When Facebook/Meta CEO Zuckerberg announced the creation of a metaverse platform as the future of technology, we were sincerely confused about what that meant. With metaverse platforms sporadically popping up everywhere, we can safely say that the confusion is still thriving, although the various VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), and XR (extended reality) immersive experiences have allowed for an inkling of where these metaverse platforms are headed.
According to Fortune Business Insights, the global metaverse market size was valued at $234.04 billion in 2022, with a projected growth of $3,409.29 billion by 2027. Goldman Sachs’ analyst Eric Sheridan recently stated that these metaverse platforms could be a $8 trillion opportunity. These numbers make it evident that there is a real market and real resources are being invested into generating Metaverse platforms—-virtual worlds on and apart from the internet.
Metaverse Platforms—Breaking it Down
Definitions of the metaverse are often simplistic—virtual worlds with their own separate features and experiences, built with a detailed metaverse economy. But don’t we already have that? It can be very easy to equate it to gaming worlds and their systems that let you design your avatar and have an immersive experience in the lore, economy, and interaction built into it. A game as familiar as the Sims might come to mind, where your characters live their lives and spend their virtual currency to get everything they desire. But one might argue that there’s limited free will and it is very obviously a game. Then perhaps open-world free-roam games might offer a better example, with GTA and Marvel’s Spider-Man allowing you a little more freedom.
The parallels drawn are largely correct. Metaverse platforms are, to a large extent, arising out of the gaming formats and expanding on the extent of what is possible in these alternate worlds. According to Global Market Estimates Research & Consultants, the global metaverse in the gaming market is projected to expand from $36.81 billion in 2022 to $710.21 billion at a CAGR value of 38.2 percent from 2022 to 2027. Gaming companies are in the best position to build metaverse platforms with advancing technology. These metaverse platforms refer to tech companies that are building their own virtual spaces and creating a version of the metaverse that best reflects their perception of it.
With the incorporation of VR, AR, and other technology that is available, metaverse platforms hope to create a parallel universe of experiences where people can represent themselves and have fully immersive experiences as a part of these parallel worlds. Social VR or social virtual reality is gaining prominence as a result, where multiple users can join in and interact with each other, not just through text chats or audio interactions, but as independent players within the worlds that are created. Think of movies like Ready Player One and Tron: Legacy.
Terms That Can Help You Understand the Metaverse Better
The “Metaverse” is not the only term that might have taken you by surprise. With the Metaverse platform uprising we are witnessing today, a pretty elaborate vocabulary is necessary to talk about this concept with some amount of expertise. Terms like XR (extended reality) and digital twins do get thrown around a lot but they’re easier to understand once you have a good grasp of the metaverse itself.
The simplistic term is used to describe the future of the internet or the next version of it. According to McKinsey, “Web3 is the idea of a new, decentralized internet built on blockchains, which are distributed ledgers controlled communally by participants.” We are currently most familiar with Web2 of the internet which is dominated by large corporations with a degree of user freedom in the contribution of content. The future of the internet will largely be one dominated by digital assets and tokens, but also one that is set to put more control in the user’s hands.
VR (Virtual Reality)
VR headsets are no longer a hope for the distant future. Meta Quest Pro and Sony PlayStation VR2 are examples of headsets already available on the market, with Apple’s Vision Pro set to launch next year. These devices are meant to allow you to visualize and interact with a virtual environment that is designed with software.
AR (Augmented Reality)
If you remember when Pokemon Go came out and the world collectively ran outside, that’s a good place to build your understanding of AR. If you’ve seen platforms that allow you to see what a couch would look like in your room or what a pair of glasses would realistically look like on your face, you’ve likely experienced AR for yourself. It allows more visual interactions between software and your immediate environment.
MR (Mixed Reality)
Mixed reality incorporates the potential of augmented reality and overlaps it with real objects in your immediate environment. Physical spaces are often mapped with computer-generated layouts layered over them to present a new reality that people can actively explore. Often paired with VR headsets, it aims for a very immersive experience. Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap are some of the leading projects in MR.
XR (Extended Reality)
The term extended reality is a blanket term for all of these different facets of what is being done with tech, including VR, AR, and MR. It discusses the full power of recreating digital experiences and is essentially what metaverse platforms hope to achieve.
While the term “digital twins” sounds a little odd, it is not a new concept and has vast potential to change how we perceive and plan for things. It refers to a virtual copy of a real-life object, process, or individual, which can either imitate the actual object or allow you to make changes to visualize its effect. McKinsey provides a great example of Google Maps to be a digital product twin of a road or the earth as a whole, replicating roads and obstructions and providing real-time traffic updates that reflect what is happening around you.
There are many uses for such tech. Within metaverse platforms, such technology could be used to provide immersive environments where a product could be visualized and its life cycle mapped or its flaws could be identified at a much faster pace.
If virtual worlds reflect the real one, then a metaverse economy seems like a logical next step for many. While we’re already familiar with in-game currency and the potential to buy virtual coins for virtual objects like a new avatar skin, the metaverse economy intends to build on this idea further. Digital assets and tokens have already started becoming more commonplace despite being new concepts, and NFTs have permanently changed how we value online assets. These concepts will become key to the operation of the metaverse economy.
NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens)
In brief, NFTs are the newest iteration of what is possible with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. They refer to digital assets, tokenized by blockchain tech with unique identification metadata that sets each apart from others. Defining how these tokens are different from cryptocurrency, Investopedia states, “Cryptocurrencies from the same blockchain are interchangeable—they are fungible. Two NFTs from the same blockchain can look identical, but they are not interchangeable.” Exchanging these digital tokens will likely be something users have to get familiar with, in order to participate in metaverse platforms.
Are We Close To Fully Functioning Metaverse Platforms?
A study by Pew Research Center found that 54 percent of technology experts interviewed were confident that the metaverse would be a refined, fully-built everyday immersive experience by 2040. 46 percent disagreed. While the scales could tip either way, the 2040 timeline that we are working with might be a good indicator that we aren’t very close to understanding the full extent of what is possible with these virtual worlds just yet. It is hard to define what a fully functioning metaverse platform might look like in a year from today.
Investments are being made and many forms of groundbreaking tech appear to be emerging every day but it is unlikely that metaverse platforms will become a norm for regular folk anytime soon. Yes, there are going to be aspects that leak into the real world, especially with VR devices becoming more commonplace. The Edverse Metaverse Platform is designed to redefine learning in the virtual environment and create virtual shared spaces for people to meet and collaborate. The Fortnite Metaverse gained much popularity with the 2020 virtual concert and its creative mode that allowed autonomy to design a virtual world. The Roblox Metaverse has been realized even before conversations began around metaverses. The creative liberty it offers users is what many others have aspired to recreate.
Many facets of the metaverse are growing independently as tech giants and small players alike try to develop their proprietary tools and technology to navigate these environments. With these massive investments into metaverse platforms, immersive experiences in virtual worlds will likely keep evolving in many unique ways.