Today's fast-paced digital world serves us news faster than a fast food restaurant serves fries. One of the technological advances that brings us the future today is undoubtedly the Metaverse. The virtual reality that extends our everyday lives to another digital world raises many questions and contradictory opinions. Let's discuss them and find out how it actually is.
The emergence of the metaverse was predicted by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book Show Crash. Most of us then think of Spielberg's Ready Player One. It's hard to know whether Mark Zuckerberg, like in the film, will hide a list of clues to his fortune in the bowels of the new platform, but what is certain is that although the metaverse seemed like science fiction just a few years ago, we are now witnessing its emergence.
The metaverse is a place where people can create, share and interact with digital objects and environments. It's basically a kind of augmented and interactive version of the internet where you feel like a character from The Sims.
Interest in the metaverse is growing, at least according to Google Trends - searches for the term are up about 30% from 2021. Most notably associated with Meta and its social network Horizon Words, the metaverse also involves the likes of Microsoft and Nvidia.
While Meta is trying to create a fun platform that would virtually simulate the real world in every way, Microsoft is only focusing on creating a virtual work environment that would also be hybrid (not fully VR), so users could get used to it more easily. But given its years of experience and ownership of game publisher Activision Blizzard, Microsoft has the ground well set for the gaming industry in the metaverse as well.
The Czechs are not lagging behind either, as they are developing the Somnium Space project under the leadership of Artur Sychrov, which is close to Mark Zuckerberg's idea of a metaverse.
Not satisfied with all the bills you have to pay in the real world? Then add shopping in the metaverse. Free stuff doesn't come free, and it's no different in the virtual world. Cryptocurrencies are commonly used and assets within the metaverse are sometimes traded as non-volatile tokens (NFTs) whose ownership is tracked using the blockchain.
In the metaverse, you can buy "land" (some companies invest heavily in them), tickets to a virtual concert, or clothes for your avatar. Currently, the most used worlds are Voxels and Decentraland or Sandbox, where a good plot of land will set you back up to millions of dollars. Companies such as Samsung, Adidas, Gucci or UPS have "built" their offices here.
It's not just about buying virtual items and services, but also real-world products. In VR, you can "try on" how certain clothes will look on you or what kind of couch will fit in your living room - everything can be ordered to your home.
We can definitely expect new ways of trading and presenting products and services. Instead of (or in addition to) an e-shop on the website, you will have a virtual shop in metaverse, you will be able to easily meet and make deals even with clients from remote locations and distribute virtual goods or services.
New job opportunities will also open up. Software AR/VR engineers will be needed in increasing numbers, as will hardware developers. 3D graphic designers will be creating everything we're looking at in the metaverse (though probably in collaboration with AI). The gaming industry will have a harvest - which means jobs for game designers, programmers, graphic designers and other gaming-related positions. And in order to spend in the virtual world, blockchain engineers will be an essential part of that.
Much like the internet, the metaverse will allow us to cross (or ignore) physical distance and work, study or have fun where we wouldn't otherwise be able to.
Some skeptics point to the potential negative impacts of the metaverse on human interaction, psyche, privacy, security, and social inequality. There are also concerns about how this virtual world will - or will not - be regulated, and what impact this will have on, for example, freedom of expression, etc.
In particular, the issue of cybersecurity is an important practical aspect, both for the users themselves and for their virtual assets. Currently, the blockchain cannot guarantee security and users may face cyber-attacks and theft, which are not yet systematically addressed in the metaverse.
Even though the metaverse is still in its infancy and is really more of an ahead-of-its-time utopia at the moment, big companies have already jumped on board to have lucrative land and facilities ready for when it all kicks off.
It is very likely that the time of the metaverse will indeed come, we just don't know when. So far, development has been slower than anticipated. And just as the idea of film, the internet, or the possibility of social media development seemed absurd to many, so too does the metaverse seem absurd at the moment.
Only time will tell if it is the music of the future or just a forgotten dead end in the history of technology. But definitely don't underestimate it and keep an eye on its evolution so that you too can jump in early. At the moment it is an interesting investment opportunity, at least for speculators.