Many people have misconceptions about the Metaverse definition, thinking that it is all about technology and virtual reality. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Recalling a sci-fi landscape or a matrix universe in which virtual has become reality, the metaverse is gradually becoming a hunting ground for multinationals, especially GAFAMs. Facebook group with its strategic change of identity in “Meta” coupled with a titanic human and financial investment, has revived an abandoned concept of the 90s. In essence, it is a world where anything is possible, limited only by our imagination. This idea has been around for decades, but recent advancements in technology are allowing us to move closer towards making it a reality.
Three incomplete perceptions of the metaverse definition
Coming up with a single metaverse definition is a difficult task, due to the varying perspectives and interpretations. Depending on who is asked for a metaverse definition, it encompasses so many technological aspects and just using a single word to define it looks utterly incomplete.
The metaverse is a virtual world
A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment that is designed to be a reflection of real life or an imaginary world. It can be accessed through the internet and is typically used for entertainment, educational, or social purposes. It can also be used for online gaming and social networking. A virtual world the refers to a simulated 3D environment in which people can interact with each other and with objects. Although this refers somehow to the Metaverse, this definition remains rather limited in terms of the uses that can be found in the Metaverse true form.
Or just an online game
An online game is a game that is played over the internet or any other computer network. Online games can range from simple text-based games to games incorporating complex graphics and virtual worlds populated by many players simultaneously. An online game is then a type of video game which is basically played over the internet. These games can be played either on a computer or on consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation. Some popular online games include Fortnite, World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Minecraft. Still, this conception remains narrow, since the metaverse is not intended to be just a playground.
What about merely a platform on the internet?
A platform on the internet is an online service or website that provides users with access to specific content or features, such as social media, e-commerce, or search engines. A platform on the internet is a virtual space where people can interact and access information. It can contain various types of content such as videos, audio, text, social media, and more. It can also provide tools for activities such as communication, collaboration, and commerce. From there, the idea of the metaverse takes shape a bit more, but it can be improved, since the metaverse encompasses even more features.
A Metaverse Definition
From the contraction of the English wording “meta universe”, the metaverse refers to the transformation of current web spaces in virtual 3D landscapes, easily accessible and sharable. It is an online world, deeply embedded in virtual, with the will of being more immersive.
According to Andrew Bosworth, in charge of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality department in Meta Group, metaverse is a set of virtual spaces which provide opportunities for creation and exploration along with people who are physically far apart from each other.
For Mathieu Flaig, digital strategy advisor, metaverse will take the form of an “audience crossroads”, where people from all over the world can virtually meet instantly. Each individual can be an actor in this online universe, live there in an avatar or a hologram form. His counterpart Frédéric CAVAZZA underlines that what is relevant in defining the metaverse is that it is more like a vast medium with deeply diversified uses that cannot be summarized as a multiverse of online shops.
Meta, which has made the term “metaverse” popular again, aims at creating more social interactions without needing to travel. Meetings, training courses and more can be organized virtually and every avatar will be able to participate. Epic Games through its flagship online game Fortnite is already leading the way into the metaverse with virtual celebrity gigs. We can mention for instance example Travis Scott’s concert which welcomed no less than 12 million spectators in April 2020.
A universe of information and experiences
The Metaverse is actually a concept of an interconnected universe of information and experiences, which has the potential to span across physical, digital, and even biological realms. It looks more like a shared virtual environment made up of the combination of real and digital elements. Continuously available, delivering an intense, the Metaverse provides an interactive experience and is accessible through any kind of device, from tablets to virtual reality headsets.
What is to remember is that the metaverse should be accessible through any device, not just head-mounted displays, which could eliminates the possibility of the metaverse existing only in a VR setting. An important element of this definition is “persistent”, which suggests that the metaverse will stay in the same state no matter who is engaged with it. Any changes made to the metaverse will remain for others to experience, instead of being reset or only available to the person who made them at the beginning of each session.
The Metaverse: the background
The concept of metaverse is born through Snow Crash, a Neal Stephenson’s book in which metaverse tends to describe an almost indefinable reality, one inscribed in a virtual and almost dreamlike universe. The ancient Greek particle “meta” in the term metaverse refers to transcending what is commonly perceived, what goes beyond things. This concept introduced by Neal Stephenson aims at speaking of a virtual world that exists outside the real world, a type of parallel universe which also represents another facet of the world in which we all interact.
Neal Stephenson goes further in his description of the metaverse. He conceives it as a universe in its own, based on computer laws and governed by economic principles, comprising transactions and monetary exchanges between virtual protagonists and/or legal persons. Those protagonists are each represented by a virtual avatar which will facilitate interactions, the sharing of emotions, etc. The individuals are all visible here and are no longer reduced to a single number as on collaborative platforms we now have on the web.
Using or accessing the Metaverse
The Meta group’s metaverse, according to Mark Zuckerberg’s vision, is accessible using a virtual reality headset, able to fully transport its user to this virtual world. This is made possible by the ability of the VR headset to completely cover the eyes of its user. Meta group proposes its VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2 for this purpose, which is equipped with remote controls for each hand allowing those who controls it to move their avatar around the metaverse.
The group’s future ambition is to equip metaverse users with augmented reality glasses, compatible with the metaverse, glasses which are more ergonomic and more practical and will clearly make a better bridge between the virtual and the real world. The point is who will be the first to commercialize and make accessible the use of augmented reality glasses. Microsoft with its Hololens is getting ahead but not quite there yet, while Apple is still in the thinking phase.
Meta to make itself even more believable, is in the process of designing a pair of electronic gloves, connected to the metaverse and capable of making feel the seized objects in this virtual dimension. The point is to simulate as closely as possible to reality, the haptic sensations for a better immersion in the metaverse. This remains a colossal technological challenge for Meta, which faces many difficulties in designing this type of tool: The glove must be able to detect the texture of the affected object, as well as the user will to grab the object, without taking into consideration lots more complex parameters, which will result in a far later release of this tool.
How it works
The Metaverse aims to be a world that brings together as many services as possible. It aims to be a place of sharing in which everyone offers to share what they want and have. Developers have the ability to enrich the future of metaverse through an interactive journey, for example, by bringing together virtual shops, culture or entertainment spots, tourism, etc.
Since everything virtually takes place in the metaverse, a cryptocurrency payment method will be set out. Meta recently invested $10 billion to bring this ambition to life. Many large groups are already waging war around the metaverse and investing huge sums of money in the hope of not missing this opportunity. Epic Games, a Roblox’s first competitor, has forecasted a billion dollars this year for its metaverse success, while Microsoft imagines metaverse more within a collaborative framework, a “Corporate metaverse”type.
The type of metaverse definition we know today
As mentioned in the article Different types of metaverses, the current metaverses are different from one to another. It is crucial to differentiate between the classic metaverses, so those of Web2, and the Web3 metaverses based on the blockchain technology. And within these different types, not all existing or upcoming web3 metaverses are decentralized realms. Thus, each virtual environment offers a different experience.
Web2 centralized metaverses
These virtual environments do not have blockchain technology incorporated into their design and instead rely on a centralized system. To put it simply, they are digital realms run by a single authority that keeps all of the users’ information. In these realms, individuals have an avatar that they can use to progress through the games. Usually, these virtual spaces involve role-playing. However, it is possible to attach blockchain technology to these interfaces in order to construct a digital economic system. Those are usually online games such as Fortnite, Roblox or Minecraft.
Web3 centralized metaverses
Blockchain metaverses allow people to communicate and conduct activities in virtual worlds. As a result, it creates a digital economy where individuals can capitalize on the items they own and create. These systems also involve Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) that can be bought and sold. Transactions take place using cryptocurrencies, though the user’s data is reportedly overseen by a third party. The Meta metaverse or Earth2 are centralized Blockchain metaverses.
Web3 decentralized metaverses
In blockchain metaverses that are not centralized, the authority to make decisions does not rest with a single entity but with the individuals who use it. These kinds of metaverses establish a virtual economy that is powered by digital currencies. This has been demonstrated to be the most successful form of the metaverse because it is closest to the original intent of the concept.
The distinguishing feature of decentralized blockchain metaverses is that they create a communal atmosphere where the power shifts to the user. As these platforms are structured in a horizontal way, the notion of wealth redistribution is more applicable. Examples of those blockchain metaverses are The Sandbox, Axie Infinity or Decentraland metaverses.
The forerunners of a metaverse definition
World of Warcraft-style online multiplayer games, or simulating social life games like The Sims, or even GTA-style open worlds, are all certainly grounds of a metaverse-type universe. But what comes closest to the modern design of the metaverse is without a doubt the online 3D game Second Life, released in 2003. At its peak, Second Life virtual world had more than a million users simultaneously connected. There were also conferences, political events and avatars would meet in existing real life stores but virtually present on Second Life.
One of the reasons this metaverse was ahead of its time and did not last is the technological potency at the time. Loading times grew longer with each new connection and it quickly became difficult to appreciate this virtual world. 5G seems to be reaching out to the metaverse, whose full potential will surely be exploited.
A Metaverse Definition in Branding
Brands, always on the lookout for ways to get more audiences, are rushing into metaverse, which represents current and future profit potential. With Fortnite for instance, it is possible to organize events (Travis Scott concert), to sponsor items or skins (accessories, cosmetics, etc). It is also a way for brands to create digital collectibles and sell them to their users, who will have, as a matter of fact, exclusivity on the purchased goods.
The Metaverse can directly and in a more effective way connect brands to their users. Interaction being regular in this virtual space, each brand will have space to connect with their users, gain leads, and increase brand loyalty, by highlighting the brand image or what they have to offer. It will also be relevant to adapt each speech to this context, deeply rooted in the virtual, in order to better grasp the target audience.
Some brands in the metaverse
Gucci brand has been fast to understand metaverse potential and has already got into those universes, especially through Fortnite or Roblox game. Balenciaga brand has not been hesitant either and is part of this metaverse race, by marketing skins on Fortnite. The point here is to have them worn by players who in return will make product placement by dressing their avatar in branded products. The real advantage is that these items are a bridge between virtual and real world in a way that a Fortnite player whose avatar wears Gucci can, in real life, afford these clothes or accessories, via the online brand store.
Metaverse potential for brands is enormous and is growing steadily. Soon it will be a matter of integrating NFT marketplaces into metaverses. Although there are platforms dedicated to buy and even sell NFTs, metaverse is the only 3D universe allowing a true NFTs growth, fostering as a result the need to produce 3D NFTs, in order to anticipate the future. METAV.RS is the perfect fit for brands willing to join the metaverse in an interoperable and centralized way.
To learn more on the Metaverse and ways for brands to leverage digital collectibles, read 4 KEY POINTS FOR A BRANDED NFT PROJECT IN 2023