The term metaverse is everywhere and it can be hard to get a straight as to the question “what is the metaverse?” and even harder to get an answer to the questions “should I even be a part of the metaverse?” and “If so, why do I need the metaverse for my business?”
Let’s recap what the metaverse is and some frequently asked questions.
How does the metaverse apply to me and my business?
The metaverse presents a massively wide range of new opportunities for businesses in how to create awareness and drive interaction with clients, consumers, and partners. The metaverse takes the telephone call that is our current internet and transforms it into a place where we can interact free from the barriers of physical distance and the confines of internet browsers. It’s going to make our connections more immediate, more interactive, and more meaningful. For individuals and businesses, the metaverse offers the opportunity to turn what, even now, is a relationship that is managed at arm’s length with a screen between us into something that feels more natural, more productive, and more fun.
Okay, so what is the metaverse?
To put it directly, the metaverse is the evolution of the internet. It’s is a place where we will experience new ways to work, connect, play, purchase––and just to make things extra fun, the things you buy could show up at your door in the real world or BE your door in the metaverse. You can skip to “The Metaverse Now” if you don’t want or need a history lesson.
The Internet Then
The global network of computers talking to each other that we call the internet is about 30 years old now. It started off as static webpages; your personal computer or work on a computer would ask for a webpage and it would be sent to you. The internet began to evolve through participation and User Generated Content through the centralization of the internet, as big corporations started to eat up smaller companies that had provided what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) content creation tools. Blogging became microblogging with Twitter and Facebook, video blogging was soon hosted by YouTube, and while the internet was now a two-way street of making and consuming content, there number of unique websites where we would visit grew smaller. This was the age of on-demand content, where things were made and could be consumed at your leisure whenever you want.
The Metaverse Now
The internet is evolving again in a few different ways in the metaverse:
Instead of websites, the future is virtual spaces.
Instead of on-demand content creation, the experiences of the metaverse will be time limited: like a conference that you visit or a concert that you go to, there will be a time and place where things are happening.
Instead of big, centralized content repositories, users once again are starting to take control of their own online spaces––sometimes with tools and platforms provided by big corporations – as the metaverse returns the internet to a more decentralized structure.
This doesn’t mean the internet and all the content that we’ve been making for 30 years is going away, and that way of doing things is still going to be valid and relevant… but there’s a bold new world out there.
With that bold new world comes a virtual land rush, with opportunities in every direction. Entertainment and gaming companies were among the first to stake claims, with titles like Fortnite from Epic games normalizing the union of play and socializing on a single platform. New initiatives–like Roblox–allow anyone to create, monetize, and grow through user generated content.
You’ll hear the term blockchain woven through many narratives about the metaverse––Decentraland is a 3D virtual world that is owned entirely by the userbase, where players can create virtual spaces like galleries and theme parks, charging users to access them through the Ethereum blockchain. The impact of blockchain on the development of the metaverse is a blog in and of itself, so for now we’ll address it by saying the decentralized nature of blockchain is why it’s key part of many metaverse applications.
Image: Photo Credit: Vans / Vans collaborated with online gaming platform Roblox. (Roblox)
Understanding what makes the metaverse a meta experience
So we’ve quantified a few things: virtual spaces, synchronous time-limited experiences, and decentralization. Let’s look at each of them.
The virtual spaces that make up the virtual reality of the internet feel like science fiction, but they’re already here. Pioneers in the metaverse are already staking out virtual land, building virtual headquarters, working virtual boardrooms, and playing in virtual game rooms and arenas. A virtual space is a bit like a video game, and in many cases, they’re built with the same tools. These spaces can be photo realistic, mimicking the real world, or they can be stylized in any number of ways, looking like cartoons, video games, paintings, or other even more abstract representations. Likewise, how you appear in the metaverse can be just as unique: some spaces will have life-like avatars while others will emphasize the “otherness” of the metaverse with your digital self-appearing cartoonish or with bodies that aren’t human-appearing at all.
Public, free metaverse spaces offer a chance to meet and interact with new people, while private spaces allow for business presentations, one-on-one gaming, and meeting with family, without the rest of the internet chiming in.
Time Limited Experiences
Webpages, podcasts, video clips, reels, all these things are consumed asynchronously––which means that I can watch a video in full, send you the link, and you can watch the same video minutes, hours, or days later, and we’ll have the same experience. The metaverse has a strong focus on immediacy: being here, now, and experiencing things together. One of the first examples of was in the game Fortnight where Marshmallow, a world-renowned DJ, gave a concert inside the game engine, with thousands of players experiencing it all at the same time. When the concert was over it was over, and while recordings of it existed, the experience wasn’t the same.
Image: Photo Credit: YouTube / Fortnite Concert Live at Pleasant Park Marshmello
Pop acts like Justin Bieber, and generation-spanning powerhouses like Abba are finding their footing in the metaverse, with digital avatar representations (or ABBA-tars in the case of the disco legends) performing in the metaverse while their real-life counterparts play on stage.
Image: Photo Credit: Wave, xrtoday.com / Justin Bieber Metaverse Debut
Metaverse experiences add scarcity to events and interactions, increasing their value. The opportunity costs to participate are low, with travel time removed almost entirely, making participation much easier for users all around the world.
Pre-metaverse you probably spent a lot of your time on websites or in apps, centralized spaces that are controlled by only a few players in what many call Big Tech. The open, interoperable metaverse looks to reverse that trend, letting users host their own spaces––either on their own servers, on servers that are shared by many users without being affiliated with brands or corporations, and on blockchain-driven web services. While Big Tech will offer metaverse hosting as well, the scrutiny being put on them by governments around the world to regulate and control what happens in those spaces is leading Big Tech to develop tools and platforms to help users control their own spaces and experiences, rather than take on the burden of having to manage them themselves.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Metaverse - the Metaverse FAQ
Does Facebook / Meta own the metaverse?
Despite Facebook changing its name to Meta, it doesn’t own the metaverse. It does aim to become a leader in this space, but many other developers and tech firms are looking to create open and interoperable metaverse spaces and protocols, so that the future of the metaverse isn’t controlled by Meta.
How can I experience the metaverse right now?
Virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality are all something you can experience right now, with HMD – or headset mounted displays. While there’s been a focus on gaming, virtual work spaces and communications tools are already in use by businesses around the world. The Meta Quest 2 is an inexpensive standalone entry point that doesn’t require an external computer to use, while HP’s G2 and Valve’s Index can offer a richer experience with the caveat that you’ll need a powerful computer to tether those headsets to with a cable.
You could imagine your shop on Instagram becoming more immersive, with the option to buy physical or digital products as we saw in Jackie Aina’s space during Connect.
Do I need an internet connection to use the metaverse?
Yes. While virtual reality apps can function offline, the metaverse experiences we’ve described above are inherently connected.
This blog is the first in a series of upcoming content pieces that help demystify the metaverse, the terms you need to know, and specific applications of metaverse technologies. Sign up for our email newsletter to get the latest content as soon as it’s created, and stay ahead of the cutting edge in real time.
The team at Blink has been at the forefront of new technologies each time the internet has evolved, and our team already has extensive experience in this space, dating back over half decade to when Oculus first launched their dev kit. The best way to know if the metaverse is right for you and to find out what it could do for you is to let us explore with you. Call us or use our contact form and mention metaverse opportunities and we’ll discover it together.