It has become more mainstream, too – the Oculus Quest 2 VR gaming headset was a popular Christmas gift in 2020. Even though there are so many ideas about what the metaverse might be, most visions see social human interaction as the core. Roblox, for example, is a platform for thousands of individual games connected to the larger ecosystem. Hype about digital worlds and augmented reality pops up every few years, but usually dies away.

More than 11,000 employees lost their jobs in the first wave of Meta layoffs in November 2022. Ten-thousand more were slashed in March 2023, and an additional 5,000 were cut in May. At the time of the rebrand to Meta, the company was concerned the change would go unnoticed by most people, Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth said. When Facebook changed its name to Meta in late 2021, it went all-in on its concept of a metaverse.

The second group uses the metaverse to refer to virtual worlds more generally, where people can meet up for business or recreation. Facebook Inc announced in July it was creating a product team to work on the metaverse. The first centres around building a blockchain-based metaverse, using NFTs and cryptocurrencies.

Horizon first began as the company’s social virtual reality app, which it started trialling in 2020 with a closed alpha test version. Human bodies aren’t equipped on their own to access the metaverse, as it requires hardware, software and knowledge—all of which can be very expensive for individuals to get. In addition, some countries or regions would need to install expensive and complicated infrastructure to enhance data storage and data processing speeds. This could create a volatile system of technological haves and have-nots. Virtual storefronts for real products are already live for some stores, like the aforementioned Walmart.

The Implications for Human Rights in the Digital Age­­

Once online, internet users can communicate with each other, view and interact with websites, and buy and sell goods and services. We can expect many variations on the theme of this ambitious vision, explained Lawton in his article on top predictions about the metaverse. Some predict that a handful of platforms will ultimately dominate the space, as Apple iOS and Google Android did with mobile.

The term “metaverse” first appeared in author Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science-fiction novel Snowcrash, which describes a future where millions of people use virtual avatars to participate in a cyberspace realm. This concept was further popularized in another sci-fi novel, Earnest Cline’s 2011 Ready Player One, in which everyday people strap on VR headsets and log into a virtual world to live out their fantasies. Technically, a metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality. For simplicity’s sake, think of a metaverse as the next iteration of the internet, which started as individual bulletin boards and independent online destinations. Eventually these destinations became sites on a virtual shared space — similar to how a metaverse will develop. However, the past year and a half of metaverse pitches—from tech giants and startups alike—have relied heavily on lofty visions that break from reality.

  • That impressed many with what was possible – and thrust Mr Sweeney’s vision of the metaverse into the spotlight.
  • When McKinsey asked consumers what immersive digital activities might be of interest to them in the future, respondents listed social gaming in AR or VR ninth, behind things such as immersive shopping, learning, traveling, and socializing.
  • On the digital platform, which allows users to play and create a multitude of games, Hackl’s son and his friends would attend the party as their virtual avatars.
  • The metaverse will also support buying and selling virtual goods online.

Tatsu is the mother of two children and, despite having created a successful career in digital spaces, she insists that her children spend as much of their time as possible in the real world. Until an agreement on a definition of “metaverse” is reached, efforts to manage the technology development and related public policy could be muddled at best. On Roblox, users can make money by charging other users for access to games they create. The term covers a wide variety of virtual realities, from workplace tools to games and community platforms. In 2021, Facebook changed the company name to “Meta.” It plans to leverage its large social community and Oculus VR technology to create a new metaverse. Numerous sci-fi books, television series, and movies are set in metaverses—digital worlds indistinguishable from the real world.

Not to mention that all the downsides of the current internet are magnified in VR, like violent pornography, the black market, sex trafficking and criminal activities. In the future, accessing the metaverse will be done with a simple pair of eyeglasses, Madsen predicts. From teaching doctors how to perform surgery to the requisite safety trainings for new hires, the metaverse offers an easier and safer way to educate people. Here, you can practice first aid skills, learn complicated machinery and protocols, and take classes at a convenient time and place—and without endangering any real human bodies.

Today, there are several ways to invest in metaverse companies and projects. De Witte conceives of the metaverse not as a single destination that everyone defaults to, but as a complex network consisting of browsers, indexes and destinations. Matthew Ball conceives of the metaverse not as something wholly separate from the internet, but an evolution of it — an embodied internet you are within, rather than have access to. That said, none of Web3’s core tenets run contrary to those of the metaverse. In the years following Second Life’s peak, a number of technological advancements, mostly led by the gaming industry, have revitalized the conversation around the metaverse. Paul Tomlinson, 41, has worked remotely for years, living in rural Maine with his family and managing tax and financial-processing software for a firm that works with municipal and state governments.

The word “metaverse” is often traced to Neal Stephenson’s 1992 dystopic, cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, and many see a more recent inspiration in the dazzling warren of experiences at the heart of Earnest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One. Several blockchain-based platforms require Ethereum-based crypto tokens, such as MANA for Decentraland and SAND for The Sandbox, to purchase and trade virtual assets. The concept has surged in popularity during the pandemic as lockdown measures and work-from-home policies pushed more people online for both business and pleasure. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated interest in the metaverse as more people have worked from home and gone to school remotely. Of course, there are concerns that the metaverse will make it even easier for people to spend time apart—even in a post-COVID world. Meta- here efficiently conveys the idea of transcending reality (as in metaphysics) and the more current use of meta as an adjective meaning “self-referential” or knowingly distinct from the conventional and concrete world.

What is the metaverse? An explanation and in-depth guide

This kind of wishful-thinking-as-tech-demo leaves us in a place where it’s hard to pinpoint which aspects of the various visions of the metaverse (if any) will actually be real one day. If VR and AR headsets become comfortable and cheap enough for people to wear on a daily basis—a substantial “if”—then perhaps a virtual poker game with your friends as robots and holograms and floating in space could be somewhat close to reality. If not, well you could always play Tabletop Simulator on a Discord video call.

In the more idealistic visions of the metaverse, it’s interoperable, allowing you to take virtual items like clothes or cars from one platform to another, though this is harder than it sounds. While some advocates claim new technologies like NFTs can enable portable digital assets, this simply isn’t true, and bringing items from one video game or virtual world to another is an enormously complex task that no one company can solve. The online gaming industry has decades-long experience in creating immersive virtual worlds.

Proponents of the metaverse view the concept as the next stage in developing the Internet. Meta, for example, has already invested heavily in AR and VR, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets, while AR glasses and wristband technologies are in the works. Zuckerberg, who believes AR glasses will one day be as ubiquitous as smartphones, told The Verge that over the next several years, Facebook “will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.” Science-fiction author Neal Stephenson coined the term metaverse in his novel Snow Crash (1992), in which characters enjoy themselves as digital avatars in the “Metaverse” as an escape from the grim reality of the 21st century. The concept of an immersive digital world became popular in late 20th- and early 21st-century science fiction, such as Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s film The Matrix (1999) and its sequels and Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One (2011; film 2018).

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