This summer we named “metaverse” the most important technology buzzword of the year. When the Facebook company changed its corporate name to “Meta”, which is a direct reference to the metaverse, those who had not yet heard of the buzzword were suddenly seeing it everywhere. What was once more of a concept has now turned into the inevitable future of technology and the future of communication. We examine what the metaverse is and just how it’s meant to work.
The notion that metaverse is just another name for virtual reality is incorrect. Although the metaverse concept has been around for some time, the metaverse itself is still in its early stages. No one can say for certain what it will be, but we can discuss the various companies that are involved in the metaverse, and the technologies and platforms that are currently happening that could potentially lead to what the metaverse could be.
As mentioned earlier, the Facebook company changed its name to Meta. Along with the company’s 2014 acquirement of the popular virtual reality headset maker, Oculus, building the metaverse seems to have been on the company’s mind for quite some time. This seems to be an ideal combination for the metaverse. The company has stated that it believes the metaverse could potentially replace the internet, and at the same time making it more of a wide-reaching and immersive experience.
Microsoft already has several technologies that could be the building blocks of what the metaverse could be. The well-known technology company currently uses holograms and is in the process of building a mixed reality and XR (extended reality) into its Microsoft Mesh platform.
Microsoft has also recently revealed an update to its business communication platform, Microsoft Teams. The company’s communication platform for videoconferencing, workspace chat, file storage, and application integration. The new update introduces mixed reality with the use of holograms and virtual avatars. Because a good percentage of the workforce is still working remotely, the idea is to help with virtual fatigue by allowing users to engage with their team without completely using their webcams.
The metaverse will be a virtual-reality space where users can interact with other users in a computer-generated environment. We know that the metaverse will be a combination of the internet, social media, gaming, XR platforms including virtual reality and augmented reality, and more. Within the metaverse, users would be able to go to virtual events like concerts, take a virtual vacation, try and buy digital clothing for their avatar, and interact with work during office hours. This will bring remote work into a new era.
Going on a digital vacation or buying digital clothing may sound like a farfetched idea, but companies like Nike are making waves in the metaverse realm as it has filed seven trademark applications to prepare for the metaverse. This includes downloadable virtual goods including footwear, clothing, headwear, eyewear, sports equipment, and more. Other trademark applications include retail store services and entertainment services. Again, buying or owning virtual goods may seem like a farfetched idea that people may not be interested in, but the acceptance of NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens, in the art world may be a sign that these digital goods and events could be the next big thing.
Nike has even collaborated with Roblox, an online game platform and game creation system that lets users’ program and play games that they and other users create. Within Roblox, Nike has created “Nikeland” inspired by their physical headquarters. In this world, users can play free mini-games including “The floor is lava”, “Dodgeball”, and “Tag”. As rewards, users are given virtual clothing of the brand. We are living in the beginning stages of the metaverse.
While many companies are looking to be the ones to create the metaverse and have a monopoly over whatever it becomes—it may not be one of those singular platforms that are controlled by one entity. Facebook, or Meta, has shown its intention for creating the metaverse with the official name change. But they are not the only company with these objectives. As mentioned earlier, Microsoft has already incorporated mixed reality and with its holograms and virtual avatars into its Microsoft Mesh platform. Integrating XR will also be another step towards the future of the metaverse.
If the metaverse replaces the internet or at least becomes the next iteration of the internet (like Mark Zuckerberg believes it could be), it shouldn’t be run by a single corporation. The internet isn’t owned or run by a singular company. The internet is structured as a decentralized network of networks. There are thousands of various companies, governments, universities, and other diverse organizations that operate their own networks. All of these different associations exchange traffic through voluntary interconnection agreements. While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the government agency responsible for regulating the internet in the United States, it would be quite different if a single corporation like Meta or Microsoft was in charge of regulating the future metaverse.
The world is living in the beginning stages of the metaverse. We are seeing companies like Meta, Microsoft, Roblox, Nike, and others move into this digital and virtual reality space. The concept of creating a new iteration of the internet that also combines gaming, social media, communication, retail, and even events is intriguing. The metaverse isn’t all fun and games either, the way this type of technology can be implemented by various companies with remote workers will change the way co-workers and company teams communicate. It can even change the way the world communicates with friends and family that are far away. If built and controlled responsibly, the metaverse could bring more people closer together. With all of this being said, if the metaverse becomes what many people believe it could be, a singular company shouldn’t be in full control of this virtual space. The potential for what the metaverse could be is quite endless. As we move closer to this new world—creators and leaders in the industry should proceed with care.