What is the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is a new term to a lot of us, it’s a word derived from science fiction but soon to become a reality. It’s a concept for a new way of interacting with each other socially, commercially and recreationally.
For a bit of backstory/context, the term Metaverse was coined by Neal Stevenson in his seminal novel ‘Snow Crash’ (1992). Stevenson first describes this alternative virtual world that people access, in this case, via VR headsets and live alternative lives. In this case the Metaverse is a single joined up place, i.e. there’s really only one extended virtual place people visit when they put the headset on and barring a few secret places that are hard to find, it’s completely inter-connected.
This idea of interconnectivity is really important to the Metaverse, for it to be ubiquitous and connect people accross borders, generations, classes etc there needs to just be one place and ideally not owned or controlled by one company… This is the main crux of the story in another of the main novels about the Metaverse – Ernest Clien’s ‘Ready Player One’ (2011) where the Metaverse is called ‘The Oasis’. Here, Clien’s protagonist is trying win an ‘Easter Egg Hunt’ (computer nerd parlance for find hidden secrets/prizes) and stop ‘Innovative Online Industries’ from taking over the Oasis for it’s own monetary gain.
In an ideal world the Metaverse is a space that any company, brand or person can be a part of, it should be accessed by any type of device and be completely open – it should be ‘platform and device agnostic’. The truth is there is no right explanation for what ‘Metaverse’ is, its up to us/you to define it. A little cynical, way of looking at it is swapping the word ‘Metaverse’ for ‘cyberspace’ but this is doing it an injustice, the Metaverse is the evolution of cyberspace, it’s a part of the ‘Web 3.0’ the next generation of technologies that are transforming how we interact with information and each other.
One of the big challenges with the Metaverse is how you access it, on a headset the existing places you can visit are fragmented and independant of each other. You can visit most of these places on a headset and some of them also on mobile or desktop. To me this last part is important, some may say the Metaverse is on VR headset only and involves true immersion but I like the democracy of any device being able to enter it and more people sharing and being part of the Metaverse.
The devices we can use to enter the Metaverse will continue to expand, making more everyday tech users able to access this new world, ultimately we may get to a point where information overlaid on the real world is so natural and perfectly augmented that our own ‘reality’ is all part of the Metaverse. But breath deep, we’re not there yet!