When Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, recently announced rebranding Facebook and changing the name to Meta (Greek term for ‘beyond’), he made it clear he believes the future of the internet lies in something referred to as the metaverse, “a virtual world where people will live, work, and play.”
What Is the Metaverse?
It’s a futuristic notion whose origin actually comes from the past — almost 30 years ago.
In 1992, author Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his science-fiction novel “Snow Crash.” The book conjures up a 3D virtual reality-based successor to the internet, where people use holographic avatars of themselves to delve into the online world.
Simply put, the metaverse is an online virtual world that incorporates augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D holographic avatars, video, and other communication. As the metaverse broadens, it will offer a hyper-real alternative world where people can coexist.
What Does Mark Zuckerberg Envision?
Zuckerberg sees the metaverse as the next huge leap for the internet, comparable to the progression to smartphones and the mobile web, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR).
He further states, “Instead of just viewing content, you are in it. And you feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having
different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage, like dancing, for example, or different types of fitness.” Metaverse visitors will be able to work, play, learn, shop, create, and make online time more meaningful.
How Will the Metaverse Evolve?
Aspects of the metaverse already exist today. Uber-fast broadband speeds, virtual reality headsets, and always-on online worlds are already up and running. Software giant Microsoft utilizes holograms and is developing mixed and extended reality (XR) — the combination of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality applications — with its Microsoft Mesh platform to combine the real world with augmented reality and virtual reality.
Additionally, the U.S. Army and Microsoft are working together on an AR Hololens 2 headset for soldiers to train, rehearse and fight in. And, Xbox Live already connects millions of video game players around the world!
Other companies, including Roblox’s Loom.ai and avatar-based virtual platform, Teooh, use sophisticated graphics to build out virtual worlds with virtual or augmented reality tech. Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify just launched its browser-based game Shopify Party where employees appear as their chosen avatars to liven up one-on-ones and other team events.
Many tech experts believe that XR will play an important role. Key to the metaverse is the idea that virtual, 3D environments accessible and interactive in real-time will become the transformative medium for social and business engagement.
People would need to wear VR headsets or AR glasses that superimpose the digital domain onto the physical world. There could also be lifelike holograms channeled into the real world from cutting-edge projection systems.
It’s also predicted the metaverse will strongly connect with the real-world economy and eventually become an extension of it. Meaning it must provide companies and individuals the ability to participate in economic activity the same way they do today. Simply put, this means the ability to build, trade, and invest in products, goods, and services.
What is Facebook’s Vision?
Similar to the internet, the metaverse will not be built, owned, or operated by just one company. Facebook projects it will reduce our reliance on physical devices to access virtual spaces and is likely to be in the makings for 10 to 15 years.
Zuckerberg is betting big on what he views as the next generation of the internet. He thinks it will be a big part of the digital economy. He foresees Facebook transitioning from a social media company to a metaverse company over the next five years. This year alone, the company is investing $10 billion on Facebook Reality Labs, its metaverse division responsible for creating AR and VR hardware, software, and content. It will also be hiring 10,000 people in Europe over the next five years to help build the metaverse.
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