At a Glance: The Metaverse

Welcome to your virtual world

Most people understand the concept of VR, but few have heard of the ‘Metaverse’. If you think that sounds like an alternate reality from the Matrix, you wouldn’t be far wrong. The Metaverse is the collective term for Virtual, Mixed and Augmented Reality spaces that allow users to interact both with the environment and others within it. The name itself originally appeared in the 1990s in Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel Snow Crash. In the book, the Metaverse referred to a 3D world in which humans lived out different lives as avatars.

Second Life, the virtual world created by Linden Lab in 2003, is a perfect example of the Metaverse. Humans enter the space as avatars, with the ability to explore the digital environment and get up to all sorts of adventures with other users. When Facebook acquired Oculus VR in 2014, Zuckerberg hinted at the creation of a similar world. He revealed that the company planned to make Oculus a platform for meaningful experiences that would eventually become part of every-day life. Linden Labs and Facebook are just two businesses with an interest in virtual lives. Another alternate, digital world is literally called the ‘Genesis MetaVerse’.

Although the Metaverse has mainly been associated with social applications, and marketed as an escape from regular life, VR isn’t all about entertainment. The Metaverse now hosts a plethora of other interactive settings, including classrooms, conferences and virtual training operations. The increased adoption of VR and AR, enabled by low-cost headsets and consumer experiences, will encourage the growth of the Metaverse. In Snow Crash, the Metaverse replaced the Internet as the primary digital space. In future, if everyone has access to a headset and all resources move into virtual environments, then Stephenson may have penned an incredibly perceptive prophecy.