Metaverse has become the talk of the town with tech giants hovering to enhance our digital lives. The idea of a huge virtual online world certainly sounds exciting, and hundreds of companies including Microsoft, Meta Inc (formerly Facebook Inc), Google, etc., are already betting on the potential that the metaverse holds.
But, with so much already spoken and written about the metaverse, the question is do we (humans) really need metaverse and does the future of humanity align with that of metaverse? We explain.
For the uninitiated, the metaverse is essentially a combination of the physical world with the virtual world. The easiest way to understand the metaverse is to understand what it is not. It is not a new technology, or a new software or a new app. It is rather a way of combining the already existential technologies into building something called a ‘digital space’.
The concept of digital space is not a new one. It dates back to 1992, where Neal Stephenson in his science fiction novel Snow Crash describes metaverse “as a computer generated virtual world made possible through softwares and a worldwide fibre optic network technology.”
Metaverse can be simply put as a shared virtual space that is hyper realistic, immersive and interactive thanks to the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology. It is basically a virtual world that is developed to mirror our physical world while allowing people to do virtually anything with tremendous potential. However, it is not aimed to replace reality completely—what it aims to do is to enhance the digital space that we see today.
Entering the metaverse
The prerequisite to access the metaverse is: an internet, and a virtual reality headset. However, not all metaverse platforms require a dedicated VR setup. Some can be accessed using your desktop PC or laptop.
There are multiple metaverses but some of the more notable and famous ones are Sandbox (SAND), Axie Infinity (AXS), Decentraland (MANA), Enjin (ENJ). The most famous Decentraland metaverse project has 90,601 plots and the Sandbox is divided into 1,66,464 lands.
Not users, but avatars
Metaverse users are called ‘avatars’. An avatar in the metaverse is more than just a user created face. It is your identity. Every avatar is unique with limitless possibilities. Avatars have humanoid features such as moveable limbs, upper and lower torsos, and a face capable of expression.
It is not necessary for your avatar to look as similar or as different from your appearance in the real world. However, you can most certainly design your own avatar that resembles your facial and physical features, but also supports customisation for add-ons like your hair, outfit, and glasses.
There are two types of avatars: Virtual Reality (VR) enhanced avatars and full body avatars. VR avatars mimic your hand movements but miss out on your lower limbs movement. While full-body avatars are a bit more advanced. This avatar replicates full body movements as well.
Shaping the future through metaverse
Metaverse is here to stay, and it has implications to link with everything we do in life. Here are some of the use cases of metaverse.
Zoom meetings without Zoom: Metaverse will take your daily work calls a step further. Imagine being in a virtual space with your colleagues where you feel present together in real time rather than just see one another onscreen as with existing video calling apps.
Live virtual events: Covid-19 induced travel restrictions have forced us to stay indoors and ditch massive gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, gallery openings, and other forms of entertainment and culture. But, with metaverse everything is possible, you can meet, interact, dance, and even meditate with your friends—all at the comfort of your home.
Online shopping: Shopping in the metaverse will enable you to try on virtual outfits and virtual appliances before buying. This means there will be less product returns of ill-fitting clothing or misrepresented products. Shoppers can hold objects and assess them from all angles before purchasing.
Games: Metaverse will take video games powered by blockchain, and Web3 to another level, making multiplayer games even more real. Anyone can play immersive video games in the metaverse, all they need is a digital avatar. Additionally, players can earn rewards in the form of Non-fungible-tokens (NFTs), which will help boost the gaming economy.
Fueling metaverse through NFTs
NFTs serve a key concept in the metaverse ecosystem, allowing people to own virtual goods in the form of real-estate, items like cars, boats or even accessories and paintings—all possible through NFTs.
But, why only NFTs? This is because NFTs are built on blockchain technology that gives rightful ownership to the NFT holders. So for instance, if you own a land in the metaverse (which is quite possible), you get an NFT as deed to the virtual property. This means you are the rightful owner and only you have exclusive access to enter the location in metaverse alongside allowing access to others. NFT-controlled access could also help in ensuring VIP access to the events in metaverse.
Further, NFTs serve a useful role in airdropping branded merchandise to followers as well have their metaverse avatars only owned by them. Users can create a metaverse agnostic avtar minted on blockchain, that can be moved from one metaverse to another. It should be noted that since NFTs are immutable, it is only owned by you and nobody else can duplicate, edit your customised NFT based avatar. So, it is quite clear that the metaverse and NFTs are made for each other.