Into the Metaverse

Metaverse

Image: Shutterstock

Step aside Multiverse, this is the age of Metaverse. Immersive experience, virtual world, augumented reality et al are terms bounded in the sphere of Metaverse. But what is this strange sounding term and what consequences does it hold for our life and times? Ramji finds out and gets you in on the action that is the future of our world.


Metaverse! This is the recent buzzword across the world in recent years. It gained more popularity last year when Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. He used the term 'Metaverse' to build an interconnected set of experiences.

What is a Metaverse?

It is considered as the next version of the internet where people can meet, work, learn, play, and socialise all in 3D virtual spaces through their digital 3D avatars. It is a portmanteau of the words "meta" and "universe" that first appeared in Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel called Snow Crash. In the novel, it was described as an MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game) that was populated by 3D avatars that represent the users.

Image: Wikipedia

Now, this might sound more relatable if we think of the 1999 sci-fi film The Matrix. The protagonists in the film insert a jack in the back of the neck and voila! They enter a virtual world. Well, Metaverse can be something like that, but you do not have to harm yourself by poking your neck. Instead, you just use your computer or your virtual reality headsets (in the immediate future), and everyone can be Neo, the chosen one or Trinity.

Image: Matrix Wiki

In the 2018 film Ready Player One, a version of the metaverse (though it is not called as such) called OASIS is shown. People wear a virtual reality headset and run on an omnidirectional treadmill and their digital avatars perform unbelievable feats in the virtual world called OASIS. Well, this was closest to depicting the Metaverse that is currently piquing the interest of people across the world.

Image: Ready Player One (Movie Poster)

The actual Metaverse is not yet fully available on the internet, but metaverse-like experiences are already available. Back in 2003, Linden Labs launched an online virtual world called Second Life. It was one of the initial metaverse-like initiatives, but it was not called that. It is more like a 3D social media platform where users can interact with each other through 3D avatars. The avatars can chat with each other, walk, run, and even fly! Users can buy or rent virtual islands and build their own stuff there. There are thousands of experiences that are built in Second Life. It even has its own currency called Linden Dollars which people use within Second Life to buy or rent stuff. Linden Dollars even rise and fall like real-world fiat currencies. Second Life continues to be popular among 3D virtual spaces.

Circa 2022, platforms like Decentraland, Somnium Space are getting popular among users. There are scores of these platforms getting built and they are at various stages of their development cycle. This is like a new age gold rush, and everyone wants to build a metaverse platform that is unique. Unlike Second Life, these new age Metaverse platforms use Blockchain technology and Crypto currencies to transact within the platform. They also offer collectibles as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) that the users buy and sell. Well, more on that another time.

Image: Decentraland

These Metaverse platforms let people across the world virtually meet up either in a virtual space or in one's physical space using a mixed reality headset. These platforms help people collaborate on business, art, education and beyond, all in a virtual space. With the right blending of technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrency, they are moving into an all-new level that is not only fully immersive but also helps them transact within the platform.

How is this achieved?

With recent advancements in the hardware of virtual reality headsets, it is possible to create a virtual space and host concurrent users within the platform. The users see the digital self of other users and interact with them. Or with the help of a mixed reality headset can host an instructor at your own house to teach workouts or yoga.

A mixed reality headset is a device that shows your own physical environment and augments holographic digital content to make it seamlessly appear in your space. The line between a virtual reality headset and a mixed reality headset is getting blurred and eventually we might have the same gear for both applications.

The future looks promising for the Metaverse and with the breakneck speed at which the hardware advancements are taking place, people can soon do business transactions, take up a course or learn workouts from experts across the world, virtually that is. They just have to don their headset and teleport to any part of the digital world.

Welcome to the future!

About the author:
Ramji has about 20 years of experience in eLearning space and specializes in 3D modelling, AR, VR and MR solutions. He is a huge fan of Maestro Ilaiyaraaja's music. He enjoys mobile photography, reading, watching movies and web series.

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