The term “metaverse” is growing in popularity. However, many people still cannot imagine clearly what it means. And indeed, technology is not developed enough yet to enable us to experience a real metaverse.
A metaverse is defined as a virtual world where people can perform all the activities that they perform in the real world. Digital avatars are supposed to be used to operate in a metaverse.
The metaverse idea appeared long ago. The term was used in 1982 by Neil Stevenson in his Sci-Fi novel Snow Crash. But the technology was described much earlier by various people.
In 1838, scientist Sir Charles Wheatstone described the concept of binocular vision when one combines two images to create a 3D image. This concept was used to develop a stereoscope. It is a technology where the illusion of depth is used to create an image. Further, this technology was used to create VR glasses.
In 1935, American science fiction writer Stanley Weinbaum describes in his book Pygmalion’s Spectacles a pair of goggles that provided real-world experiences: touch, sound, taste, sight, and smell.
The first VR machine was created in 1956 by Morton Heilig. This machine simulated the motor riding experience by combining audio, scents, and a vibrating chair with 2D video and thus, provided quite an immersive experience.
Since then, metaverse technologies have developed but still, we cannot experience a real metaverse. Moreover, it is still difficult to forecast when we can do it.
Many companies have already declared that they are working on creating digital worlds called metaverse platforms. You might have heard that many world-known companies are investing heavily in creating their own metaverses. The most popular ones are Meta, a Facebook metaverse, and multiple gaming metaverses such as Decentraland, Sandbox, Horizon Worlds, etc.
But the reality is that all these meta platforms are still far from providing us with a real metaverse experience. The reason? The lack of decentralization is one of them.
All those metaverses are controlled by single entities that dictate their development directions and set their own rules. Users are still not incentivized appropriately for contributing to the development of digital space. Instead, companies take the major part of the profit generated from activities performed in their metaverses.
Another reason why a real metaverse is still not here is the lack of proper technology.
Metaverse technologies exist, otherwise, we would not be talking about the development of a digital world. So, what those key technologies are? Let’s have a closer look at them and check how they can develop to finally enable us to experience a really persistent virtual world.
Artificial intelligence is the foundation for many technological developments, and a metaverse is not an exception. AI and machine learning can be used to improve a digital world and digital business in many ways:
The Internet of Things IoT is considered one of the important pillars of a virtual world. This is one of the most important metaverse technologies because it is expected that the IoT will connect physical and digital worlds and thus, make a real metaverse possible.
The Internet of Things will provide unique opportunities for technology companies and businesses. As an example, it already enables the creation of a digital twin – an exact copy of a real object but in a virtual world. Then, sensors collect all the data from this digital twin and analyze them to detect errors and improve results.
We still cannot imagine all the opportunities that the IoT in a virtual world can open to tech giants but the benefits of this technology are evident.
Augmented reality is the enhancement of the real world by making it brighter and more vibrant. Among other multiple technologies used to adorn physical spaces or to boost the metaverse experience, AR enables to connect physical worlds with digital ones. Along with virtual reality VR, augmented reality AR lays the foundation for metaverse development.
At the moment, AR relies on external devices to provide the required experience, or in the best case, users can benefit from an AR cloud. But in the future, it is expected to move from an AR cloud and external devices to seamless experiences that will blur the borders between physical worlds and virtual space.
Immersive experiences are the key to the mass adoption of a virtual environment. Augmented reality AR, VR, and mixed reality already exist. But they have some drawbacks that impede their wide application.
Virtual reality technology cannot provide really immersive experiences. VR sets are still massive and not very comfortable, and their prices are far from affordable.
Augmented reality glasses suffer from the same drawbacks as VR sets.
When these metaverse technologies advance more, they will not only be able to provide the virtual reality experience we expect but will be able to connect the physical world with virtual worlds and eliminate borders between them.
Some specialists believe that brain-computer interfaces are going to be the next stage of VR and AR sets development, along with a massive change in the way we use devices in general.
Now, we rely on screens, glasses, heads up displays, etc. – on external devices to experience virtual worlds. This is one of the major challenges we need to overcome when we speak about real virtual experiences.
This challenge can be overcome by the development of brain-computer interfaces. This is not a new technology, there are already some companies working on it. Brain-computer interfaces will enable us to control virtual spaces with our brain, without any external devices or appliances.
3D modeling and reconstruction will enable the virtual reality world to look like our physical world. This metaverse technology captures the shapes and appearances of real objects to recreate their digital twins.
This technology is going to boost the development of digital business on a decentralized web. Virtual real estate, virtual commercial spaces, and virtual items become available to users just like it happens in real life.
Spatial computing is needed to interact with the real world. So, spatial computing is about the spatial dimension.
Edge computing provides a quick response time to users’ actions. It, in turn, helps to mimic the user’s actions in the real world and feel immersed in virtual spaces.
When it comes to the majority of metaverse projects, they use blockchain technology for virtual gaming. And the main application of blockchain technology is to enable digital currencies (cryptocurrencies).
In the future, blockchain is expected to enable decentralized digital experiences. A blockchain metaverse is going to be transparent, and the control over it will be on its users.
Non-fungible tokens are a new phenomenon but they have already found their place in metaverse projects. NFTs enable users to own, sell, buy or exchange unique digital assets such as art pieces, digital real estate, in-game objects, etc. NFTs are the foundation of the digital economy. They enable seamless and safe value transfer from one user to another transparently.
A digital identity is another important sector where NFTs can be applied. Digital avatars are going to represent real persons in a virtual world, and thus, it will be important to identify who is who.
We already use VR technology to play games in multiple metaverse projects. But in the future, virtual reality VR will allow video game developers to seamlessly connect physical locations with virtual spaces, something that enables users to have really immersive experiences.
When we talk about Web3, we mean a decentralized internet. There won’t be several metaverse companies each one controlling its own digital ecosystem. Instead, the entire metaverse will rely on its users who will set rules, create content, and earn based on their contribution.
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations
Decentralized autonomous organizations are online communities governed by smart contracts. DAOs consist of users who contribute in one or another way to the network. Such users can vote to impact the development direction of a project.
DAOs are supposed to enable decentralized governance of a project. The DAO’s ethics and rules are incorporated on the blockchain and are transparent and accessible to anyone, unlike policies of centralized entities that manage the real world.
Members of a DAO can submit their proposals on changes. If these proposals are accepted by the majority of DAO members, they can be implemented. Projects whose governance relies on a DAO are valued in the virtual world because such projects enable decentralization.
Reliance on Human-Computer Interface (HCI) technology
Another major problem that inhibits the mass adoption of the metaverse is its complexity. Metaverse technology is still in its infancy stage and thus, many things need to be improved. In this regard, the metaverse relies on human-computer interface (HCI) technology.
The human-computer interface can be described as a point of communication between a computer and a human. In other words, it is a device that enables human-computer interaction. Brain-computer interfaces are one of the ways that enable HCI. But along with them, other models exist, such as:
This aspect of metaverse technology is still not researched properly. But it sure will have a great impact on the digital world’s development.
Now, we have a lot of metaverses. They all have different digital currencies, and their rules differ, as well as their business models. That’s why we still cannot speak about a single metaverse. Instead, we would rather define this range of metaverses as a multiverse.
A metaverse will unite all these multiple worlds in a single digital ecosystem. Even though they still may have different business models but their current and potential customers will be able to move between worlds easily, with the same digital avatars.
Assets will be available across various metaverses, too. Users will be able to access and use their virtual assets – be it virtual real estate, currency, in-game items, skins, or whatever, in any ecosystem within a metaverse.
A metaverse will rely on multiple technologies, and for now, it is still unclear how the metaverse development is going to evolve. However, we can assure you that a metaverse will rely on multiple technologies that, in combination, will provide unique immersive experiences. And at later development stages, a metaverse may merge with the physical world.
It is impossible to provide a reply to this question. To make a metaverse happen and to develop it further, beyond Zoom calls and games, to make it penetrate our lives, something more is needed than just machine learning, HCI, or other advanced technologies. People shall become conscious enough to benefit from a single decentralized user-managed space. It is a bigger challenge than those technology-related obstacles. But once it happens, the metaverse’s mass adoption will become inevitable.