What is the Metaverse?
Companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google see it as the future of the Internet: the metaverse. Although it was born as a science fiction idea, the first signs of the metaverse have long since become reality. The metaverse doesn’t just stand for virtual reality, augmented reality, extended reality and cyberspace – it’s all in one.
What is the Metaverse?
A clear definition of the metaverse does not exist at present. Rather, there are discussions about what the metaverse could be, what it is not, what it should or must be, and what belongs to it. If one asks Matthew Ball, whose essays on the 2020 metaverse made high waves, the metaverse is an „expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that offers continuity of identities, objects, historicity, currencies, and entitlements, and can be synchronously experienced by an unlimited number of users in individual ways.“
Although big-tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), and Jen-Hsun Huang (Nvidia) are investing billions in it, the metaverse is currently only a thought construct. Nevertheless, characteristics can be defined that distinguish it from the Internet and technologies such as augmented reality, extended reality and virtual reality. Matthew Ball emphasizes that it is not just an evolution of the Internet, but an entirely new form of computing. Digital spaces do not exist in parallel with „reality“ in the metaverse, but as a fusion of cyberspace, virtual reality and the physical world. Mark Zuckerberg calls it an „embodied internet“ that users don’t just look at on screens, but are in.
Characteristics of the Metaverse
The following properties and characteristics of a metaverse can already be defined today:
- Real-time rendered, unconstrained, persistent 3D spaces in which users move freely as avatars.
- Collective 3D spaces in which users explore, design, play, work, socialize, and conduct business without being in the same physical space
- Companies do not „own“ the metaverse, as it is a collectively shared technical infrastructure
- Cross-device and cross-system virtual spaces can be created by users and made accessible to other users
- Extended and mixed reality technologies come into play and enable interactions between digital and real spaces, e.g., VR glasses, digital assistants, smart/voice user interfaces (VUI), neural chips, machine learning, artificial intelligences, and artificial neural networks
- Compatible virtual and real currencies form a unified economy for digital and physical spaces
- A totality of virtual and physical spaces requires compatible technical standards, protocols, interoperability, digital ownership, blockchain technologies, and unified legislations
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