The Race for the MetaverseBy Ana Karina Caudillo | Mon, 04/11/2022 - 11:00
What exactly is the Metaverse? Why is everyone racing to become its leader?
A few months ago, many people and companies didn’t even know the term existed, even though this concept has been cooking for more than 20 years. Now we hear that companies such as McDonald’s, Google, Microsoft and Facebook (now Meta) are pouring billions of dollars into making it happen.
To begin understanding the concept, we should start with a definition. Metaverse is a portmanteau word formed by the words Meta and Universe:
META ("beyond," "after," or "behind") + UNIVERSE (a particular sphere of activity, interest, or experience, all existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos)
To expand this definition, according to the MVR, a 2008 foresight project initiative to explore the virtual and 3D future of the World Wide Web:
“The Metaverse is the convergence of virtually-enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space. It is a fusion of both, while allowing users to experience it as either.”
If we dig a little bit more, we will find that the inception of the term dates back to 1992, when Neal Stephenson released his science fiction novel Snow Crash, where he introduced us to the idea of a virtual world, avatars and the internet identity. Seven years later (1999) comes the movie The Matrix and completely blows our minds with what the internet could become: the seamless fusion between the real and the virtual worlds, the importance of the roles of hackers and computer scientists and the bad players, among many other things.
Along the way there have been other big contributors (mainly from the gaming industry) to the building of the concept, such as The Sims (2000), Second Life (2003), Avatar (2009), Ready Player One (2011) ... .
With all that we have seen throughout the years, we have a pretty good idea of what we could expect and want of the Metaverse. The only factor that remains uncertain is when it will actually happen.
In that sense, if we analyze and review these past experiments, we will find out that the resurfacing of the term Metaverse didn’t exactly come with new technologies to build upon the stepping stones laid by companies like Linden Lab. It happened more as a rebranding and a wave of hype that has indeed attracted a lot of money and people. We can only hope it accelerates the way forward.
So, what can we expect in the coming years?
- We can expect the emergence of infinite Metaverses that offer different experiences and perspectives for different targets.
- Not a single leader but a group of companies building the technology blocks, a lot of digital assets and avatar creators to populate the Metaverses, companies focused on achieving interoperability between worlds, etc.
- Different ways to experiment the “beyondness” of the traditional associated activity, meaning that not every Metaverse would require VR headsets, 3D/4D graphics; some worlds might not even require video. It all comes down to what the creators want to achieve and what the technology enables them to do.
- Billions more invested into startups building the software and hardware to blend the physical with the virtual, the designing companies building the components, avatars and whatever people are willing to buy, book publishing companies and novel creators, etc.
But we must not forget that the most important factor is the participation and engagement of users at early stages (early adopters). This will most definitely discern and define the winners and the losers.
Users need to feel immersed in the new world. If they become embedded in their virtual identity and are able to explore, play and interact, it will be easier to hook them because it’s not just about amazing graphics or speed, it’s also about the design of the experience.
We have a long way to go in terms of technology but we can work on the Metaverse from so many other angles. The emergence of new companies and jobs required to actually achieve our expectations are vast and you can start learning now what will be required over the next 10 years.
Here’s a non-exclusive list* of what I think will be the protagonists in the Metaverse ecosystem in the following months in terms of new startups and money being designated:
*As I said, this is a non-exclusive list. If you feel I’m missing something important, feel free to contact me so I can add it.
For more than 20 years, people and companies have been working on the Metaverse, but only in 2021 has it become something widely known and wanted. This means that it is still up to us to define what the Metaverse will be, and we can either choose to be consumers of this content or become the creators of these worlds. The money and the talent are out there for anyone to grab.