Some of the world’s biggest companies are making quite a fuss about the metaverse, and it seems like it is only going to become an ever-bigger part of our lives. That’s certainly the plan for Meta and Microsoft, although whether it becomes the all-encompassing entity that the likes of Mark Zuckerberg are hoping it will become remains to be seen.
We do know the concept itself is here to stay, primarily because it has been around for a good while now in a variety of forms. In fact, ‘the metaverse’ is something of a misnomer, as there are multiple metaverses already in existence and many more likely to come.
Let’s have a look at exactly what constitutes a metaverse and its implications for business as well as our daily lives.
What is a Metaverse?
While each metaverse may vary in its actual presentation and function, ultimately, they are all a form of virtual reality (VR) which allows people from all over the world to interact with each other and whatever features are included in the metaverse construct.
It’s not like the old VR technology that spawned dozens of variable quality sci-fi movies in the 1990s, nor the current generation of immersive VR video games for PlayStation and Xbox. That older kind of VR provides singular experiences that end when you log out. A metaverse continues existing after you logged out, much like the real world continues while we sleep at night.
Metaverse users can interact with other users by creating avatars of themselves, as well as take part in digital events and activities. Items can also be obtained and retained between sessions, like how you level-up a character in a video game. But while video games are an obvious application for metaverses, the possibilities extend much farther than that.
Video games undoubtedly pioneered the concept of the metaverse, with titles such as Second Life along with massively multi-player online role-playing games like World of Warcraft. Those games take place in a digital world with users interacting via created avatars, with the world continuing to exist and evolve after a user logs out.
Meta is one of the more well-known companies driving the development of the metaverse. The owner of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp has been invested in VR since 2014 when it acquired VR headset innovators Oculus. Following privacy controversies, the company even re-named itself Meta in 2021 due to the company’s growing focus on the metaverse (the term itself was actually coined back in 1992 by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in his novel ‘Snow Crash’).
While Meta’s metaverse ideas are wide-ranging and primarily focused on socialization, Microsoft have had a more business-minded approach. The company’s plan is to add VR and AR (augmented reality) elements to its collaboration platform Mesh so users of Microsoft Teams can participate in video meetings via metaverse avatars instead of the usual webcam close-ups few people are fond of.
Using artificial intelligence to interpret the user’s voice, the Mesh avatars will lip sync along with what the user is saying, and the 3D version will enable hand gestures to accentuate speech.
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