Sci-fi author Neil Stephenson coined the term Metaverse in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. It took another couple of decades for reality to catch up with fiction in a way we could all get behind. Today, we can access myriad virtual worlds, including titles like Decentraland, Fortnite and Roblox.
In his book Metaverse Primer, venture capitalist Matthew Ball describes the metaverse as “an expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, history, payments, and entitlements, and can be experienced synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence.”
So many possibilities
So, what can you do in the metaverse? The answer is just about anything. Unbound by the constraints of physics, denizens of the virtual world can fly, travel through time, embody alternate forms and generally build worlds in any way they see fit.
Even though existing in the metaverse presents nearly infinite possibilities, many residents of the natural world work tirelessly to bring everyday physical events into virtual reality (VR). For instance, in addition to taking place in fashion capitals such as New York and Paris, Fashion Week now also occurs annually in cyberspace. The metaverse also has its own Pride parade, AI World Fair, music festivals, sporting events, casinos, and almost anything else you can imagine.
Visiting the metaverse
Many people conflate VR and the metaverse, but you can use either one without the other. Entering the metaverse is as easy as visiting a website like Axie Infinity or Sandbox. Sure, it’s a 2D experience, just like any other time you surf the web. But this way, you can gain access to your desired alternate universe from just about any device.
For those who want the ultimate immersive experience, VR is the way to go. Don a set of VR goggles, and you’re immediately transported to another time and place. Perhaps the most popular of these is Meta’s Oculus 3 VR headset.
If a middle ground is what you desire, augmented reality (AR) offers more immersion than a standard web browser while still allowing the user to exist in the physical world. Thus far, AR headsets have mostly missed the mark (see Google Glass, etc.). But Apple’s long-awaited Vision Pro AR headset is slated for a 2025 release. The $3500 price tag may keep most people away. But you can bet Apple’s entry into the AR market will catalyze a tidal wave of less expensive alternatives when it arrives.