The metaverse is the future of the internet. Technologists have dreamed of an era when virtual lives play as important a role as one’s physical lives. Maybe it’s a video game. Or maybe, it’s just a made-up version of a VR Oculus. But what does the metaverse really mean and does it even exist? Here’s what the people need to know.
The metaverse translates to a digital economy, where users can create, buy and sell goods. In the more idealistic visions of the metaverse, it’s incompatible, allowing someone to take virtual items like clothes or cars from one platform to another. In the real world, a person can buy a shirt from the mall and then wear it to a movie theater. Right now, most platforms have virtual identities, avatars and inventories that are tied to just one platform, but a metaverse might allow someone to create a persona that a person can take everywhere as easily as one can copy a profile picture from one social network to another. Daniel LaCursia, a middle school teacher, explains how the metaverse will reach out for people to use it.
“If you want to understand what they’re planning, it’s pretty simple. Companies want the metaverse to be here as soon as possible. They want it to be cheap and easy to get on the metaverse, and they want as much as possible of it to be free to use. So, how does anyone make money off free? By targeted advertising,” LaCursia said.
Not one person or company owns the metaverse. The concept matters because it will create meaningful human connection and unprecedented access to opportunity, no matter where a person is located. Try moving a skin bought in Fortnite to another platform, and it will be easy to find quickly that those add-ons are stuck in the Battle Royale game. The vision of a single metaverse supporting services from lots of different companies is reminiscent of the realistic ideas of the early internet.
When society figured out how much money could be made online, however, all bets were off. It’ll likely be the same with the metaverse.
“The pandemic has accelerated these developments, and it’s shown us how unnecessary commute, offices and traffic jams often can be. The metaverse was very nicely depicted in the movie ‘Ready Player One;’ however, there are obviously also downsides to this with some people only staying at home and not going out into the real world anymore. We have these kinds of people now already, though,” said teacher Jon Snow.
Games like Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite have also been described as metaverses. Fortnite has hosted concerts, including performances by rapper Travis Scott and pop star Ariana Grande, that attracted attention. All three games allow players to create worlds, a cornerstone of the metaverse concept. Two years of a pandemic have prompted us to redefine “virtual.” Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin or Dogecoin, but its blockchain also supports these NFTs, which store extra information that makes them work differently from other coins. No one’s perfected what the future will look like yet, but a rethinking of what it means to gather virtually and at scale is underway. And lots of people want to define it. These NFTs can be anything digital, but a lot of the current excitement is around using the tech to sell digital art.
“I’ve heard a lot of NFTs and how they’ve become so popular. The metaverse is pretty interesting and important to understand. NFTs are very likely to become the currency for the metaverse. They are going to allow people to show proof of ownership of all kinds of things in the metaverse. Imagine something like a deed to a property that only exists in a virtual world. The NFTs would act as that. There are a lot of cool things about the metaverse, such as hanging out with friends that live in different continents creates a whole new opportunity to have relationships,” said junior Brock Terry.