Is the Metaverse it just a digital world like The Sandbox, where you can grab your favourite VR headset and jump in right now? Or are we still at least 10 years away from the Metaverse being a thing? The problem is everyone has a very different interpretation of what the Metaverse actually is. To help us understand and define what the Metaverse actually is, we have to understand where it came from.
The term “Metaverse ” came from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 Sci-Fi novel, “Snow Crash”. Stephenson describes his Metaverse as an all-encompassing digital world that is an extension to the real world. We saw this concept come to life again in the 2018 movie, “Ready Player One”. Where once again, in a dystopian future, people could enter the “Oasis” using Virtual Reality headsets. In the Oasis they can escape the harsh realities of the world, socialize, play games, learn and even earn digital currency which held purchasing power in the real world.
Definition: The metaverse is an all-encompassing digital world that is an extension to the real world.
Fast forward to 2021, we saw Metaverse become the number one buzzword of the internet. Here’s why.
- Facebook rebranded to Meta
- Someone paid a massive $450k USD to be Snoop Dogg’s neighbour in The Sandbox Metaverse
- Companies like Microsoft, Ubisoft, Google and Apple all started investing heavily in the Metaverse
- Bloomberg estimates the Metaverse to be a $800 billion dollar market by 2024
- We were in the middle of a pandemic and stuck at home
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Are video games like World of Warcraft a Metaverse?
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to help visualize what the metaverse actually is or could be, is to take the existing concept of an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). RuneScape and World of Warcraft have been around for almost 20 years, these are digital worlds that you can enter with your own digital character. While the focus is on gaming, you have the freedom to make your own choices and do what you want. MMORPG’s enables players to meet online, make new friends, complete quests and activities that earn a digital currency. Gaming currency can used to buy in-game items like potions and weapons.
One of the key difference here is this digital currency does not translate back to the real world, this means you can not legally sell the in-game assets for real life currency. Another difference is that you can not use your digital character to travel from these game worlds to other digital worlds. MMORPG’s as the name suggests are still very much a game. They don’t provide users the ability to do everything they can in real life like live music, entertainment and education. Perhaps these games should offer VR to increase immersion to be classified as a “metaverse”. Another argument suggests that these worlds are not built on blockchain technology, which appears to be increasingly related.
So what are the characteristics of the Metaverse?
- Digital avatars
- 3D rendered worlds where users can move freely between worlds
- Virtual, extended and mixed reality
- Digital currencies which are hold value in the real world
- Not owned by a single company, should be a shared collective
- Persistent – Can access via VR or a multitude of other interfaces (smart phones, desktop etc)
- Creator Economy
Metaverse or Protoverse?
The concept of the Metaverse is still in its early stages of development, and experts believe that it is not close to being completed and won’t be for at least the next 10 years. While some companies and platforms are working towards building the Metaverse, these efforts are currently considered “protoverses.”
A protoverse refers to a digital world that is similar to the Metaverse in some ways, but falls short of the full vision. The term “walled garden” is often used to describe protoverses, as it suggests that these digital worlds are isolated and separate from each other, with no way to move assets or data between them. For example, current leaders in the space like Horizon Worlds, The Sandbox, and Roblox are all walled gardens, meaning that it is impossible to move assets between these digital worlds. This is a key difference from the Metaverse, which is imagined to be a decentralized network of digital worlds where users can move freely between them.
The current state of protoverses is that they are single platforms, owned by a single company. They can offer great experiences within their own platforms, but they are not yet fully integrated with other virtual worlds, this is one of the main reasons they are considered protoverses.
Best Metaverse experiences that you can enter now
So while we may not exactly have the entire Metaverse figured out yet, we have some pretty good experiences on offer that allow you to get a glimpse of what the Metaverse could be like. Each have their own pros and cons bet some of the most popular are listed below
Decentraland is a virtual reality platform built on blockchain technology. It allows users to create and explore virtual worlds, own virtual land, and create and monetize content. Users can interact with each other in a decentralized and community-driven environment. Decentraland uses a digital asset called LAND, which represents ownership of a plot of land in the virtual world, Users can buy, sell, and develop LAND and use it to build virtual experiences and monetize them. The platform also has a cryptocurrency called MANA, which is used to buy land and other in-world items. Decentraland aims to create a decentralized virtual world where users have full control over their content and experiences.
|Decentralization: As the name suggests, Decentraland is built on blockchain technology.||Complexity: The platform may be complex for some users to understand and navigate|
|Ownership: Users have the ability to own virtual land and monetize it through creating and selling virtual assets||Risk: Just like investing in cryptocurrency, there is high volatility in Decentraland|
|Immersive experience: Decentraland provides a virtual reality experience that allows users to explore and create virtual worlds.||Graphics: Complaints about bad graphics and performance issues|
2) Horizon Worlds
Horizon Worlds is a social app developed by Meta, a centralized platform that allows users to create and explore their own digital worlds in virtual reality. Users can interact with other players, create and customize their own avatars, and explore different worlds created by the community.
Horizon Worlds is designed to provide an immersive and social experience, allowing users to socialize, play games, and engage with others in a virtual world. The platform aims to give users more control over their data and experiences, and make it more resistant to censorship. However, it is currently in development and there is no widely adopted yet, and it is limited to VR headset users.
3) Sandbox VR
The Sandbox is a virtual reality platform that allows users to create and share their own virtual worlds and experiences. It uses blockchain technology to support a virtual economy where users can buy, sell, and trade virtual land and assets. The Sandbox can be considered related to the concept of the Metaverse because it allows users to enter a digital world and interact with other players, similar to how the Metaverse is described as an all-encompassing digital world where people can socialize, play games, and earn digital currency. Additionally, The Sandbox has a creator economy where users can earn cryptocurrency by creating and selling virtual assets. Check our guide to making money playing video games for more information.
|Creator Economy: The Sandbox allows users to earn cryptocurrency by creating and selling virtual assets.||Limited Interoperability: As of now, The Sandbox is not yet fully integrated with other virtual worlds.|
|Blockchain technology: The Sandbox uses blockchain technology. This allows for a secure and transparent way to manage virtual assets and transactions.||Scalability: As the popularity of the platform grows, it may face scalability challenges, which could impact the performance of the platform and the user experience.|
|Decentralization: The Sandbox aims to be a decentralized platform, giving users more control over their data and experiences.|
Young audience: Not well managed with policies/monitoring
Roblox enables users to create and share their own games. Popular among children and teenagers, it has been gaining popularity in recent years. It relates to the Metaverse concept by allowing players to enter digital worlds and interact with others. But unlike the Metaverse, Roblox is a centralized platform owned by one company. Also, its in-game currency and assets can’t be used in the real world. Roblox mainly focuses on gaming, while the Metaverse aims to be a more expansive digital world for work, learning, and socializing.
|Popularity: Roblox is a widely popular platform with a large user base, which means there is a lot of content and a large community to interact with||Centralization: Roblox is a single, centralized platform owned by a single company|
|Game creation: Roblox allows users to create and share their own games, which can be a great way for users to showcase their creativity and programming skills.||Virtual currency and assets are not transferable to real-world currency|
|Safe environment: Roblox has strict policies and monitoring system to ensure a safe environment for children and young players|
5) VR Chat
VRChat is a social virtual reality platform that allows users to create and share their own avatars, worlds, and experiences. It is popular for its ability to provide a social experience and allowing users to meet and make friends with people from around the world. Users can explore different worlds and participate in activities, such as playing games and listening to music.
However, VRChat has been criticized for having a large number of children and young teenagers using the platform. This has led to concerns about online safety and inappropriate behavior. Additionally, the platform has been criticized for having a high amount of sexually explicit content and behavior.
|Social Interaction: Allows users to meet and interact with people from around the world.||Inappropriate content: Has been criticized for having a high amount of sexually explicit content and behavior|
|Flexibility: Allows users to customize their avatars and create their own worlds.||Technical issues: Some users have reported technical issues with the platform such as lag and glitche|
|Accessibility: Can be accessed via PC and standalone VR decives|
Do you need a VR Headset to enter the Metaverse/Protoverse?
The Metaverse is imagined to be an all-encompassing digital world that is accessible from any device, including smartphones, computers, and VR headsets. There is a strong correlation between VR and the Metaverse. Many of the big IT firms that are investing in the Metaverse are also investing in VR, AR and XR. But it is not a requirement to have a VR headset to enter the Metaverse.
Currently, to access Meta’s Horizon worlds, a VR headset is required. However, in the long term, the social app will also be usable without glasses. Allowing users to access the Metaverse through their smartphones or computers. This will allow for more accessibility and greater reach for the Metaverse, as not everyone has access to VR headsets or may not be interested in using them.
It’s important to note that while a VR headset is not a requirement to enter the Metaverse, it is likely that the most immersive experience will be achieved through the use of VR, AR, or XR. These technologies offer the ability to fully immerse oneself in a digital world, creating a more realistic and believable experience.
The Metaverse is still in its early stages of development and experts believe that it won’t be completed for at least the next 10 years. While some companies and platforms are currently working towards building the Metaverse, these efforts are currently considered as “protoverses” and are not fully integrated with other virtual worlds, meaning they are isolated and separate from each other. We can access these protoverses now using VR headsets and get a glimpse of what the Metaverse might look like.