Metaverse, the place where physical and virtual reality go hand in hand
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In an increasingly digital world, the line between the real and the virtual is becoming increasingly blurred. And it will become even more blurred if the metaverse becomes a reality. The goal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other major technology leaders is to create a virtual network through which people can interact and carry out activities online, from shopping to going to a concert or playing a video game, so that the network becomes another stage in our lives.
Technological evolution, in a tireless search for new forms of comfort and entertainment, is a constant in today's world. This is how technology entrepreneurs, with their revolutionary ideas, have become the great visionaries of the 21st century. We are talking about personalities such as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) or Elon Musk (Tesla). One of their latest brilliant ideas? The metaverse. Below, we will delve deeper into the concept and its implications for the future of our lives.
One of the consequences of the aforementioned technological evolution is that the line between the real world and the virtual world is becoming increasingly blurred. Social networks invade our daily lives and we spend a great deal of time on them interacting with other people. We have even been able to immerse ourselves in video games thanks to virtual reality or to insert virtual elements into the real world through augmented reality.
In fact, we also have a multitude of digital platforms at our disposal to make all kinds of purchases, which is making physical money almost obsolete, or we also use them to find out information — and, naturally, this has an impact on paper newspapers. In other words, we are increasingly carrying out more and more of our day-to-day activities online and, as a result, we are more dependent on the virtual world than on the real world in many areas of our lives.
WHAT IS THE METAVERSE
Given our increasing incursions into the virtual world and our growing dependence on it, the metaverse proposes that we definitively eliminate the barriers between the real and the virtual. Therefore, a metaverse would be an environment in which humans could interact both socially and economically through avatars in cyberspace, which functions as a mirror image of the real world, but without its physical limitations.
According to Edward Castronova, researcher of video games and virtual worlds, there are three basic rules or three characteristics that are considered essential in the metaverse:
The user has to be able to communicate with other users as well as with the metaverse itself. In other words, it must have the ability to influence objects and users.
The metaverse removes physical barriers and the closest thing to corporeality would be found in elements such as our own avatar, which would represent our identity.
The metaverse will become more concrete and will converge in the union of different technologies related to virtual immersion, so that our life there will be one of continuity.
ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION OF THE METAVERSE
The concept of the metaverse was first introduced by the American writer Neal Stephenson in 1992. In his novel Snow Crash he described a kind of collective virtual space that is compatible and convergent with reality. To access this world, glasses were needed, available in private or public terminals in the real world, which allowed people to appear as an avatar in the virtual world and gave the ability to move in this environment.
Since this first approach to the metaverse, there have been different descriptions and applications of the concept. In 2018, the visionary director Steven Spielberg made it popular with his film Ready Player One, an adaptation of a book by Ernest Cline published in 2011, and the video game Fortnite began to exploit this interaction between people and technologies to some extent by organising events that brought together millions of users around the world at the same time. It was a resounding success and gained a further dimension when a number of renowned musical artists — Marshmello, Travis Scott or Ariana Grande — collaborated with the video game to perform live in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the time being, the metaverse is still an idea that, albeit increasingly palpable in the face of technological progress, is still far from being part of our daily lives. But if it were to become a reality, eventually replacing the internet, what applications would it have? What experiences could we have there? Some of these are reviewed below:
SEE INFOGRAPHIC: What activities could we carry out in the metaverse? [PDF] External link, opens in new window.
THE COMPANIES BEHIND THE METAVERSE
For the metaverse to come into existence, it needs the impetus of the world's leading technology and innovation companies, and it has it: progress is being made and investment will be expanded in the coming years. Uncertainties arise around the business model that would apply to such a new world as the metaverse, while cybersecurity is an issue of growing concern, as experts Alec Ross and Keren Elazari pointed out in SHAPES External link, opens in new window.. Below, we find out what the two companies currently leading this project are doing.
The Epic Games metaverse
On 13 April 2021, the company that created Fortnite and Roblox announced an investment of close to a billion dollars to build a "long-term vision of the metaverse". This injection will allow the company to further develop the social experiences involved in the metaverse. Even Sony Group Corporation has contributed to the cause with an additional 200 million dollars in investment to enter fully into the project and contribute both its technology and entertainment avenues.
The Facebook metaverse
The company led by Mark Zuckerberg took over Oculus, which specialises in virtual reality glasses. Since then, the company has developed various initiatives aimed at creating a metaverse. In fact, one of the most advanced projects is Facebook Horizon, an online video game that allows users to create their own avatars and interact with objects through these glasses. In 2021, Facebook announced the creation of 10,000 jobs in Europe over the next five years to develop the metaverse.