A metaverse is simply an alternate version of reality that exists digitally. A metaverse is a digital universe that contains all the aspects of the real world, such as real-time interactions and economies. It offers a unique experience to end-users. Much like the physical reality, people interact in this metaverse to work, play, do business, and socialize with other people and elements.
In science fiction, the “metaverse” is a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal, and immersive virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets. In colloquial usage, a “metaverse” is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection.
The term “metaverse” originated in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash as a portmanteau of “meta” and “universe”. Metaverse development is often linked to advancing virtual reality technology due to the increasing demands for immersion. Recent interest in metaverse development is influenced by Web3, a concept for a decentralized iteration of the internet.
In practice, there are multiple existing metaverses today, and they can be referred to with different names and terms. The concept derives from “meta” which means “beyond” and “universe” which refers to all existing matter and space. So the term, “metaverse”, so to speak, goes beyond all that is visible and known to exist.
In the blockchain and crypto industry, many projects working in other emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence, expanded reality (VR and AR) and internet of things (IoT) create versions of their own digital realities. This is where the term metaverse is often used to describe an ecosystem where users of the platform can find every single element, creation, experience, and interaction in a shared, and most importantly, persistent space.
The concept of metaverse is gaining popularity in big tech companies as well. It is difficult to know its shape in general; however, it can be identified by some or all of these characteristics:
- Persistence: In the metaverse, a persistent space is continuously shaped with environments that continue to grow and evolve regardless of whether or not users are connected to and interacting with them.
- Real time: Experiences there happen in real time. This doesn’t necessarily mean live; however, pre-recorded performances can be triggered, for example, but users experience them in real time.
- Economy: The metaverse has a fully functional economy. It uses a native, blockchain-based currency to buy, sell, or trade products and services in the metaverse.
- Physical bridge: In augmented reality, the metaverse can exist alongside or even be linked to the physical universe. Think of an additional digital layer on top of or linked to actual geographical coordinates, for example. This is as opposed to virtual reality metaverses that only exist in a virtual realm.
- Open content: One major pull for metaverses is that the content and experiences within, unlike previous versions of digital universes, can be created by corporations and users together. Users are, in fact, expected to eventually provide the majority of content in a metaverse as UGC.
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