Are you buying those shoes in the Metaverse tomorrow?
Probably a sentence we are not so used to yet. Thanks to pioneers like Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Sweeney and of course Neal Stephenson (author of Snow Crash) we now have a name for this virtual reality, augemented reality, CGI 3D simulated, game worlds, avatar stuff: The Metaverse.
Probably still the most known implementation of a Metaverse world is Second Life. It launched in 2003 and yes, I was there. So now, 18 years later we have a big name for it and billions of dollards have been invested already in startups working to make the Metaverse a reality. Why now?
Well to be honest, Second Life looked great in 2003 but it was very basic still. Real-time rendered 3D environments are heavy to compute and the computers from 2003 were not really fast. So it looked nice for that time. But we all wanted to have better graphics. Also most of the 2D internet as we know it today was not yet created/invented. So time was definetly not right for a 3D version of the internet. Most importantly, interoperability (APIs etc.) accross the internet was still in it's infancy. I could continue but I think we all get it. It was much too early for a revolution like this.
Now we have powerfull and easy to use 3D real-time engines like Unreal Engine, Unity and the likes. We also have much more powerful hardware that can render high-end 3D graphics in real-time, even on our mobile phones. We also have created a highly connected internet with apps and websites talking to each other. Our behavior has changed. We buy most of our stuff online, we spend time with friends, we play together online and we work and learn online. But online feels very 2D today. Just looking at those screens all day long is a bit frustrating. And people realize this. Especially the young generation likes to hang out in virtual spaces like roblox, fortnite and the likes. What used to be 2D scrollable feeds now is a 3D environment you can explore with your 3D avatar. Some of the biggest tech companies in the world working on Virtual Reality headsets to make this upcoming Metaverse even more immersive and finally to blur the lines between reality and virtual reality, the Metaverse.
And the Metaverse brings another opportunity to the table. Decentralisation. Today we are catched in cages from Facebook/Meta, Google, Apple etc. And another revolution, the Blockchain, will allow us to store data in a decentralised way not tied to big tech corporations. It's not a mandatory building block for the Metaverse but as it happens almost at the same time now, Metaverse companies use Blockchain technology to make the Metaverse more interoperable and not focused on a few big companies. Facebook/Meta doesn't like that idea but in my opinion the Metaverse worlds from Facebook will be a big part of the Metaverse, but they will not be the Metaverse. Same goes for Fortnite and Roblox. These companies and Meta-Places are big players already and they will host millions of users. But they are not the Metaverse.
To make this a bit more tangible let's think about your avatar in the Metaverse. It's you virtual reality identity. It might look almost exactly like you in the real world. But it also might look very different. Maybe one day it looks like a big green creature and the other day like a serious business man with Spock-like ears. Who knows. Hopefully there will be more creative ways to express ourselves in the Metaverse. But most important, this is your character. It's not hosted in Roblox, Fortnite, Horizon or whatever. It hopefully will be hosted on a Blockchain technology. So you fully own it. With all of it's different styles, features and items. You can use your avatar in any Metaverse world. In some worlds you might not have access to all your avatar features but in an ideal world of the Metaverse future you should have full access. In our reality you also don't have access to all featurs all the time. Think of "no internet access" while shopping in a big mall. Maybe someone is blocking it to prevent you from comparing prices online...
It will be a complex task to make this work. But technically it's possible and as we all are very vain with our avatars there will be a huge push into this direction.
Entering Roblox with my anime avatar might make the game designers from Roblox cry right now. But this is how the Metaverse unfolds it's full potential.