The Metaverse Lowdown

It’s been almost a year since Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta Platforms. In that time, not unexpectedly, the ‘Metaverse’ has garnered much attention. I’m frequently asked by clients what I think about the Metaverse and whethe they should get on board. So here it is, from the Sammatron: the low-down on the Metaverse, where it’s at and where it might go next. I’ve started with a simple explanation of the Metaverse:

Metaverse 101

Firstly, the Metaverse isn’t about to ‘arrive’ like the iPhone did. It’s already here. Second Life, Minecraft, Roblox and all virtual reality applications can be considered Metaverses. In order to understand what the Metaverse is, we need to think of as a continuation of the internet. It’s an iteration, but one that forks into a different direction.

The concept of a Metaverse is built on the idea that one day we will live ‘inside’ computer systems. We can already see this trajectory looking back at the evolution of the web. At first, we had text only green screens with a limited number of connected computer systems to share information. Eventually we invented message boards, then hyperlinks and web browsers with graphical user interfaces. From here the web became an image repository with gifs, still images and high resolution video with real time livestreams. But all of it has been screen-oriented, with a 2D audio visual focus. Just like the smart phone was a fork in direction based on a new device, future Metaverse experiences are expected to become dependent on immersion devices such as virtual reality goggles.

The Metaverse aims to provides a whole body experience. First with headsets and glasses, and eventually haptic suits and gloves, so it feels real to your entire body. Virtual reality goes some of the way toward this experience, providing a 3D style reality that creates a sense of immersion. But the plan for those pushing the Metaverse is that all five humans senses will be involved with the ability to touch, feel, hold, walk and even smell and taste inside artificial environments. These more sophisticated environments will allow for interactions not currently possible on the internet. It would allow the web to cross the chasm and make many things feel real, rather be limited to on-screen replicas. The promise is that basic websites will have a Metaverse version of them, like many www sites already have app versions of them. One example is an ecommerce site becoming a virtual store you can interact inside virtually. It’s also touted that we’ll work and socialise inside the Metaverse. Just like apps and the web, there won’t be only one, but a multitude of Metaverse locations we can enter. In the long run, we won’t even need goggles. Instead we can connect to virtual worlds via brain machine interfaces (think Matrix). If this happens (I think it will – in decades’ time) the difference between the real and virtual world will be very difficult to distinguish.

Next week: The Metaverse hype versus reality.

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