We have been hearing a lot lately about the metaverse, especially after Facebook's recent announcement that they are investing heavily in it and even changing their company's iconic name to "Meta."
It has also been reported that both Microsoft and NVIDIA
are working on their own versions of the metaverse.
So, what is the metaverse exactly, and why should we pay attention to it?
The metaverse is an online world where people interact via digital avatars. It's a combination of virtual reality, augmented reality video where users dwell in a digital universe.
The term was coined by author Neal Stephenson
in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash
. In his book, he envisioned avatars who met in realistic 3D buildings and other virtual reality places.
The metaverse is expected to blend the offline and online world, which will be much harder to delineate. Many experts believe that "extended reality" (XR) – the combination of augmented, virtual and mixed reality will be happening in a matter of time.
In his AI thought book
, Murat Durmus said the metaverse is the "ideal playground in which the AI can let off steam. The more humans lose themselves in it, the more the AI will take control. That much is certain."
How does the future look like?
Futurists envision metaverse' users working, playing, and staying connected with friends through various avenues, ranging from concerts and conferences to virtual trips worldwide.
Several brands have already started experimenting with them, like fashion icon Gucci which recently unveiled Gucci Garden
. In this immersive multimedia experience, users of the online gaming platform Roblox
can explore and purchase goods.
Should we worry about the metaverse?
While many technologists and industry leaders are already embracing the metaverse, should we take a step back and reflect on its implications?
Dr. David Reid, Professor of AI and Spatial Computing at Liverpool Hope University, said that while the metaverse will change our lives the same way the internet did, it also poses "terrifying dangers."
"Because if you think about the way it works, the metaverse's ultimate aim is not just virtual reality, or augmented reality, it's mixed reality (MR). It's blending the digital and the real world together. Ultimately this blend may be so good and so pervasive, that the virtual and the real become indistinguishable," Reid said in comments he gave to the media.
"And the market for that is gigantic. Whoever controls it will basically have control over your entire reality."
According to Reid, we need to police the metaverse.
"We're clearly in the very early stages, but we need to start talking about these problems now before we go down a route we can't reverse away from. It's crucial for the future."
If you are a business, it might be a good idea to start looking seriously into the metaverse and decide on what kind of innovations you need to streamline for this new digital world.
Maybe you can follow the example of Nike and make sure all your ducks are in a row before you find yourself late to the game.
It was recently reported that Nike had filed seven trademark applications in preparation for the metaverse. The company also indicated it was planning to sell virtual branded sneakers and apparel.
Also, as a business, make sure you familiarize yourself with the metaverse's strong connection with the real-world economy. This may rely on non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as the foundation for value creation.
According to the World Economic Forum
, "If NFTs become a commonly adopted tool for trading such goods, they could help accelerate the use of XR ecosystems as places people go to combine elements of the digital economy with their offline lives."