Why The Metaverse Matters
Dec 10, 2021
Wherever you turn these days in the tech industry, you just can’t seem to get away from the term “Metaverse”. It’s so ubiquitous that Facebook has even changed its name to “Meta” (yeah, go figure). Gamers have already begun building the metaverse, Social Media is not far behind, and Crypto is monetising it... but what exactly is it?
What is the metaverse?
Neal Stephenson coined the phrase in 1992 in his groundbreaking sci-fi novel, "Snow Crash," and was then only mentioned again in 2011 by Ernest Cline in his novel "Ready Player One.” Both novels used the term in referring to a digital world that exists beyond that of our own.
Today’s technological advancements mean that the “metaverse” (as we understand it today) is created by fusing virtual reality, augmented reality, social media, and even blockchain technology. It is a place that people escape to, away from current “reality”, and are unhindered by the limitations of the tech creators. IE. In a standard computer game, users are limited to go where the game’s story intends them to go. Free play games such as Minecraft, Roblox, and more recently Fortnite, allow the user to explore a world created by the game developers. This means gamers can explore the entire universe created by the developers, completely off the beaten track, and not bound to where the developers may have tried to keep users within - ie. there are no bounds in such games!
In the blockchain industry, we are given an opportunity to explore worlds created and inspired by the users themselves, rather than merely being subject to the imagination of the creators. In this sense, a true metaverse is one that is limitless in its possibilities.
Coming back to an easily understood definition of the metaverse though, it is a digital world where reality can be “escaped”, and an entirely new, almost limitless reality can be experienced through digital technology: Such as VR headsets, computer and phone screens, etc. Eventually, technology will allow us to experience touch and possibly even smell, but for now, sight and sound are the primary senses of the early metaverse.
The technology and idea is still very much in its infancy, but it is well on its way to adoption, and blockchain tech is the perfect infrastructure to secure and even monetise it.
The Early Builders
At present, there are five primary companies driving the advancement of the metaverse for virtual reality. As already mentioned, Facebook recently changed their name to “Meta”, and have announced an investment of $10 Billion in 2022 alone into augmented and virtual reality to advance their Oculus headset system and the sophisticated software that goes with it.
Google, Microsoft, Apple and Valve are all buying into the metaverse for applications that can be used for work and communication alike. Google of course had their “Glass” product that was augmented reality eyewear. It didn’t take at retail level due to major privacy concerns, but Google has shifted its tech to be used in industrial enterprise environments.
Enterprise is certainly the early landscape for Augmented Reality software, with Microsoft launching Hololens as an industrial manufacturing tool. The tech tracks eye movement, understanding the precise location of where the user is looking.
These are the early foundational builders, understandably big companies with large R&D budgets. But upon their breakthroughs, it is likely we will see a myriad of new branches of the tech being applied. Especially crossing over from Augmented Reality into Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality is a combination of real world experience with a digital layer on top, while Virtual Reality is entirely digital through a screen (headset, phone or computer screen).
Trading in the metaverse
In a similar way, the metaverse has already been well constructed. With, as mentioned, the likes of Mincraft, Fortnite and others building out foundational base layers of digital worlds. In these worlds, and with their codebases, we’ve begun to see blockchain projects build out decentralized metaverses.
Decentraland led the way in decentralized metaverses with their unique virtual world built on Ethereum. Offering real estate for sale within their metaverse via the Decentraland token, the project has raised considerable capital to attract more engineers and build by far and away the leader in the ecosystem.
The Sandbox is also built on Ethereum, and with a few unique selling points, had attracted almost as big an audience with its extremely creative worlds and characters. Both Decentraland and The Sandbox are “voxel based”, meaning they’re built with three dimensional cubes much like you may have seen in Minecraft or Roblox.
Enjin have built an entire ecosystem where developers can build their own virtual worlds, secured by the Polkadot blockchain. Within their ecosystem, projects can create NFT and digital real estate market places in addition to exploring different parts of the Enjin metaverse.
Star Atlas meanwhile seem to be leading the way in terms of Play to Earn, having built an extraordinary metaverse landscape that is compatible with external digital assets which can be traded within the game. Additionally, users can play the role playing game and earn Star Atlas tokens to trade with inside the ecosystem.
So as you can see, the wider Metaverse is already well on its way to becoming mainstream. Eventually, we will very likely see all of these ecosystems interconnect with one another, possibly even decentralized and centralized, where users can jump between worlds and bring their digital assets with them.
This is truly the future of digital living, with society interacting with these worlds via their phones, computers, consoles, virtual reality headsets and even augmented reality eyewear. Stay close to MEX Digital’s blog for updated news about who is making the most noise as and when new announcements are made!