The Metaverse is the name for the virtual worlds people create, inhabit, and use to connect with one another. These online spaces are not yet mainstream, but the technology is getting closer by the day. In the most common vision of the Metaverse, social human interaction is at the center. People hide their identities behind avatars, and can trade, collaborate, invest in virtual real estate, and customize their own world. Players can do all of this with an internet connection, a smartphone, and a VR headset like the Oculus Quest 2. For some people, the experience is even more immersive than actual reality. A 16-year-old Pennsylvania boy was recently awarded $3 million for winning the online game Fortnite, which takes place in the Metaverse.
Companies are taking notice. In a recent survey, two-thirds of business leaders believe the Metaverse will have a significant impact on global business within 10 years. Many businesses already use the Metaverse to engage with customers, mostly through marketing and advertising. In addition, they are also using it for meetings and remote collaboration.
For example, a virtual booth at a trade fair could allow employees to engage with potential customers in a way that would be impossible or expensive to do in real life. Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder says that Metaverse-enabled meetings can add an element of realism to a remote work experience and help boost engagement, while improving culture.
Several technological advances are contributing to the rise of the Metaverse. Back-end engines are knocking down barriers to creation, facilitating a shift from 2-D internet spaces to fully immersive environments. Hardware is shrinking, and production costs are falling for VR headsets and other immersive devices, such as haptic gloves and bodysuits. In addition, the upcoming launch of 5G will enable much faster data transmission and reduce latency. Finally, new technologies such as edge computing allow data to be processed locally, reducing the bandwidth requirements of virtual worlds.
These developments are leading to the proliferation of the Metaverse, which is expanding beyond video games and into many other fields. For instance, Route History, an organization that explores the historic history of Black travelers along Route 66, has developed a Metaverse experience that allows people to see the road through the eyes of four different African-American characters. The experience is attracting visitors from all over the world.
The Metaverse is an exciting, fast-moving space with limitless possibilities. However, there are still challenges ahead, such as ensuring that virtual experiences are safe and secure. In addition, there is a need for standards to govern how the Metaverse evolves and the impact it has on the real world. Despite these hurdles, the future of the Metaverse is bright. In fact, it may be a lot more prevalent than you think.