrates existing services, content and brand products into a single environment.
The world of the metaverse exists alongside the real one, intersects with it or complements it. People study, go to virtual stores and meet with colleagues in a digital office there.
The metaverse is referred to as a three-dimensional Internet. On the usual Internet, the user consumes content, while in the digital universe they are inside the content. In the metaverse, each person creates an avatar, a digital identity that other users see. You can control your avatar from a mobile device. However, if you want to fully immerse in the "parallel universe", you will need a virtual reality headset.
The everyday life of the metaverse resembles a sci-fi movie: characters sit at a desk in their office and discuss an important issue. At the end of the meeting, everyone disconnects and it turns out that everyone is in different places, and the office is virtual.
Meetings in the metaverse will be held in much the same way. The difference is that movie characters need a small device (e.g. a button) to switch between the real and virtual worlds. In reality, we will need to wear a VR headset. It will resemble a Zoom meeting but with full immersion and the effect of presence. You will not need to share your screen because all information will appear in front of each user's avatar. Each user will see a virtual screen, almost like the character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A scene from «Iron Man»
In the metaverse, you can also see your friends in digital coffee shops, bars or in a fictional world. You can go to a workout or play a game together. If there are thousands of kilometers between you and your friends and you want to go to a cinema together, a virtual reality headset will help you.
Characteristics of the Metaverse
There are characteristics that distinguish the metaverse from a computer game and virtual reality:
All actions happen in real time. The metaverse cannot be paused, saved or rebooted. Events continue to occur when the user logs out of the platform.
At the same time, an unlimited number of users are active in the metaverse. Each avatar is a real person.
Domestic economy. The metaverse currency has the same value as the real one. You will have to earn money there, as in the real world. Domestic currency is sold, bought and invested.
The metaverse encompasses the real and digital worlds: open and closed platforms intersect, objects from one digital space freely penetrate into another. Characters from games and movies interact with each other, with metaverse objects and brands. For example, a user buys a bag in a virtual store of a real brand and then goes with it in a virtual cinema owned by another brand. The metaverse is like the spaces of different computer games glued together.
Users not only consume the product made by developers, but create content and experience within the metaverse themselves.
The Origin and Future of the Metaverse
It all started with fiction. The term "metaverse" first appeared in the science fiction novel "Avalanche" (1992) by Neal Stephenson. In the book, the author describes the virtual world that appeared in the XXI century. The users exist in the form of 3D avatars, they buy and sell real estate.
The digital universe is also shown in movies. You can see virtual worlds in "Ready Player One", "Tron", iconic "The Matrix" and other movies. Something close to the metaverse exists in Fortnite and World of Warcraft in a platform that is called Second Life. It combines a virtual world and a social network. There, users' avatars move around online spaces, hold meetings, go shopping in marketplaces and choose outfits from virtual fashion collections.
A meeting room in the Second Life platform
Companies all over the world develop metaverses: Microsoft, Decentraland, Roblox and others. But nowadays there is no unified and full-fledged digital universe.
Heavy VR headsets make transition to the digital space harder. It is difficult to wear them for more than 30 minutes. There are not enough other tools to simulate physical actions, but companies are developing such solutions. A Japanese start-up H2L created a suit for feeling pain in the metaverse. Panasonic introduced the Pebble Feel system, which can heat and cool users in the digital world.
However, it is a problem that different companies develop metaverses. It is difficult to combine different spaces. Companies need to agree on common currency, rules for user conduct and laws of the metaverse.
Why do We Need Metaverses
Simulation of an office and other meeting spaces. During the pandemic, British illustrators moved Zoom calls to Red Dead Redemption 2. The team created cowboy avatars and sat around a campfire in a Wild West setting. At the end, each participant mounted a horse and rode off into the night. Such unconventional locations and formats for business meetings will become a usual thing in the metaverse.
Buying and selling metaverse objects and investing. With NFT technology, items become the unique property of the buyer, which is available for resale. There are even realtors for digital real estate, which is constantly growing in prices and becoming a lucrative investment.
The metaverse will facilitate the solution of design tasks. It is easier to study and transform a 3D model of an object in the virtual world. Modelling in the metaverse should also reduce waste and speed up the process of developing new solutions.
Brands are picking up the idea of promotion in the metaverses. The main goal is to attract millennials and generation X, who are the first to master new technologies. Even mentioning a brand in the context of the metaverse brings additional recognition to a company.
How to promote a business in the metaverse:
Create your own metaverse. For example, Nike announced that they would develop a digital world in partnership with Roblox. In Nikeland, users get into a copy of the company's headquarters and compete in sports mini-games. Lego has also decided to create a digital universe for children in collaboration with Epic Games.
Open a store in the digital space. Sell digital and real items in the metaverse, which will be delivered to the buyer's address after fitting or testing.
Gucci created the first virtual sneakers - Gucci Virtual 25. The user can try on the shoes in augmented reality and wear them in Roblox and VRChat applications. The company also opened Gucci Garden in Roblox. It is a copy of a real digital installation in Florence.
Virtual influencers and models. Brands are already creating their own digital characters or collaborating with others. For example, a virtual model Lil Miquela exists only in social networks but gives interviews and releases music videos. Her virtual life attracts millions of users who follow her on social networks.
Outdoor advertising in the metaverse. Here, everything as in the real world — billboards and digital screens are used for advertising. Placement ideas depend only on the creativity of marketers.
Entertainment and education
Metaverses are similar to games, so they expand gaming experience. Communication with other users and an immersive environment are added.
Events are already held in the metaverse. In 2020, Travis Scott performed in front of 12 million players at a virtual concert in Fortnite because offline events were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Travis Scott's virtual concert in Fortnite
As for education, students can see what exactly they study in metaverses. For example, students can witness a historical event and future design engineers can see a spacecraft system for a detailed study.
The metaverse is a space in the digital world that exists alongside the real one. This is a parallel reality, but the actions in the digital universe affect the events in the real world.
The metaverse cannot be paused or saved, all actions take place in real time. Users use avatars to communicate with other real people in the digital world. Nowadays, there are no full-fledged metaverses, but dozens of companies all over the world are developing them.
Metaverses will expand business opportunities with virtual offices and investments in digital objects. Companies are already opening their digital stores and placing advertisements on billboards in the metaverse. Events are held in the metaverse, and in the future digital spaces will become educational platforms.
The metaverse is a new step in the development of the Internet, which becomes three-dimensional and adds the effect of presence.
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