Since Mark Zuckerberg announced his social network’s strategic commitment to the Metaverse, including changing the name of Facebook to Meta, the concept has gone viral and companies large and small plan how to jump on a bandwagon that promises to become the next big thing. communication platform at the scale of the world Wide Web. Some even say that the Metaverse will end the Internet as we know it. Big words, but don’t worry, we are still very, very far from that. If we ever get…
Zuckerberg’s announcement was met with curiosity and skepticism, prompting the obvious question: «What the heck is this metaverse thing exactly?« It sounds like technology similar to virtual reality and it certainly incorporates virtual reality, but it is not the same. In case you are lost in the multi media universe and taking into account that we are going to have a metaverse in the soup in the coming months, we will try to clarify some concepts that help us understand it, advancing on the previous article that we already offered you.
What is the Metaverse?
The idea is not new, although it is relatively recent. The term was first used in the novel SnowCrash published in 1992 by Neal Stephenson. A science fiction title that became the novel of cyberpunk best-seller of the nineties and that in addition to a lot of referential elements to the genre, did not avoid the philosophy, humor, action and mathematical and scientific concepts around new technologies, including the mention of the term avatar as an image of a person on the Internet.
The basic argument, for what concerns us, is about a curious computer virus, distributed as a pseudonarcotic that takes away from its victims the ability to think creatively or independently (does this sound familiar to you?) and that is capable of acting both in the real world as well as in the virtual world that Stephenson first called the Metaverse. Imagine a SnowCrash in the hands of Zuckerberg…
In the novel, the metaverse it is a shared virtual space that uses virtual reality, augmented reality, avatars and the Internet. The idea proposed by Facebook and other big technology companies is very similar, although with certain differences and approach. For example, Microsoft is primarily thinking of companies that could access pre-built immersive workspaces (or create their own) from any device in a persistent digital world connected to the physical world.
Although we have seen all this in dozens of science fiction novels and movies, the closest thing to the metaverse that we could use was Second Life. A social network launched in June 2003 as a virtual world with open programming, where users had intellectual property rights to a part of the world and benefits in both virtual and real currency.
After a great initial pull, the use of Second Life was reduced to a minimum, but surely its concept did not go unnoticed for the development of new virtual worlds that claim to be ‘revolutionary’.
Metaverse vs. Virtual Reality
There are similarities that cannot be ignored, but also differences. And the first and most notable is that while Virtual Reality is well defined and can be understood by any user, the metaverse is not, in fact, not defined at all. We see some comparative differences that allow us to advance in these worlds.
vague descriptions. According to Meta, the metaverse is “an embodied internet where instead of just seeing the content, you are in it«. A recent announcement from Microsoft described it as “a persistent digital world that is inhabited by digital twins of people, places and things». Vague, compared to our understanding of virtual reality. It’s also possible that even the tech companies themselves don’t have a complete definition to offer. And the metaverse may just be a buzzword to describe the technological novelties that are hitting the internet.
The metaverse is not from Facebook. As much as Mark Zuckerberg wants to be the “king” of the metaverse, has changed the name of the social network to a similar denomination and is the one that is making the most investment taking advantage of previous developments such as Facebook Horizon, carrying out such an ambitious project will be task of many and will involve the entire industry. We have seen it in virtual reality. As the owner of Oculus, Facebook plays a big role in its development, but at the same time it’s just one player in a massive industry. And not the biggest.
The metaverse will be much bigger than VR. Another difference lies in its size. If the existing virtual worlds are limited in size, it seems that the metaverse will provide access to the entire Internet. Or that’s the idea. Users are expected to be identified by personal avatars that will interact with each other in virtual locations and additionally be able to purchase or build virtual items and environments such as NFTs.
Access to the metaverse will not only be through VR. Access to the metaverse will not be limited to a VR helmet at all and, for example, augmented reality devices can be used that, in addition to accessing these virtual worlds, will allow them to be projected into the real world. In general and as the project is defined, it will be accessible with any device that we use today to access the Internet, be it a smartphone or a PC.
Metaverse, greater success than Virtual Reality? Although it was announced as a great revolution, VR has so far been a resounding fiasco. The forecasts of income provided by the consultants five years ago sound like nonsense today. Only Oculus, HTC and Sony have sold successful devices and in very limited numbers. The closure of the DayDream VR platform by Google was already a warning and that a company like Apple, which sells everything it sells for millions, has not entered this sector gives an idea of the situation. Will the metaverse end the same?
Will the metaverse replace the Internet? They said from Meta that “the metaverse will be a big part of the next chapter in the evolution of the internet after the mobile internet”. From there to thinking that it can replace the current Internet goes a long way. Beyond that, is that the Internet can go the other way, although everything is connected. Web3, a set of technologies that promises to offer the best version of the World Wide Web, making important changes in the way we connect and communicate by creating a decentralized Internet that is accessible to all, while respecting your privacy and anonymity. Little to do with the metaverse.
and not so fast. Anyone who heard Zuckerberg at the Meta presentation would think that this Metaverse thing would be available from today to tomorrow. Certainly shared virtual worlds like Second Life already exist, but bringing it to a scale as described from Facebook is decades away, according to Intel. There is no clear or established threshold of how much computing power the metaverse will need, but according to Intel’s senior vice president and head of its new graphics division, Raja Koduri, we will need to multiply by a thousand the computing efficiency of the best current tools.
Realistic representations of people and environments are only part of the puzzle, and just creating the standards that the metaverse would need to function is something that right now is out of current state of the art. And in addition to hardware, we will need new software architectures, algorithms, and advances in Artificial Intelligence (some of which are scary) to make it happen. Easy with the metaverse. A Ready Player One It is, at the moment, science fiction.