Meta (Facebook), Google, Microsoft, Apple, Sony, Tencent and other big tech giants believe that the internet in its current form will become irrelevant. In its place will come metaverse(s) – global virtual spaces where you can work, study, watch TV shows, play sports, play, buy and sell goods, meet friends and do all other daily activities. At the same time, all these companies have already begun to create their own metaverses in order to become monopolists in the new Internet.
In this article, we will tell you what the metaverse is, how it will look from the user’s side, and what technologies underlie it. In addition, we will also show you how to choose a developer to create your own metaverse or its individual elements that can be integrated into other people’s metaverses.
How did the idea of the metaverse come about?
The first to talk about the metaverse were not IT giants, but science fiction writers. The term itself is believed to have been coined by Neil Stevenson in the 1992 cyberpunk novel Snow Crash. In the book, the Metaverse (Stevenson always capitalizes the word) is a shared virtual space that is accessible to the public via a fiber optic network and projected onto VR glasses. You can connect to it as an avatar and perform the same actions as in the real world, but the virtual reality world itself is different – this is a fantasy universe where magic exists and you can live an amazing life full of adventures.
Similar concepts have been put forward in other works, for example, William Gibson wrote the story Burning Chrome back in 1982. This is not Gibson’s most famous work, but it was in it that he first described his virtual reality – cyberspace. Two years later, it will become the most important part of his cult Neuromancer from the Anthill trilogy, which will serve as a prototype for both the Stevenson Metaverse and many other fantastic works – from Ghost in the Shell (1991) to The Matrix (1999) and Ready Player One (2018).
And it is cyberspace that best describes what Meta (Facebook), Google and other corporations want to create, since virtual reality in Gibson cyberspace is as much a part of the real world as the Internet is for us. Whereas Stevenson’s Metaverse is a slang term for a virtual game that mimics a fantasy reality.
Principles of the Metaverse
In his Metaverse and How We’ll Build It Together talk , Mark Zuckerberg said that “the best way to understand the metaverse is to experience it for yourself, but it’s a bit tricky because it doesn’t exist yet.” Elsewhere in his speech, he described the vision of the metaverse as a new version of the Internet we know, “where you not only watch content, but also are in it.”
On this new Internet, you will be able to do almost anything you can imagine – play games, watch movies, work, create, shop, communicate with friends and family, and many other things that are currently inaccessible to us due to the limited capabilities of smartphones. and computers. Moreover, all this will be presented in the format of virtual and / or augmented reality.
Such a metaverse is likely to function on the basis of several key principles, which are best described by venture capitalist and writer Matthew Ball . In his words, the metaverse is “a network of permanent, real-time rendered three-dimensional worlds and simulations that is able to maintain continuity of identity and objects.” And for it to work normally, seven fundamental principles must be incorporated into its world order.
- There is no limit to the number of people populating the metaverse . It is understood that anyone can enter such a virtual reality, following the example of how anyone can create a Facebook account and visit their page at any time, without any delay. If this condition is not met, then such a network simply cannot become a common space for people to work, study, communicate and entertain (that is, it will not be “meta”).
- The Metaverse cannot be paused, terminated, or erased . Since the metaverse is a common space for millions, if not billions of people, then for their normal interaction it is necessary that no one can stop (pause) or delete (win, erase, disable) the work of the metaverse. Otherwise, such a universe will almost always be “frozen” because everyone will want to pause it to go to the bathroom, talk to the doctor on the phone, or just go to sleep.
- All events in the metaverse occur in real time . If time in the metaverse moves faster or slower than real time, then this will create unnecessary complexity with time calculations and make it impossible (or extremely difficult) to create mixed realities. Yes, and it will be easier for the human brain to immerse (believe) in the virtual world.
- In the metaverse, its inhabitants use the resources of real life . This means that when in the virtual world, people can use their laptops, workspace and work space, and this will be reflected in the real world. That is, if you write a work report in the metaverse in your virtual laptop, then this work report will appear in the real laptop.
- In the metaverse, it is possible to transfer digital assets to each other . This applies not only to game items (weapons, equipment, potions, etc.), but also to things like real money, property rights, files. And inside the metaverse, people will be able to create market relations and build their business on this, creating and exchanging such things. Moreover, all this must be formalized and protected at the legislative level – the theft of real objects and money in the metaverse should be equated with the theft of real objects and money in the real world (unless it is part of some kind of game, performance or agreement).
At the same time, assets can be transferred not only between people, but also between different metaverses, for example, you can buy a set of equipment in World of Warcraft and transfer it to Fortnite or Call of Duty. And the appearance and properties of an asset in one world do not have to be identical to its appearance and properties in another world – for example, a pistol in Fortnite will become a sword in World of Warcraft.
- For the work done in the metaverse, people get paid . The metaverse has its own economy, property and other laws. And these laws should protect the rights of workers so that the employer cannot say something like: “Since you did fake work, then you don’t need to pay wages with real money.” It also implies that the metaverse is likely to have jurisdictions similar to the real world, since without it it would be unclear who should protect: the country or the creator of this metaverse. And if the creator of the metaverse, then the one where the worker’s avatar was created; the one where he worked; the one where the avatar (or company) of the employer is created; or some other?
- Users of the metaverse can accumulate experiences and content . It is understood that avatars (organizations and people) that exist within the metaverse can accumulate experience and content and pass them on from generation to generation. This is very important, since now Facebook, YouTube or Fortnite users do not have rights to their accounts – this is the property of the platform, and if the owner of the platform wants, he can delete any account without the consent and even notification of the user, as happened with the account Trump on Twitter.
In an ideal metaverse, people should own their avatars and their virtual property, and this should be protected by law. Moreover, if the user wants, he can transfer his property (experience and content) by inheritance, as happens in the real world. Avatars, probably, can also be inherited if they are game characters.
Who develops the projects of the metaverses?
Perhaps the loudest statement about his intention to create his own metaverse was made by Mark Zuckerberg, since it was after his press conference that this topic became hype (according to Google Trends). Moreover, in order to emphasize the seriousness of its intentions, in October the company even changed its name from Facebook to Meta. However, even before that, many companies either already created their own metaverses, or planned to do so in the very near future. That’s who else, besides Zuckerberg’s company, is developing their own metaverse.
- epic games . Back in December 2019, Tim Sweeney, an official from Epic Games, said that they want to make Fortnite something of an entry port into their metaverse. And it’s not just words. In the spring of 2021, Epic Games raised $1 billion to bring this idea to fruition. According to Sweeney, their version of the virtual world will become a common space for users, creators and businesses to create their own worlds, interact and create full-fledged market relations.
- Microsoft . In May 2021, the largest software solutions provider also announced the launch of its metaverse . The head of the corporation, Satya Nadella, said that Microsoft plans to implement the concept of the metaworld based on the Azure cloud platform. The first step towards this is the launch of the Mesh platform , which allows you to work and communicate in mixed reality.
- Nvidia Corp ( NVDA ) . The chipmaker has created its Omniverse virtual collaboration platform , which will grow into another metaverse. At the same time, the company recently announced that it plans to expand its virtual platform by adding the function of creating interactive artificial intelligence avatars to it. Developers will be able to use these avatars to create intelligent assistants that are easy to customize for almost any task.
- Tencent . In 2021, Chinese newspaper South China Morning Post wrote that tech giant Tencent, the world’s largest video game revenue company, also plans to launch a metaverse for the Chinese market. But on the condition that it does not contradict the vision of the Communist Party.
- SNAP . This year, the owner of Snapchat introduced his augmented reality glasses – VR BOX. They are able to detect real-world surfaces and objects using two cameras, and then use this data to place various augmented reality effects on glasses. The glasses are currently only available to select AR developers and AR artists.
What does the metaverse look like technically?
In short, from a technical point of view, the metaverse is a virtual reality system consisting of the following elements:
- technical media (cloud, servers);
- access devices (VR and AR helmets and glasses);
- augmented/virtual reality (software);
- rules laid down in the architecture of the system.
For a general understanding of the principles of operation of virtual reality systems on the part of an ordinary user, this description is sufficient. If you want to delve deeper, here is a more detailed description of the technologies underlying the metaverses and the projects tied to them.
NFT technologies . One of the key elements of the metaverses, as this technology will allow continuity of the identity of the avatar and objects in the metaverses. It is thanks to NFTs that you can ensure that your avatars retain their appearance (face, body, clothes), contacts, history, experience and content, moving from one metaverse to another, for example, from Fortnite to Call of Duty.
Transferring reality to VR / AR . For the operation of additional (extended, mixed) reality, tools are needed that will scan the real space in real time, create its three-dimensional model and transfer it to users’ VR / AR glasses. Such gadgets already exist, for example, two digital cameras and corresponding software are built into VR BOX glasses that scan the surrounding space of the real world to build its VR model – a three-dimensional map of surfaces and objects.
Mixed or augmented reality (MX, XR). This is when a user, being in VR or AR space, interacts with objects of the real world (operates a digital machine, performs a surgical operation or types text on a laptop) or vice versa (an architect creates a virtual model of a building, a viewer participates in a virtual film, an athlete sees virtual signs, signs and icons on the sports ground). For all this, an appropriate software solution is needed, with which there are still problems. For example, developers have only recently been able to “teach” a neural network such a simple task as determining the time using a clock. And it is still quite far from the fact that the virtual object normally interacts with the surfaces and objects of the real world.
Distributed Computing and Storage . Really huge computing resources are needed to create large, bright and rich metaverses with objects and content. The easiest way to “collect” them is to distribute the calculations among many nodes, as is the case in blockchain systems or systems like Folding@Home. This is a non-profit project focused on research into serious diseases and drug development.
Artificial intelligence (AI). This is another key technology without which it is impossible to imagine any metaverse. AI is needed to create smart assistants for more “live” interaction with people, accelerate software development, develop more reliable security systems, improve analytical systems (Big Data, science, marketing, etc.) and, of course, to enrich the biological worlds of virtual video games, t i.e. NPC intelligence improvements.
Mobile communication 5G . The Metaverse cannot reach its full potential without the ultra-fast, low-latency mobile internet that people need to access the Metaverse from anywhere, at any time. An example is the online game Second Life, which is a real-life simulation game that appeared before smartphones became popular. For a long time, the game was successful, but lost popularity, including due to the fact that it could not get a mobile version – the mobile Internet at that time simply could not transfer the required amount of data.
Only fifth-generation networks, 5G, will be able to provide the required data transfer speed, the download and upload speed of which is an order of magnitude higher than that of 4G – 10 GB / s versus 100 MB / s. In addition, 5G technology is capable of handling millions of simultaneous data streams with a limited duration.
nomadic programs . These are completely autonomous AIs with the same “rights and opportunities” as ordinary human users. They will move between virtual spaces and entire metaverses in order to study, improve and describe the metaverses and their individual elements. A prime example of this kind of nomadic program is the Hello Games project . Using procedural generation, four artists created the virtual universe of No Man’s Sky, consisting of 18 quintillion planets. They didn’t have the ability to visit and evaluate each planet on their own, so they created a fleet of autonomous bots that roamed between the planets and made short videos about the most interesting things.
The metaverse is no longer the dream of science fiction writers. As with smartphones that have made us more mobile, sooner or later each of us will become more virtual and find our virtual selves in one or more metaverses at once. And if your business is closely connected with the Internet, content consumption, education, sales or video games, then you cannot do without your own metaverse or its part, which can be integrated into someone else’s metaworld. Think about it now before it’s too late!