Technology is that tool available to humans which has not just made the ‘only-imaginable’ a reality, but also the unimagined. Global tech giants, especially, have begun using the internet to its maximum potential, Metaverse being a piece of strong evidence. Who knew that one day, humans will be able to create their own avatars and replicate their whole real life on digital screens with the help of the internet?
Metaverse sounds familiar doesn’t it? Only a few knew about it before Facebook (now Meta) changed its name to Meta, fully rebranding itself. What gave metaverse even more impetus was the sudden landfall of the COVID-19 pandemic. Months of lockdown forced people to adapt to the virtual world making all realise the power of the internet’s unfathomable potential.
We have heard and read enough about this new word, and though we might have a fair idea about it, we might not have understood what it exactly is.
The term ‘Metaverse’ was first coined in 1992 by Sci-fi novelist Neal Stephenson in his novel named “Snow Crash”. Metaverse is a completely virtual world where people can create their own avatars or virtual representations of themselves and interact with other people’s avatars and objects. It is mainly a combination of virtual reality and augmented reality which makes the whole virtual experience real-life like.
According to the tech tycoons, Metaverse has the potential to let humans live life virtually almost exactly the same way they live a real-life, i.e work, play, shop, study, meet people, etc. Tech giants are also working towards building a metaverse that replicates real-life virtually in all ways possible.
Metverse has a few characteristics attached to it. One is that Metaverse can be accessed by using a computer, mobile phone, gaming console, or wearable device. Second, it will require you to wear a headset to give you an immersive experience. Third, it exists and operates at all times you wish to visit it. Further, it is also flexible as it enables you to add new virtual buildings or other objects. You can also find a place of residence for yourself in the metaverse and own it too. Just like social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook use AI to understand you and make recommendations accordingly, metaverse too will use user-generated content to build a virtual world for you according to your preferences and traits.
Up until 2021, Metaverse was still in its planning stage, however, 2022 has converted the plan into a reality. End users have already begun living a virtual life in the metaverse. The news of how users are using metaverse has indeed left us stunned.
During the pandemic, when weddings in India had to be postponed, a couple from Tamil Nadu conducted a wedding reception. They invited 2000 guests to a venue that stayed unaffected by all kinds of restrictions; the Metaverse. The couple, Dinesh Sivakumar Padmavathi and Janaganandhini Ramaswamy organised a Hogwarts-themed party. The invited guests could attend the party through their mobile phones, tablets or laptops. Metaverse enabled the couple to include the groom’s late father who passed away last year, by building the 3D avatar that looks similar to him. This was the first-ever of its kind to be held in the country.
Even celebrities seem to have started connecting with their fans in Metaverse. International celebrities like Justin Bieber, Marshmello, Ariana Grande and Travis Scott have hosted metaverse concerts during the pandemic allowing them to entertain their fans without flouting any COVID-19 rules. One of our most popular Indian artists, a Punjabi singer Daler Mehndi recently conducted a virtual concert in metaverse on 26th January (India’s Republic Day). Daler Mehndi’s virtual avatar performed some of his top songs. With this, he became the first Indian singer to perform in the metaverse.
Taking this up a notch, metaverse now has a shopping mall. Yes, you read that right. It’s called the metamall. It is a real estate seller of Metaverse in which users can spend hours, meet friends and interact with them at a cafe in real-time. They won’t have to worry about dressing up, booking a cab or stepping outside the house. Users can not just shop for products but also buy or lease a space in this mall. The price of a piece of real estate starts at USD 225 for a 900 square feet space and goes up to USD 27,000 for a large space. Each space existing in the mall is a non-fungible token (NFT) having a specific number. Just as you can buy these spaces, you can sell them to those interested in buying them from you. Metamall will be going live in April and is currently in its building stage.
Tech giants especially are in a highly competitive race to build the best metaverse to pull customers. Meta (formerly identified as Facebook) is obviously the first one to come to our minds when we talk about Metaverse. Others include Microsoft, Alibaba, Sony, Samsung, etc. Brands like Zara and Gucci too, are investing heavily in building their own metaverses.
Metaverse, as experts say, is the next big thing after the internet. This is exactly why it is such a big deal, especially among the youth who is already hooked to gaming. Nevertheless, like everything else has its own pros and cons, so does metaverse. It has the potential to help people connect with each other in every way unimagined. It also holds a chance to let people explore a virtual economy. It also offers opportunities for businesses and marketers. Metaverse will also give a great impetus to work and education. On the downside, metaverse might damage real-life human touch and connections. It will disconnect people from the actual physical world. Even though the craze of the metaverse is very much in the air, there has been news about the negative impact of this virtual world. A few days back, a woman claimed to have been gang-raped by three or four male avatars. Similarly, metaverse allows people to build a world of their own purely based on fiction and their imagination; a liberty that might not always be ethical.
Metaverse is still in its growing stage that yet needs to be largely explored. Whether this will really be the ‘next big thing after the internet’ and will it prove to be a game-changer, only time will tell.