Metaverse: definition, technology and possible fields of application
Towards the metaverse with some more awareness
Emancipated from the cyberpunk niche; implemented in Silicon Valley labs; ready to become accessible in the whole western world: we are talking about the metaverse. It is not just a suggestive concept anymore, it is now an investment. After Zuckerberg's statement of purpose, it has become a space that everyone wants to explore. Now, we take this opportunity to shed some light on the definition and fields of application of this revolutionary step in the field of virtual and augmented reality.
What is the metaverse? Definition, history, and origin of the term
The word "metaverse" appears for the very first time in 1992. In the science-fiction pages of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, characters have their avatar in a digitilized, three-dimensional world. The metaverse we are now referring to is quite similar to the idea represented by the novel: it is a convergence of physical and virtual reality and a shared online space. In other words, being in the metaverse means exploring that virtual space. Over there, every element you see has no material features, and thousands of people far away from each other are interconnected. You can understand how it works through an imaginative exercise. For example, suppose you sing together with Beyonce on the beaches of Rio or, more concretely, you edit an interior design project with your Singaporean architects' office, all without moving from your sofa. In the metaverse, all these activities and space-time transpositions are made possible.
Metaverse: technologies in constant evolution
Digital companies aim to shape these virtual worlds and make them accessible to a potentially infinite number of users. They do so by improving existing Internet technologies. At the moment, if you want this kind of experience, you should equip yourself with a good computer and a VR headset. The headset prefigures the chosen experience once you wear and activate it. Thanks to images and sound, the whole system stimulates a set of perceptions, and what you feel is unrelated to your physical surroundings. Microphones, gloves, and any other element having sensors may place the user in the virtual ecosystem. They enable her to perform actions and communicate with other avatars. From common devices such as PCs and smartphones to standalone viewers, technological developments aim to make virtual or augmented reality usable at low costs soon. Furthermore, new technologies will show increasingly sophisticated graphics and will be highly comfortable.
Not only Facebook: companies investing in the metaverse
Meta is Zuckerberg's latest step towards an idea of sociality that erases borders and distances. Meta is a place where people from different parts of the world communicate as if they were in the same physical place. However, other companies focus on VR and the metaverse too. All of them are looking for a new horizon in terms of human activities and, therefore, consumption and profits. Tencent is a Chinese social media and gaming company bidding to challenge the Californian giant. Many companies in the tech industry are doing the same. The most important are Roblox, Aldin Dynamics, and Epic Games (mother of Fortnite). Of course, Microsoft and Google cannot miss the chance: they are working on Microsoft Mesh and Google Labs. Besides Big Tech, mass-market brands are exploring the metaverse potential. Nikeland, Dyson Demo VR, and the Amazon platform aim at engaging their customers likewise.
The fields of application of the Metaverse
When we talk about gaming, we have in mind a precise way of enjoying VR experiences, even when they come in the metaverse. The old-style concept of videogame changed. Now, playing video games means participating in a broad spectrum of activities. Today, gamers compete and share their experience. Although not in VR, Fortnite is a landmark when looking at the future developments of this sector. Here, players can attend concerts or gather for events. The 'gamification' of the experience transcends the purely playful aspects to become entertainment.
We have realized that remote working is possible and improves the quality of life. However, we also know that procedures and tools need to be improved. In the metaverse, teammates are more than connected; they are in the same space. Over there, they can face each other, share insight, and work on their projects. For example, Workroom hosts up to 16 users contributing directly to the task and 34 on video-call. Benefits are an easy-going workflow and the opportunity of recreating the more traditional dynamics of an office – aspects compromised by many technical complications in remote work until now.
As far as training is concerned, VR is constantly making progress. For example, this is clear in the medical sector. The possibility to map surgical equipment allows trainees to simulate and learn procedures even without physically existing organs. Corporate training and technical updates can also benefit from this medium. Imagine, you need to teach your team how to use a new work machine. In the metaverse, you are in the same virtual space with operators. You interact and can show them every single action. Thus, you make learning easier.
Marketing and communication
The metaverse is a universe in the making, a blank page where every brand can leave its mark. It is no coincidence that globally established companies like Nike are studying its potential. Nikeland is a space created on the Roblox platform, graphically reproducing the brand headquarters. Here, users are all potential customers. They can connect, share, and create new experiences. They can dress their avatar with the brand's iconic pieces. Furthermore, they can compete in tournaments and competitions. All these immersive experiences, digital shops, and events in the virtual dimension can inspire new and more effective marketing campaigns.
Art, architecture, and design
Since the late 1950s, Art and digital devices have been in dialogue with each other. NFT Art is the latest frontier of this fruitful experimentation, and Beeple work is the most relevant example. In the field of design and architecture, VR and AR can be useful tools in terms of functionality and creativity. Just a banal example: think about a sofa in a room. In the metaverse, staff and clients can appreciate its impact from all perspectives; the designer can change material, color, and size without practical limits. In these virtual worlds, new 3D ideas are ready to be realized.
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