What is the metaverse?
At its heart, the metaverse is a term to describe a shared virtual world that does not yet exist.
It does not refer to a specific technology, company, or place. Instead, the metaverse describes a phenomenon where virtual reality, internet, and technology seamlessly integrate.
This is a level of interoperability between tech that is currently hard to imagine. But, it is possible with:
- increasingly fast internet: this allows for a virtual experience to feel/look much more like an in-person experience,
- digital currencies: these allow for easily transferable and programmable representations of value within this virtual world,
- increasing abundance of open-source technologies : these are technologies that are made publicly available to all. With such technology, seamless integration across devices made by different companies becomes much more possible. A prime example of this is the Google Chrome web browser; which is powered by open-source code and supplemented by an abundance of browser extensions developed by independent programmers.
- blockchain technology: this enables us to create digital assets / property that cannot be manipulated by any third party and can exist in perpetuity. In other words, they are immutable.
Notably, blockchain technology is one of the keys that unlocks metaverse because it allows for us to create virtual spaces that exist in perpetuity.
Due to the persistent nature of decentralized ledgers, we can now create digital assets / property that will exist even if people, organizations, countries, and governments fail.
Like real estate in the real world, it won’t just disappear.
This means that there can be virtual shopping malls located on virtual real estate that is actually leased to the virtual stores that occupy it.
How is this possible?
Why? Because there will be millions of eyes and players that visit these virtual spaces — and if you own people’s attention, then there is potential for monetization.
Is your head spinning? We get it.
One easier way to think about this is by comparing grocery shopping today vs. in the metaverse.
- Check your fridge and your house for the groceries you need
- Write down those groceries on a pad of paper or put them in a list on your iPhone
- Get in your car and use Google maps to direct you to your local grocery store
- Walk through the grocery store in-person and select the items you want
- Go to the cash register and pay by Visa or physical cash
- Drive home
In the metaverse, you are:
- prompted by an AI robot that you need groceries
- shown a list of missing items (based on user history) on your Samsung computer
- inspect the strawberries for yourself while seamlessly switching to your Apple smartphone
- Tell the AI robot that you want all the missing items and you also want to browse the store
- Virtually walk through the store using your smart glasses
- Stop and talk with other shoppers (“Hey Jim! Good to see you!”) who are also virtually walking through the store
- Checkout within the VR program using your own crypto wallet that is integrated with the rest of your tech
- step outside the virtual store and notice that there is an unrelated department store on a nearby piece of virtual real estate
- shop in that store as well
- receive purchased items to your doorstep via an autonomous drone
It’s hard to give an example like this because, at the end of the day, we don’t know what the metaverse will look like.
But, one thing we do know is that technology is accelerating and its possibilities are increasing. The advent of more open-source technologies will allow for greater innovation as well as more affordable conveniences.
Of course, it might lead us to more virtual lives. Does that mean our lives are less personal or more lonely?
That’s up to us.
If you want to learn more, here are few resources that we found helpful:
- The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find it, Who Will Build It, and Fortnite. Written by Matthew Ball. Published on Jan 13, 2020.
- The Metaverse Primer. This is a nine-part series all linked on this webpage. Written by Matthew Ball and published in 2020.
- “What is a ‘metaverse,’ and why is Mark Zuckerberg so excited about it?” NBC News. Written by Steve Kovach. Published on July 29, 2021.