The metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the internet. The word metaverse combines the prefix “meta” (meaning beyond), with “universe”. Thus a theoretically descriptive name was coined for one possible future we are moving toward on many different technological platforms. The term also appears in science fiction literature as an alternative reality made up of multiple universes or dimensions that form a cohesive world and has an existence independent from our level of reality.
This new concept combines elements from both virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online games. It provides for fictional three-dimensional environments to be accessed by users who interact with one another through means of virtual reality technology.
The concept also encompasses concepts derived from augmented reality and describes a future in which this type of reality has evolved into an interconnected metaverse, similar to the internet
The convergence of later technologies including augmented reality, current computing interfaces such as touchscreen devices, motion tracking sensors, miniature projectors, information networks like the Internet, or infrastructure communication network infrastructures will likely result in the development of a metaverse, although its manifestation is difficult to forecast at this stage due to many difficulties still faced by visionaries working on foundational elements for it.
Tim Berners Lee, an inventor of the early web and a director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), summarized his vision for what the future holds in terms of a metaverse consisting of “people, data, and software acting together to produce new forms of collective intelligence that will result from human-computer symbiosis”.
The term “metaverse” was first used by Neal Stephenson in his science fiction novel Snow Crash, published in 1992. Stephenson commented on the origin of the word:
Stephenson’s Metaverse is one example of a wide variety of virtual worlds which can be described as a replacement for reality under certain circumstances. This could include both cyberspaces, augmented reality, and other mixed reality concepts. Cyberpunk writer Bruce Sterling envisioned another type of hyperlinked metaverse, called the “Net” in his 1994 novel Islands in the Net.
The term “metaverse”, however, was not popularly adopted until its appearance as the name of a massively multiplayer online game or MMOG called Second Life.
The first-ever virtual world for this genre, launched by Linden Lab on June 23, 2003, is today, simply referred to as Second Life. And within four years, Second Life grew to become what could be considered a modern-day cyberspace equivalent with an increasing number of users creating content that posts into their worlds and experiences which are visible to other users.
This has caused Second Life to evolve more towards being a social networking platform rather than being just a gaming environment.
Although Second Life is currently the most successful example of a successful commercial metaverse, Linden Lab has not announced any plans for further development or expansion of it. Instead, they are concentrating efforts on technological development to create new tools that allow the easier creation of derivative works under compatible licenses.
It appears likely at this stage that other competing platforms will attempt to fill the perceived void left behind by the apparent stagnation in official Second Life development. Examples include Open Simulator, Ego – Emotional Cosmology Game, Yona, Virtual World Arcade, JanusVR, and Vridge. Another emerging metaverse is High Fidelity, founded by Second Life founder Philip Rosedale. High Fidelity runs on a new architecture developed from scratch and is aimed at overcoming the limitations of SL’s server-backed content distribution network.
In 2010, Mark Pesce proposed “The Next Internet” as a metaverse system with elements similar to those used in virtual worlds. In this article, he states that the next step after the internet is a move towards linking many different virtual worlds together into what he calls Digital Estate Planning, or DEP. According to Pesce, control over these assets will remain in existing corporate powers unless a more distributed system for data and services becomes adopted, which is not controlled by any one party.
The key enabling technology for this transition toward distributed digital estates is the blockchain.
In his seminal lecture from 2002, ” What is Web 2.0 “, Tim O’Reilly claims that a Metaverse will be built on top of a global computer. He states that through virtual goods and services we could create a world economy based on the arbitrary value which can be created by users of this system. This idea was later modeled in the Unity Asset Store, which has driven a large volume of content over recent years.
The term “synchronous metaverse” has been used to describe applications of virtual worlds which make use of server-side automation to realize additional functionality for which there would otherwise be no economic incentive to develop, using more conventional technologies such as web pages or mobile apps.
One example of this would be an online multiplayer game such as Second Life which runs entirely on the server-side and thus does not require any client download or installation. Another example of this is a 3D CAD program such as AutoCAD 360, where users share and edit their design work together in real-time over the internet.
In the context of a metaverse system, “cyberspace” is usually considered to refer to a user’s private virtual world backed by software running on that user’s local device (e.g. computer or smartphone).
This contrasts with systems where all users share one common world which they can view, interact within but cannot effectively customize for themselves. Cyberspace also differs from a web-based interface such as Facebook since it is not primarily based on web pages that are hosted on remote servers.
What is the metaverse in gaming?
In recent years virtual worlds such as Second Life, EVE Online, World of Warcraft, and others have often been referred to as metaverses on gaming forums and the Internet at large. While some use the term more broadly than others (Second Life is more specifically an open-ended social experience), these games do share certain qualities that make them worthy of comparison.
What makes these online worlds “metaverse” material? Here are some examples:
– The player inhabits an avatar that represents their identity within the game’s universe; thus you can play through your real-life movements and interactions.
– The world itself is immersive, usually consisting of a large number of locations that feel as if they were real places.
– Players can communicate either directly with one another or through some form of a chat system.
– It’s possible for players to create new content within the virtual world (including objects, buildings, spaceships, etc.) for others to see and use.
In addition, there are certain shared qualities between these games due to their nature as persistent worlds with thousands or millions of simultaneous participants. Resources tend not to be infinite; news stories can quickly spread from player to player; artificial currencies tend to fluctuate in value over time based on how many people buy them and how much the virtual economy is worth as a whole.
What distinguishes these types of games from other “metaverses” such as the internet as a whole, the Marvel universe, and so forth? A few characteristics:
– The player exists as an individual within their world rather than collectively with others who are unknown to them, (in the context of gaming).
– Player interaction tends not to be required for general participation in the game, though it does help quite a bit if you want to get ahead.
– The fictional world itself tends not to have much bearing on the real world – besides existing within it.