Since Facebook’s rebranding to “Meta,” the term metaverse has been trending. In their own words, “The metaverse is the next evolution of social connection.” But what is it, and what does this mean?
In Facebook’s live-streamed event hosted by founder Mark Zuckerberg, Zuckerberg explains Meta’s metaverse in the simplest terms possible. To save you an hour of your day, we’ll briefly go over Meta’s vision for the metaverse and what Zuckerberg has to say about it.
What Is the Metaverse?
In simple terms, the metaverse is a virtual world where you’ll be able to meet up with friends, shop, work, play, learn, and much more. At first sight, it doesn’t seem too far from what we already have. There are many platforms and games that have already created virtual worlds, but Meta’s virtual world seems to take it a step forward, envisioning a future where the line between the physical and augmented reality blurs.
“You’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine, get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, and create,” Zuckerberg explains. The main difference from other virtual worlds is that their mission is to offer consumers these experiences with future virtual reality goggles and augmented reality glasses instead of through your screen.
“You’re going to be able to move across these different experiences on all kinds of different devices. Sometimes using virtual reality, so you’re fully immersed, sometimes using augmented reality glasses so you can be present in the physical world as well, and sometimes on a computer or phone,” Zuckerberg states.
As you log in, you’ll be welcomed into your own virtual home, a feature called Horizon Home. Today, only preset homes exist to choose from, and you are unable to “invite friends over.” But for the future, Zuckerberg discusses a space that you’ll be able to style however you want, adding pictures, videos, digital art, or even a home office from where to work from.
Eventually, they also plan on releasing a new feature where you can invite your friends to join you as avatars. This will enable you to hang out together and even jump into worlds and apps with each other.
The introductory video demonstrates Mark Zuckerberg being invited to hang out with some friends. But, before he “finds something to wear,” he flips through the clothing options on his avatar prior to entering a room, greeted by his friends playing a card game. Simultaneously, he receives a video call from a friend outside the virtual world.
This is an essential vision of Meta’s future for the metaverse; socialization and bringing you closer to your family and friends. This is why they strive to create technology that will allow for you to see “people’s facial expressions, body language, and all the subtle ways humans communicate that technology still has not found a way to deliver,” Zuckerberg explains.
Technology in the Metaverse
To achieve the feeling of being immersed in virtual reality, Meta discusses two important projects they are developing that help us understand their vision for the metaverse.
One of these projects is Project Cambria, the development of new and improved virtual reality goggles. These new goggles would allow avatars to make natural eye contact and reflect your facial expressions in real-time through sensors.
Another project is the development of full augmented reality glasses called Project Nazare. As an example of what this could mean, the video shows Mark Zuckerberg placing a virtual game over his real coffee table, with his friends as avatars seating around it.
This is an example of mixed reality, something important for the future of Meta’s metaverse. Mixed reality is the ability to have your glasses on and use your holographic-looking apps and computers while blending in with reality. For example, having a yoga instructor right in the middle of your living room or using your virtual computer while being able to take notes on your actual desk with real pen and paper.
Remote Work in the Metaverse
Since the pandemic, remote work has been on the rise. Even after offices have reopened, the idea of remote work has still stayed, with many working right from home without having to go to the office.
These parallel worlds plan on giving you an alternative to Zoom meetings. Instead, Meta seeks to create a digital office workplace where you and your colleagues can meet up through custom-made avatars. Like Zuckerberg stated, “Giving everyone the tools to be present no matter where they are, whether it is a hologram sitting next to you in a physical meeting, or in a discussion taking place in the metaverse.”
Today chunky VR glasses, like the Oculus Rift, are the reality. But the future of this virtual world depends on interactive holograms, lightweight glasses, and modernized VR headsets.
Commerce in the Metaverse
Recently, someone purchased Snoop Dogg’s neighboring plot of land in his upcoming virtual world, Snoopverse, for a whopping $450,000. Yes, you read that right.
This is just one example of how money is invested in creating this virtual world. Commerce is a huge part of the metaverse, with players able to sell and buy both digital and physical products through the platform with cryptocurrency.
Marketing a product would also become more globally accessible. Imagine a company launch party in a virtual world – anyone would be able to attend no matter their location.
The Future of the Metaverse
Although you might only have heard of Meta’s parallel universe, many others are investing in its future. Microsoft recently acquired video game company Activision Blizzard as building blocks for this virtual world. Additionally, Microsoft already uses holograms and develops apps that combine the real world with virtual and augmented reality.
The metaverse seems like it might be the next step in our ever-advancing technological world. But, there is still a long way to develop technology that makes this virtual world enjoyable, and whether this will be the “successor to mobile internet” seems hard to predict.
As the New York Times points out, many argue that Zuckerberg’s vision will only be able to come true once an augmented reality, layering digital images onto the real world, can finally be achieved through comfortable and lightweight glasses.
The public’s reaction to this virtual world has been a mixed bag. Some say this all sounds too close to a Black Mirror episode, afraid of what this could mean to future generations. Others believe this is the future and that the economic possibilities are endless. Whether Meta’s vision of the metaverse will happen and be accepted into the mainstream, time will only tell.