What will life in the new metaverse look like?
What would our lives look like if the metaverse become part of everyday life?
- Socialising in the metaverse
- Goodbye Zoom meetings?
- Blockchain in the metaverse
- The risks of the metaverse
Deep in the forest a wooden dome hovers in the air. Visitors must venture across the jungle bridge to enter the dome. Inside, quirky vibrant art hangs from the walls, which collectors can purchase in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). This NFT gallery is one of the many destinations players can visit in the Origin metaverse, once it launches next year.
There is a reason why it looks like the planet Endor from Star Wars. One of the artists who designed the gallery also worked on the hit science fiction movies. Metaverse reality projects are attracting talented designers and developers as it is being seen as the next big technological leap.
When asking ‘what is the metaverse?’, the definition essentially ties together a virtual world with social interaction. Dorian Banks is a metaverse and blockchain expert who is the chief executive of Looking Glass Labs, creator of Origin. He describes the metaverse as a: “virtual recreation of the world as we know it but with unlimited possibilities”.
Users will be able to instantly transport between locations, change their character, and visit museums, all without leaving their home. As Dorian puts it, there are “no limits in any possible way”.
With the Facebook rebrand to Meta and other companies like Microsoft taking the leap, the metaverse could eventually become part of our everyday lives. Catching up with friends over the phone could be replaced by gossiping in a virtual space station. Instead of video work meetings, employees could be using headsets to enter a virtual reality (VR) board room.
The new technology is being likened to the invention of the internet as it will affect our lives in pretty much every way. But what would that look like for the metaverse? Follow me as I take you on a personal tour on how the metaverse will change the world.
Socialising in the metaverse
Putting on a VR headset transports the user to a live Jon Batiste concert, where fans can enjoy the virtual gig to its full energetic and glittery effect, even if they are on the other side of the planet. That’s one of the ways Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, imagined socialising in a metaverse reality.
The physical experience of being at a concert seems a difficult sensation to replicate. But experts think this experience is possible. Banks said: “Our brand director went into our metaverse the other day and all he wrote after was ‘Wow I don’t know if that was scary or super fun’ because it was so realistic.”
It is not just concerts. We’ll be socialising in the metaverse in a variety of ways. Virtual hang outs with friends and family have become a norm during the Covid-19 pandemic and the metaverse provides a new way of doing that. From relaxing on an island to playing poker to visiting museums, this technology provides a whole range of possibilities.
Gaming has already met a lot of the metaverse factors. The Nintendo game Animal Crossing: New Horizons gave players an opportunity to socialise on each other’s islands during the pandemic.
Gaming is also a huge industry. The global market was valued at $173bn in 2020 and is expected to reach $314bn in 2026. It is almost certain that gaming will become an essential part to the metaverse industry, but this experience could range from simple games like chess to more immersive experiences.
The metaverse will give users a way to engage with their favourite brands as well. Banks gave the example of Uber Eats. Imagine an Uber Eats stand that people can walk up to and order food. “Then 45 minutes later, it gets delivered to your real world home,” he said.
Goodbye Zoom meetings?
Video meetings have struggled to recreate the office experience, but the metaverse might be able to make it more interesting and interactive.
When asked about what that would look like, Banks said: “You’ll fire up your metaverse, whether it’s on a computer or a headset, and you walk into a boardroom or you'll go sit in a field, or whatever you’re choosing to do. You’ll sit there and wait for people to appear and everyone will appear and you’ll hang out and chat with each other. One person will stand up and go to the white board or to a projector and start presenting a meeting. It’s going to be really that simple.”
This experience is going to come sooner rather than later as Microsoft has announced plans to incorporate a metaverse in Teams. Users can log on as avatars or via their webcam, then the meeting will take place in a virtual space, which could be designed by the business. Microsoft think this will combat the fatigue that comes with online meetings. Its metaverse reality experience is expected to launch next year.
Banks has been to a metaverse conference and one of the things that surprised him was the realistic audio. He could hear the faint murmur of people talking but could not make out what they were saying because they were far away. Saying hello to the person sitting next to him was “hyper realistic” because the audio changed as he turned his head.
As well as meetings, metaverse technology is providing businesses with new capabilities. It is giving potential consumers the opportunity to test products. In the Origin metaverse, there is a racetrack where users can test drive Teslas. This gives businesses a platform to market test products without barriers to access or too much of a cost.
Blockchain in the metaverse
The digital nature of the blockchain lends itself perfectly to the metaverse universe with the technology transforming the experience in a number of ways.
It seems fitting that digital currency will be used in a digital world. Tamás Kádár, chief executive and co-founder of fraud prevention business SEON, said: “It’s no doubt that (the metaverse) won’t send money via money transmitter services like PayPal. They can still do that, but I think the default currency will be one of the cryptocurrencies.”
This is already being done. MANA is the cryptocurrency used in Decentraland, a virtual world where users can create, explore and trade. There are virtual buildings in Decentraland in the form of NFTs, which can be bought using MANA.
It is likely that Facebook will use cryptocurrencies in its metaverse reality, as last month it launched Novi, its own digital wallet. The social media company has also announced it will be launching its own cryptocurrency called Diem, but is yet to give an initial coin offering date.
Currency is not the only way the blockchain will be implemented in the metaverse. Kádár said an individual’s items they have collected or bought will be stored as NFTs. He goes as far as to say everything visible in the metaverse will be an NFT.
A metaverse reality is going to be an artist’s paradise as there are endless possibilities of what needs to be designed. Jawad Ashraf, chief technology officer and co-founder of Terra Virtua, said: “Whatever, however, and wherever an artist wants to create, produce and showcase their creations, this can be done with just a few steps. It’s the ability to create art that can be touched, used, interacted with all without causing any damage to it. Just like art, the possibilities, as technology continues to improve, are only limitless.”
This will also provide artists and creators with a stream of revenue. Even after the initial sale of NFTs, some metaverses will give artists a resale portion. Every time their item is sold from consumer to consumer, the artist will get a percentage of the sale.
The risks of the metaverse
The virtual eutopia does come with its own problems. Like cryptocurrency, a metaverse will likely be prone to fraud and malicious attacks. As users will be making a variety of transaction, there is a monetary motive for hackers. “Fraudsters always prefer to target sites where the items being sold are digital and intangible items, so I think that the risk is high,” said Kádár.
He expects that users will try to steal goods from each other through identity theft. By stealing accounts, fraudsters will gain access to possessions that have the potential to be high in value. Kádár is working with businesses selling digital items like avatars and says fraudsters target them because these goods are easy to sell.
Security breaches are nothing new to the social media industry. Personal data from 533 million Facebook accounts, including phone numbers and email addresses, were leaked earlier this year.
Safety and security concerns are going to become more pressing as it is likely metaverses will become part of our everyday lives. Experts think it will be essential to regulate how the metaverse will work. Ashraf said: “It is important that as the world starts to embrace it that we look at building out a set of rules and principles on which it can work. It shouldn’t be there to replace our day-to-day lives but help enhance it.”
Facebook, Microsoft and Disney are some of the technology giants that have revealed plans to create their own metaverses. As more businesses take the technological leap, it is going to become increasingly integrated into our everyday lives. This will range from hanging out with friends in a space station to attending work meetings in a virtual office.
Blockchain technology is already being integrated in several metaverses. Take Decentraland for example. It sells virtual properties as NFTs that can be bought with MANA, its native cryptocurrency. Experts say that when metaverses become widely integrated, every visible item will be an NFT.
Investors can get involved in the metaverse in a variety of ways. Cryptocurrencies used in metaverses, like MANA, can be traded on Currency.com as well as other crypto exchanges. Investors can also purchase items in metaverses as NFTs which could later be sold on for a profit. For example, Decentraland allows users to buy and trade virtual property NFTs. Although there are legitimate metaverse projects, there are also scams. Remember to always do your own research before investing and never invest more than you can afford to lose.