The Metaverse is a term used to describe a virtual space within digital environments such as online games, social media, and virtual reality. It is a combination of the prefix “meta”, meaning beyond, and stem “universe”.
Coined by Neal Stephenson, the metaverse is, in fact, the stuff of science-fiction. He talked about it in detail in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”, in which people don virtual reality headsets to interact inside a game-like digital world. The book has long enjoyed cult status among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
The term, which derived from digital antiquity, was re-imagined as the Oasis in Ernest Cline’s novel ”Ready Player One.”
Freed from cultural and economic sclerosis, a utopian metaverse may be portrayed as a new frontier in fiction, where social norms and value systems can be written anew. But more often, metaverses are a bit dystopian, virtual refuges from a fallen world.
Recently, metaverse has become one of the tech sector’s hottest buzzwords, with companies pouring millions of dollars into its development.
‘Next great leap’
Metaverse is a vision of the future that may sound fantastical, but which tech titans like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are betting on as the next great leap in the evolution of the internet.
It refers to shared virtual worlds where land, buildings, avatars, and even names can be bought and sold, often using cryptocurrency.
In these environments, people can wander around with friends, visit buildings, buy goods and services, and attend events.
With the help of augmented reality glasses, it might allow you to see information whizz before your eyes as you walk around a city, from traffic and pollution updates to local history.
Surge in popularity
As Covid lockdown measures and work-from-home policies pushed more people online for both business and pleasure, the concept has surged in popularity during the pandemic.
Games in which players enter immersive digital worlds offer a glimpse into what the metaverse could eventually look like, blurring virtual entertainment with the real-world economy.
World built on blockchain
As far back as the early 2000s, the game Second Life allowed people to create digital avatars that could interact and shop with real money.
More recently, plots of land in Decentraland, a virtual world where visitors can watch concerts, visit art galleries, and gamble in casinos, have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars in MANA, a cryptocurrency.
‘More than a game’
The hugely popular video game Fortnite has also expanded into other forms of entertainment, with 12.3 million people logging in to watch rapper Travis Scott perform last year. Fortnite’s owners Epic Games said in April that $1 billion of funding raised recently would be used to support its “vision for the metaverse”.
And on Roblox, a gaming platform popular with children, a digital version of a Gucci bag sold in May for over $4,100, more than the physical version would have cost.
(With inputs from agencies)
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