What is the Metaverse? And Why it Could Be The Next Big Thing?
"Metaverse" is a term used to describe the virtual world that exists on the Internet. Which is accessible through digital identities in games, social media, blockchain. And enabled via virtual reality headsets (VR), augmented reality (AR), mobile phones, and other gadgets.
The Metaverse is the next phase in the evolution of the Internet. Where users are immersed into and present in the virtual world.
The idea, if successful, is projected to yield multibillion-dollar opportunities for companies that are into Online Gaming, Social Media, AR/VR Hardware, Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, E-commerce, Content, and Creator Economy.
For Metaverse to become a reality, a lot of different hardware and softwares will need to be built on standard and open protocol that makes the interconnected and unified virtual world (on the web) possible. Or a lot of popular metaverses will co-exist and users will log in and off from them.
A lot of people associate metaverse with a dystopian future as shown in Steven Spielberg's movie "Ready Player One". But it is too soon to call it anything. Beyond technological innovations, it'll also need cultural acceptance to become a reality.
Who coined the term Metaverse?
Neal Stephenson, an American writer known for his works of speculative fiction.
Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. Metaverse was described as a 3D virtual world inhabited by avatars of real people. Neal Stephenson has worked closely with Jeff Bezos at Blue Origin for 7 years in the early 2000s. At that time, Blue Origin was focused on "novel alternate approaches to space, alternate propulsion system, and business model". In 2014, Neal Stephenson joined Magic Leap (AR/VR Company) as the Chief Futurist and left it in 2020.
Metaverse - The New Buzzword
The term "Metaverse" has become the headline for all major Internet publications in 2021. It got the much-deserved hype when Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook mentioned the buzzword more than 20 times at the company's annual Connect conference in October (2021). Zuckerberg told Verge that "we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company."
Facebook Inc. renamed it Meta Inc. and they are currently building a Metaverse called "Horizon".
While Facebook is dabbling into Metaverse, Microsoft announced that they will be building a metaverse for enterprise applications. As of now, no one can tell what Microsoft means by "Enterprise Metaverse", but we'll eventually know. Other prominent companies that have announced their Metaverse plans are Tencent, Roblox, PUBG (Krafton), Snap Inc, and Unity Technologies. It seems that social media and online multi-player gaming companies are rightly placed for the Metaverse bet. By integrating their platform and experience with virtual reality headsets and building a bare minimum economy inside the virtual world, they can kick off their experiment.
What does the Metaverse term mean?
The combination of "meta" and "universe". Meta means "beyond" and the universe signifies a thriving world. The "Metaverse" term is used to describe a virtual space within digital environments such as games, social media, and VR (virtual reality). Metaverse is the stuff of science fiction but the term has recently become a buzzword in the tech world. It is seen as a deeper experience of the virtual world that exists on the Internet.
Characteristics that define a Metaverse
By signing up on any online platform, be it Facebook, Fortnite, or Amazon, we create our virtual identity. Which in most cases is true to our real-world identity. The identity that we create on, for example, Reddit is not transferable to Substack. But in a metaverse, a user would be able to keep his/her identity intact while using multiple services, commerce, games, and making friends. Currently, people are borrowing ideas from "Ready Player One" movie, that you can choose whoever or whatever you want to be in the metaverse. And that might be the fun way to approach it. In the early days of the Internet, people used to create pseudonym profiles and later switched to real-identity, that change was led by Facebook. In the world of gaming, pseudonyms are quite popular but in e-commerce and social media people use their real identity.
There's a possibility that the user can create one identity as the parent or an umbrella appearance and choose to change it while using different services in the Metaverse.
Where the complete cycle of creation, demand, supply, exchange of value and goods, and destruction happens, we call it an economic ecosystem. For example, the Apple AppStore has a thriving economy. Developers create and sell applications, end-users purchase them to use, the developers and Apple take their own commission in this process. The ecosystem of Apple and Google App Store has been so successful that multiple multi-billion companies have been created on top of it. Similarly, the e-commerce platforms work, they aggregate the demand and supply of products and facilitate the transaction of goods and money. Metaverse has the potential to become digital economic systems where people create, buy, sell, and destroy virtual goods and services. And they use cryptocurrency, fiat, or virtual currency as the exchange of value.
Metaverse should not only to limited to Virtual Headsets (VR Glasses), but must be accessible inform form through multiple devices like PC, Mobile, Tablet, and may extend support to IoT devices. Wearable gadgets like smartwatches, smart shoes, and smart clothing if interact with the Metaverse, it'll create a truly time-persistent and interconnected experience.
Metaverse for Health Care might interact and support a wide variety of devices to source data from. Metaverse for enterprise will also do the same with, you know, maybe printers!
Metaverse will be a shared experience, just like multi-player games or social media instead of a solo experience. Just like NFT and Cryptocurrency projects build their online community before launching, the Metaverse projects will also follow the same route.
The Metaverse itself would be a breeding ground for communities. People will create virtual communities or import their online communities to the Metaverse. And just like communities have Discord, Slack, Reddit, etc as their address, they'll have a destination in the Metaverse as an address.
A truly immersive experience that starts with a VR Headset but goes beyond that with the use of haptic body suits, omnidirectional treadmills, and other wearable gadgets. Our current understanding of what is "Immersive" is limited by the imagination from sci-fi movies and current technology. But immersive is a major defining characteristic of Metaverse.
The metaverse will exist and grow in real-time with or without your avatar's involvement. Since it is a shared experience of an ever-expanding virtual world, the events and timeline of a metaverse will be in sync with real-world time.
Metaverse: A Trillion Dollar Opportunity
The Metaverse is an opportunity to create a new trillion-dollar industry, just like the Internet technology created trillion-dollar markets in the past 30 years. Following industries will be the major participants, contributors, and beneficiaries in the Metaverse economy. Metaverse economy will touch the lives of billions and it'll be a synonymous growth story to the one that Internet has followed.
Developers / Creators
Google and Apple created huge ecosystems for the developers which enables them to create and distribute their applications to billions of Internet users worldwide. In the year 2020 alone, developers made $143 Billion from the app ecosystem. The Metaverse will become another huge ecosystem that enables developers and creators both to create and distribute applications, features, content, and entertainment to its billions of active users. The economy within Metaverse will be a thriving one, where participants/users and contributors in all forms will command a chunk of the monetary value.
"During the Gold Rush, most would-be miners lost money, but people who sold them picks, shovels, tents, and blue-jeans made a nice profit." -- Peter Lynch
Hardware companies will provide and build the base technology that is needed to create and experience the Metaverse. Cloud computing and storage, VR and AR gadgets, mobile phones, wearable gadgets, and everything that is required to connect and operate these technologies will explode.
We've already seen Fortnite and Pubg hosting virtual events within their multiplayer online games. Digital events are only limited to celebrities hosting virtual concerts and soon a variety of events of different scales will be hosted virtually. The conferences, live events, and meetups will also move to Metaverse to utilize its interactive tools, wider reach, and real-world-like engagement.
The advertising industry is the backbone of the Internet. Wherever the eyeballs are, the money is bound to flow. Facebook and Google's Advertising systems have already shown us the possibility of creating and utilizing digital real-estate for Ads. The Ads in Metaverse are in-evitable and might resemble a real-world view of billboards, posters, etc. But the advertisers will have the possibility to use the same real estate for various purposes.
It is estimated that Social Commerce generated $475 billion globally. Along with the advertising industry, e-commerce has been a huge part of monetization on the Internet. Global e-commerce has grown from $1.3 trillion to $4.9 trillion in 2021. Social commerce in India is growing at a rate of 65% CAGR. And it is expected to reach 60-70 billion dollars by 2030.
The Metaverse presents an opportunity to create a more personalized, seamless, and immersive buying experience. And extends the capacity to almost anyone to sell in the way they feel is best for the selling and buying experience.
Cryptocurrency and Wallets
In comparison with UPI and Digital Wallets adoption and transactions in India, Cryptocurrency adoption and wallets look dwarf. But the early sign in spending on virtual goods in online gaming, investment in cryptocurrency, and upcoming projects out of India are great. In the Metaverse, virtual currency, NFTs, and wallets will play a big role for developers, creators, and users.
What's the difference between the Internet and Metaverse?
We use the Internet to enhance and support our real-world activities and tasks. For example, we use social media to connect and chat with our friends and see what everyone is up to. We buy groceries, food, clothes, and household products online to get them delivered to our home. And we purchase tickets to movies, concerts, and events to attend in the real world.
On the other hand, in a digital world (metaverse) we'll interact with digital products and experiences. The currency and goods are created and consumed in the digital world with little to no connection to the real world. For example, you play an online game to win coins, you use those coins to purchase virtual collectibles and items used in the game. In such a game, developers can create new items, collectibles, and experiences that you'd need to pay for. This will enable developers, players, and all contributors in the game to create and redeem real value (all in the digital space).
What is a Metaverse NFT?
Metaverse NFTs are NFTs that you can mint, collect, buy, and sell within a digital-only platform i.e. Metaverse. NFTs are short for non-fungible tokens. NFTs are certificates of authenticity for a digital asset stored on the blockchain. NFTs are unique, transferable, and their ownership is verifiable. NFTs enable people to own digital assets just the way they own physical assets.
The Metaverse: Where all futuristic ideas converge
Virtual Reality pawing the way forward for Metaverse
The virtual-reality hardware has seen the entire journey from being a hot-new-tech to being ignored by the masses for years. And now the talks around Metaverse make them the must-have technology to enable the virtual experiences that everyone is expecting from Metaverse.
The leading companies in the VR headset space are Facebook's Oculus, magic leap, snap's spectacles, Google, HTC, Microsoft, etc. We will witness more companies coming forward in the next decade as new technologies emerge. So far, the VR was put into future-bet investments categories. And it seems that the future is now. Thus a lot more new players would be able to raise funds that are required for R&D, manufacturing, and sustaining the company till the product hits the market and has some sales going on.
The way mobile phones, and recently the Air Pods that were initially costly and available for the rich became mainstream. Especially, the emergence of new companies that re-engineer the same technology and get it manufactured in China. The Chinese technology sector will play a huge role in providing VR technology at cost that brings the masses into it.
Mobile Phones Are The Fastest Adopted Technology, what's next?
The smartwatches and wireless earphones (AirPods, EarBuds) industry has shown us the massive potential in the wearable gadgets space. Apple sold over 100 million AirPods in 2020 and over 34 million Apple Watches. This shows how quickly this technology is getting adopted. The AirPods were first released in 2016 and Apple Watch in 2015. It has been only 5 and 6 years since these products were launched. And their past sales and market penetration show the pace of adoption.
Smart clothing, also called E-textiles or smart textiles that enable pieces of technology like batter, lights, and electronics embedded in them. These clothes have found their use case in activity tracking (health-tech), performance enhancement (sports), and fashion. As shown in the sci-fi movie Ready Player One, where people wear suits with haptic feedback to play virtual reality games. This technology has been available for several years but never found its use case beyond military technology and health tech. But there's a huge chance of it being actively used to experience and participate in the Metaverse.
Smart Home Appliances - Internet of Things (IoT)
The ability to experience, use, and show your real-world possessions in the virtual world be cool. And might have use cases of its own. Just like the type of gadgets you use affect your digital output and gameplay, the type of gadgets you own will affect your experience in the virtual world.
The adoption of smart home appliances has been slow in the rest of the world while China is leading the trend from the front. Companies like Apple and Google are building their own ecosystem, but the accessibility and interconnectivity of these ecosystems have been a roadblock in the adoption. While Xiaomi, the world's biggest IoT company is churning out great products at an affordable price while operating a new kind of company structure. Xiaomi, instead of creating products on its own, invests in smaller and independent companies that are specializing in one type of product. And allows them to leverage Xiaomi's manufacturing and distribution prowess. In exchange, Xiaomi gets to launch these brands under its own brand name.
Closing Thoughts on Metaverse and The Future
Does the Metaverse exist?
The Metaverse as described by tech people doesn't exist today. Big tech (Facebook, Microsoft) claims that a virtual reality universe is the future of the Internet. But there's no date by when it'll exist in its full capacity. Platforms and games like Roblox, CORE, Oculus, Fortnite, etc. do call themselves "Metaverse" and are very close to the tech definition of it.
Why is metaverse important?
There are many virtual worlds that exist on the Internet, for example, social media, online games, digital products, Blockchain, etc. But these are not interconnected and we can't move between them while retaining our identity and assets. Metaverse aims at unifying our digital experience across platforms and making it seamless. It is being called the next step in the evolution of the Internet. A virtual world with your own unique identity, digital assets, currency, and lots of use cases.
Time will tell what Facebook's (Meta Inc's) Horizon has in it for the masses. And how Fortnite, Pubg, Microsoft, Magic Leap, Snap Inc, are approaching Metaverse. A lot will unfold in this story in the near future.
We at Bharat Metaverse are building a virtual India, a Metaverse that represents India in the Virtual World. If you are interested in being an early user, please join the waitlist.
To get in touch with us inquiries, collaboration, or funding opportunities, write to use at email@example.com
In Meantime, Watch Ready Player One and Read Neal Stephenson's Books.
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