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Explaining the expansion of the metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg has recently outlined a for vision for the expansion of virtual communication. Billions of dollars have been invested into the metaverse. But is this expansion just an exaggerated video game or will it provide humanity a whole new world to interact with?

Cyberpunk Trailer Youtube still [Youtube]

Author Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term “metaverse” in his 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash”. The protagonist is a hacker who jumps between a dystopian Los Angeles to the metaverse. Stephenson envisioned an online virtual world where life-like avatars gathered and interacted with 3D environments. 

Snow Crash Fans have linked the 1992 novel as an inspiration for Zuckerberg’s plan to popularize and fund the virtual reality universe.  Today, ‘metaverse’ is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “Virtual reality space in which users are able to interact with a computer-generated environment with other users”.  This definition mirrors Stephenson’s original concept for the metaverse. 

Snow Crash Novel [CC}

What does the metaverse include?

Thirty years later, tech advancement has allowed programmers to make a real metaverse, an online world that combines multiple elements of technology including augmented reality, 3D holographic avatars, videos, and soundscapes.  These technologies can be accessed primarily through VR headsets and video game consoles. 

The metaverse does not define a single aspect of technology but instead is a shift of how humanity interacts with technologies. As the metaverse develops, it will expand as an accessible hyper-real alternative world for people to co-exist and live in.

Metaverse spaces are not exclusive to virtual reality. Inklings of the metaverse have already existed in online gaming universes. In 2003, the virtual world of Second Life was arguably the internet’s first attempt at online reality. Second Life was extremely popular in the late 2000s, with millions of users immersing into the digital universe daily.


Second Life Art Gallery [CC]

As for its visuals, it’s far from groundbreaking. The environments are extremely pixelated and glitchy. Though Second Life is not nearly as popular as when it first launched, it still hosts roughly 90,000 active users.

The metaverse is not exclusively digital technologies, it also translates to a digital economy. This translates to users creating, buying, and selling merchandise. The vision of a digital economy would allow users to take their virtual items from one platform to another.

The idea of a digital economy is popular with today’s age. People are already investing in cryptocurrency, which many claim will be redeemable in the metaverse. In addition,  online users are creating online exclusive content for gaming and through digital art with NFTs. 

One of the most famous NFT collections The Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC).

Today, games such as Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft are evolutions of virtual reality gaming and communication. Since the coronavirus pandemic, tech engineers are expanding on immersive virtual cyberspaces for users to gather.

Virtual experiences have proven to be popular among users. Fortnite has hosted multiple concerts that peaked with over 12.3 million players joining these events. 

The next evolution in digital technology

Currently, Microsoft and Facebook —which has recently rebranded to Meta for the Metaverse project, are looking to create virtual communities. Microsoft has expressed an interest in creating virtual workspaces for employees to interact with while working remotely. Meta is also looking to explore the creation of housing communities, where users can socialize and host events with friends.   

Mark Zuckerberg has stated that his company is now “Metaverse-first” and is determined to construct a world beyond the constraint of screens. Zuckerberg wrote in a letter that within this universe users can do almost anything they imagine.

It is clear the Metaverse will certainly be the next chapter of the internet. There is most definitely a market for people who want to engage with virtual expeditions and infrastructures.   

Second Life University World [CC]

However, the construction of the metaverse is an ambitus and costly project. Zuckerberg estimates that users won’t be entering the metaverse until the end of the decade.

What started out as a futuristic idea in Snowden, is rapidly transforming into reality.

Large tech companies are already betting that the metaverse can be as big or bigger than the internet itself.  What is clear is that the metaverse will provide humanity with a new world to interact and socialize in.

Here is a visual explainer that shows the timeline of the development of the metaverse.

Zuri Soto Infographic

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