What is Metaverse and Why Do Facebook/ Meta Think it’s the Future of the Internet?
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
When Mark Zuckerberg concluded the Facebook Connect 2021 main keynote, he spoke about better dawn. Facebook’s Metaverse is a vow of a futuristic tomorrow, where the rules of reality change to assemble in a virtual world of your imagination.
What is ‘Metaverse’?
“Meta”, the prefix of the term, comes from Greek and means beyond, after or across. Hence, the term metaverse can be understood as a place that is beyond the world or the universe as we know it, one that exists in the virtual realm but feels just as real.
The theory is nothing new, though. If you have seen a film like Matrix, or Real Player One, you will easily know what it requires: a virtual reality space that people can enter and access through the use of a gadget or a device. Think of a video game, say Fifa or Minecraft. The player dominates a character or the events on the screen with the help of commands and buttons. Now, what if, instead of sitting at the console and watching the game unfold on the screen, the player could be inside the game, participating not from the outside but as a character embedded in it?
The Metaverse Promise
By rebranding Facebook as Meta, Zuckerberg dealt to unlock the potential of the metaverse, a concept that holds great potential but is currently in the research and development stage.
Instead, Facebook’s Metaverse will take you on an immersive journey that will transform how you socialize, work, shop, play, and interact with the world around you.
In the Metaverse, you can be a part of the experience and not just observe it. Zuckerberg’s explanation of the Metaverse encapsulates a parallel reality where avatars are a representation of the human self.
HOW WILL IT WORK?
Facebook made its first invasion into creating a VR world with the launch in 2019 of Facebook Horizon, an invitation-only immersive environment that end users can enter by putting on an Oculus headset. In August, it rolled out Horizon Workrooms, a component where co-workers wearing VR headsets can hold meetings in a virtual room where they all appear as cartoonish 3D versions of themselves.
However, going forward, the perspective is for the metaverse to be a much more evolved space. As venture capitalist Matthew Ball wrote in a blog post, the metaverse will be “a fully functioning economy… where person and businesses will be able to develop, own, invest, sell” products. There are already gaming tokens that are monetizable and a new class of assets called NFTs (non-fungible tokens) has also come up that only exist digitally.
In an interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg said that “the metaverse isn’t just virtual reality” and would be reachable across several computing platforms like virtual and augmented reality and also on the personal computer, mobile devices and gaming consoles.
The Facebook founder said, the metaverse would be “a constant, synchronous environment where we can be together, which I think is probably going to feature some kind of a hybrid between the social platforms that we see today, but an environment where you’re embodied in it”.
A metaverse can be broken down into two parts.
– One of them deals with creating a blockchain-based metaverse, using NFTs and cryptocurrencies. Some of the examples are Decentraland and The Sandbox, which allow people to buy virtual parcels of land and frame their own environments.
– While the other one is a simple, virtual world where people can meet and greet each other. Facebook is working towards creating this version of the metaverse.
The Metaverse Offerings
• The Horizon Metaverse Experience
Facebook introduced Horizon Home as the Metaverse home base. The early vision of the Horizon Home can be accomplished with a Quest headset, which has now been rebranded from Oculus to Meta. Think of it as your virtual home where you can hang out with your friends from Arizona and Paris together. Future versions of Horizon Home will let you invite your friends and relax together, watch movies, and jump into other apps or games together.
Horizon is Facebook’s social platform aimed to create and interact with one other person in its Metaverse. Horizon Home, the new addition to Horizon, joins Horizon Worlds (currently in beta phase), Horizon Workrooms, and Horizon Venues.
In October, Facebook (now Meta) declared a $10 million Creator Fund to boost more creators and developers to come and build their dream worlds within Horizon for Facebook’s Metaverse. While Horizon Worlds lets you create your dream world in VR with state-of-the-art social world-building tools, Horizon Venues is where the “party is at,” so to speak.
Horizon Venues demonstrate entertainment and let users enjoy the dynamics of group events, the thrill of live sports, and the energy of music concerts from the comfort of their living room.
• Immersive Gaming Quests
Experts believe that gaming platforms are better suited to navigate the journey into the metaverse. This is because the gaming industry comes with a loyal user base that’s already familiar with virtual spaces, 3D environments, and fantasy worlds.
Fan favorites such as Fortnite and Roblox made their foray into the metaverse with seamless ease and Epic Games, the parent company behind Fortnite, has raised $1 billion from investors to boost their long-term plans for building their own metaverse.
All of this indicates a strong readiness among gamers to adopt Facebook’s Multiverse – and therefore, a good starting point for the company. Facebook’s Metaverse intends to tap into this booming industry by using holograms that amplify regular games like chess, even as interoperability enables you to connect and play with your friend in another city.
Meta is also developing the Rockstar Games’ cult classic Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for Quest 2, a project destined to test Zuckerberg’s vision of the gaming metaverse.
• Fitness with VR
If you remember the opening scene from Netflix’s Falling Inn Love, you’ll be able to recall the protagonist Gabrielle Diaz riding in the quaint countryside – actually wearing a VR headset and cycling in her stationary exercise bike.
Clearly, the fitness industry is ready to tap into sophisticated tech like VR to make exercising fun, and, in many ways, the metaverse has already captured the popular imagination. As more people choose virtual environments for physical gymnasiums (particularly in the wake of the pandemic), devices like Meta Quest 2 can become your fitness equipment of choice.
Facebook’s Metaverse will include plans for fitness activities, underscored by the recent launch of the Active Pack for Quest 2. Facebook’s Metaverse Active Pack will come with new grips for touch controllers to make the experience more immersive and life-like.
Like physical grips, these will help you maintain control while sweating and an exercise-optimised facial interface will assume the role of the humble towel – all inside the Metaverse. The idea is simple: to make fitness more personalized, interactive, and creative.
What will happen to data privacy?
The timing of the job declaration has come under the spotlight and been questioned by the experts. While the company has not shared many details about data privacy and use in the metaverse, controversies caused by Facebook’s handling of user data in the past means concerns have been expressed over how it would approach the qualitatively different, and likely more personal, data that users will develop in the metaverse.
Centring its development of the metaverse in Europe, where the European Union has put in place some of the world’s strictest data privacy and processing rules as part of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could be a part of a scheme to stay in step with regulators while building the new tech.
“The EU also has a crucial role to play in shaping the new rules of the internet. European policymakers are best the way in helping to embed European values like free expression, privacy, transparency, and the rights of individuals into the day-to-day workings of the internet,” the company said in the context of the plans to expand its metaverse push in Europe.
When can we expect to see it?
The Facebook founder estimates it could take five to 10 years before the key aspect of the metaverse become mainstream. But aspects of the metaverse currently exist. Ultra-fast broadband speeds, virtual reality headsets, and constant always-on online worlds are already up and running, even though they may not be reachable to all.
Is the metaverse good?
We will be in a virtual world with virtual avatars designed by people and we will connect with them. Some people might see it as a way out of their boring ordinary lives. Digital health might be at a risk. People have explicit their concerns about the same. Will it, by bringing people closer together digitally, rob them of their real life.
People will prefer the digital world that they have constructed over the gloomy real world in which they have been put by destiny.
All we can do is wait and see what the future has in store for us as nothing convincing can be stated so early in the development of the metaverse.