What is the Metaverse?

We often hear or read the word metaverse at present all over the Internet. It is undeniably a buzzword and a hot topic of conversation lately, especially that well-known tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg (Meta) and Satya Nadella (Microsoft) express interest and connection in it. But, what is the metaverse? And, is it really the Internet’s next big thing?

The Metaverse

With the digital and physical worlds coming together, a new platform layer took place, called the “metaverse.” It is identified as a network of 3D virtual worlds where people can connect and collaborate in a digital universe. The prefix “meta” means beyond, and “verse” refers to the universe.

The term metaverse is not new, and it started as a Science fiction thing. Coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Further, it referred to a 3D virtual world inhabited by avatars of real people.

Moreover, the metaverse is a vision that spans many companies and the tech industry as a whole. The promise of the metaverse is to allow a greater overlap of our digital and physical lives for immersive social interaction. Thus, its idea changes the way we work, do business, interact, and shop– all of which gives tech giants a massive opportunity.

Facebook’s transformation to Meta

Facebook made a huge announcement in late October, changing its parent company name to “Meta.” Although the parent company would remain to encompass the same collection of brands as before: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, it got a new intent, which is to refocus the company around the metaverse.

According to the company, Meta focuses on bringing the metaverse to life and helping people connect, find communities, and grow businesses. More so, the company’s name change reflects its growing ambitions beyond social media as it broadens its reach into areas like virtual reality (VR).

During the announcement, Zuckerberg also demonstrated what Meta’s metaverse might look like and how it could work. The video presentation portrayed a digital world where people engage in a 3D virtual space as if they are really there.

The company envisions a virtual world where digital avatars connect through work, travel, or entertainment using VR headsets.

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Microsoft’s take on the metaverse

Microsoft identified the term as a digital place inhabited by digital representations of people, places, and things. They called it a new vision of the Internet. Hence, it’s an Internet we can interact with as we do in the physical world.

Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discussed the idea of an “enterprise metaverse” consisting of digital twins that extends the concept of remote working through virtual presence and avatars.

Moreover, the company is adapting its signature software products to create a more corporate version of the metaverse. The software giant already uses holograms and is developing mixed and extended reality (XR) applications with its Microsoft Mesh platform, which combines the real world with augmented reality and virtual reality.

When Mesh for Teams begins to roll out in preview in the first half of 2022, users will have a variety of options to choose from to create and join a Teams meeting as a unique, personalized avatar. Other attendees might also be represented by avatars, show themselves on video, or use a static picture or bubble with initials.

Nevertheless, Facebook and Microsoft aren’t the only tech companies betting heavily on the metaverse. Many gaming companies, including Epic Games, NVIDIA, and Roblox, are also working in this realm. In addition, many other companies are out there building their plans and concept of the metaverse.

Perhaps we would also see more metaverse experiences in the future as people have boundless creativity and imaginations. However, just as the Internet created safety, privacy, and security challenges, the metaverse might face even more challenges. So hopefully, everyone can take advantage of advanced technologies and the metaverse while also being responsible users as well as considering the possible difficulties that come with it. After all, the metaverse is becoming our inevitable alternative to reality.

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