The Metaverse for dummies!

05/12/2021

Although the term Metaverse is not new, it’s almost 20 years old. We decided to talk about it since the web mentions it a lot lately. It’s a term from English literature which appeared in the 90s with the novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson. Is this a new social network? A new Facebook acquisition? A platform to build? One that already exists? Fictional? Real? Virtual?… Considering the number of discussions that are currently going on about the Metaverse, Flamingo Filter found it interesting to write an article about it.

An attempt to define the Metaverse

It is quite difficult to define the Metaverse, as (let’s admit it) it is not yet fully formed, despite what some people may say. However, by combining a bit of history and the different definitions already given, it is possible to find a description that can put everyone in agreement.

The definitions agree on the fact that the Metaverse is first of all a fusion between two worlds: virtual and real. It is a virtual space that comes in addition to the real world (similar to augmented reality), but that also exists by itself (similar to virtual reality). This space is shared by all users who also continue to build it and make it grow. Thus, in the Metaverse, it is possible to own virtual goods, objects or “real estate”, which can be acquired and sold either through a virtual currency specific to this Metaverse, or througu real money.

A characteristic of the Metaverse that is not unanimously accepted, although it accompanied the original idea in Snow Crash, is the immersion (no more need for a screen or keyboard) to navigate or “live” in it. Indeed, with the use of a helmet (or glasses) and gesture control, users should move and explore it as easily as they would in the real world.

 

The pursued dream!

If we want to talk about the current state of the Metaverse, it is interesting to first understand the vision of the Metaverse that motivates all the actors involved in its implementation. As soon as we talk about the Metaverse, the first images that come to mind are usually those of the movie “Ready Player One“.

For those who haven’t seen it (you missed something), the plot revolves around a virtual world in which user-players embody avatars that they control via full-body suits and virtual reality headsets. In this virtual world, players can customize the avatars as they wish and evolve in a simply gigantic world. Although this type of Metaverse is one specifically geared towards video games, it is one of the closest descriptions of the concept.

For those who are more into Japanese culture, the anime/manga “Sword Art Online” and “Accel World” will be examples that will speak to them better. Of course, as the Metaverse is not yet (fully) formed, the definitions and visions are very close to the realm of fiction.

Feet on solid ground

Despite visions that are more fantastic than realistic, the Metaverse is already closer to us than we can imagine! According to the description that gathers all the accepted characteristics of the Metaverses, we can find platforms that already meet them to some extent. It is even very possible that you have already visited a Metaverse prototype without knowing it.

One area that seems to be most advanced in the pursuit of the Metaverse (and this without even trying to) is video games. We can take examples from Roblox, Fortnite and many others. The development of these platforms is supported by a large community of player-creators who continue to make them grow so much that these virtual spaces are unrecognizable (in the good sense of the word) from their first releases.

It is also possible to talk about online events, whether professional (meetings) or entertaining (parties or ceremonies), which participants join through an avatar. Whether one joins via a computer, mobile, or an extended reality headset (AR and VR and MR), these events already touch the realm of the Metaverse. There is also another aspect of the Metaverse experience that is found through non-fungible tokens or NFT.

And where does Facebook fit into all this?

So we can see that all the accepted characteristics of the Metaverse are fulfilled, but unfortunately by separate experiences. Thus, we have the participatory effect through video games, the immersion through virtual reality headsets and the possibility to own virtual goods introduced by the NFT. The real challenge is to combine all this to really establish the Metaverse.

It is to meet this challenge that Facebook also wants to start pursuing this dream, and it must be admitted that it already has all the keys in hand to make a good start. We can indeed talk about its community of creator-users ready to feed the Metaverse (Spark AR creators, Horizon users), a virtual reality headset that takes its first steps in mixed reality (Quest 2), and a virtual world already operational (Horizon).

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