WTF is the metaverse? – Digiday

The successor to the Internet could be rooted in the gaming industry.

The term “Metaverse” was coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”. In “Snow Crash,” Metaverse is a massively popular virtual world experienced first-hand by users equipped with augmented reality technology.

Over the past year, executives and creatives from the gaming and technology industries have given new life to the Metaverse concept, framing massive multiplayer games like “Fortnite: Battle Royale,” “Roblox” and “Minecraft” as the forerunners of a world. expansive digital that combines Stephenson’s fictional metaverse with a real-world that has been increasingly digitized during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with The Verge last week, Mark Zuckerberg turned his head around thinking that Facebook would go from being a social media company to “a Metaverse company” in the next five years.

“It’s probably fair to say that what we have today isn’t the Metaverse yet,” said Moritz Baier-Lentz, a partner at venture capital fund BITKRAFT Ventures, designed for Metaverse. “But when you ask people to describe Metaverse, most would converge on something that is the theme of ‘Ready Player One’: a persistent bridge between the physical and digital worlds with unprecedented scale, interactivity and interoperability.”

With so many different interpretations of Metaverse, here’s an introduction to what’s in its purest form, and why it’s excited everyone, from Roblox to AB InBev.

Metaverse is a “successor state” of the modern Internet, with the same content, but with fewer limitations as to where and how this content can be accessed. Current online platforms allow users to move freely within specific service boundaries, but limit cross-platform interoperability: you can build anything in “Minecraft”, but you can’t transfer your creations to a “Fortnite” map. Metaverse will allow users to generate their own content and distribute it freely throughout a widely accessible digital world.

Unlike the modern Internet, Metaverse users will experience real-time changes by all users. If a user makes any changes to Metaverse, that change will be permanent and immediately visible to the rest. The persistence and interoperability of Metaverse will allow users greater continuity of identity and experience compared to the modern Internet. On Metaverse, users will not have to have separate Twitter profiles, “Fortnite” characters, and Reddit accounts; they will simply be themselves on all channels. This continuity of identity will be a key factor in how users buy and consume content on Metaverse.

“Brands that are progressive in this area are the ones that understand the fact that self-expression is such an important component of why people spend so much time online,” said Christina Wootton, vice president of associations. Roblox brands. “They can be who they want to be.”

BITKRAFT, a venture capital fund that invests in Metaverse-focused game and technology developers, describes Metaverse as the product of a growing “synthetic reality”: the increasing convergence of the physical and digital worlds that only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. But players had already been socializing and creating content mainly on the net. “What excites us about investing in games, sports, and interactive media is that games are essentially a spearhead of this broader trend,” Baier-Lentz said. “There are many examples where the innovations that were originally developed for gaming use cases have triggered far-reaching innovations, not just through the media ecosystem, but really through technology in general.” He pointed to graphics cards as an example: once developed for 3D calculations in games before becoming a backbone of artificial intelligence, among other technologies.

Video games like “Fortnite” and “Roblox” show a kind of cultural interoperability that would extend to Metaverse. For example, in a single game, players disguised as Lebron James can fight others with the appearance of comic book characters like Deadpool or the Joker. In addition, the multiplayer experience of these games suggests the continuity of the real-time experience that Metaverse offers. Travis Scott’s “Fortnite” concert last year allowed more than 12 million players from around the world to attend the same concert in real time, though they were limited to interacting with up to 49 more users in any “room” of experience. This successful event sparked a trend towards “Fortnite” and therefore Metaverse. Last month, marketers took the concept one step further by recreating London’s O2 Arena within the game before a concert with the easy life of the British band.

There are still quite a few obstacles on the way to a good faith metavar. The most important hurdles are hardware limitations: at the moment, global computing and networking capabilities are not yet able to withstand a persistent digital world that millions of simultaneous users can experience in real time. Even if this level of network and computing power were available, the energy consumption of this effort would create problems for both national electricity grids and the environment.

In cases where technology is sufficient, major cultural changes are needed to drive the development of a true metaverse. Relatively high-quality virtual reality and augmented reality technologies are now available to consumers, but less than 20% of Americans have taken virtual reality headsets for a spin, according to a 2020 report by Thrive Analytics and ARtillery Intelligence.

While that is likely to change: Baier-Lentz predicted that devices mounted on the head of VR and AR have a “good chance” at surpassing gaming consoles as early as 2025.

Interoperability. Right now, even so-called Metaverse forerunners like “Fortnite” don’t allow players to recreate their own user-generated content (UGC) on other platforms. To allow true interoperability between platforms, companies that own these platforms must relinquish some control over the content and user experience of their player bases. This process is already underway. Sony, a famous hurdle against cross-platform gaming, recently moved to allow PlayStation users to interact more often with players from other consoles.

Shahar Sorek, CMO of Overwolf, an all-in-one UGC platform, believes that this relinquishment of control is inevitable because UGC (unlike content created by developers) is fast becoming a central aspect of the modern gaming experience. . “Unlike banks or any other centralized system, there is an experience that is shared with a community, and how the community reacts to that experience is at the core of what drives engagement,” Sorek said. “So a game creator, if they see their community trying to create content, they have to change, because they understand that if they don’t, a competitor will come.”

“I hope that the future, as we envisage it, is truly decentralized and in the hands of users as citizens,” Baier-Lentz said. “By far, the best and perhaps the only solution we have for something like this today is blockchain technology and web-built applications3.”

Without the oversight of a Metaversal government or other regulatory body, blockchain technology would ensure that Metaverse transactions and identities are secure and public. In addition, non-expendable tokens (NFTs) would allow Metaverse users to own unique, personalized items, just like in the real world, and cryptocurrencies provide a roadmap for how a metaversal economy could take shape. . The creation of this metaversal economy is already underway: some companies, such as AB InBev, have already begun auctioning off limited-edition brand NFT for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to Sorek, the Metaverse currency will likely be something between modern cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum and the V-Bucks of “Fortnite”. “Maybe every game creator would offer a testimonial to buy just like V-Bucks,” Sorek said. “They would have their own change and you could take revenue from one another.”

Probably, although its future users may simply know it as the Internet. At no time will a flip be changed to activate Metaverse; rather, Metaverse will occur gradually, as cultural changes and technological updates give Internet users the ability to move more and more freely and create and share personalized content on the web more easily. Just as no formal change marked the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, the development of Metaverse will occur naturally as people spend more time online and link their identities more to their lives. digital.

Although “Fortnite” and “Roblox” are often described as precursors of Metaverse, the most significant precursor of Metaverse is the Internet itself. But if the Internet is a video tour of the apartment, which gives brief visits to each room in a defined sequence, the Metaverse would be the apartment itself. We may not be living there yet, but we have already signed the lease.

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