Metaverse: what is it and where are we headed?

Metaverse: what is it and where are we headed?

What is the metaverse?

Over the last years Internet users all over the world surely heard about the metaverse, the next possible evolution of the web spaces and experiences.

This concept comes directly from science fiction literature, specifically from the Neal Stephenson’s novel “Snow Crash” published in 1992, whose plot revolves around a place called metaverse and the events happening inside this strange hyper-connected world based on a 3D virtual reality populated by avatars. Certainly this was a point of view that could have seemed extremely fantastic in the past, when the Internet was much more linear and limited as a whole environment. But not today, today it might be real.

So, here comes the point: what it the metaverse? The most simple and complete definition of metaverse describes it as a shared, persistent and immersive 3D dimension where users can experience the Internet in ways they couldn’t before and overcome some borders about the limits of physical world. In short, the metaverse is the joining link connecting virtual reality with reality, but making the first one as real as the latter. Does it sound interesting, right?

What are the key elements of metaverse?

To exist and be actually real, the engineers working on metaverse systems need to take care of some important aspects, which also represent the actual foundation of the whole technology revolving around VR and AR dimensions.

Let’s take a look at the key elements of metaverse:

  • Connectivity is the essential element making metaverse real, because it’s clear that it wouldn’t be possible without the ability to interconnect different systems, platforms and applications through the Internet;
  • Interactivity comes next, as clearly it’s key to make the metaverse work that all these factors involved respond in a specific way to specific user’s inputs;
  • Virtual Worlds are what the metaverse was supposed to exist for, which means a large and open universe interconnecting different virtual dimensions and users – the avatars – in order to create kind of an alternative reality that looks as real the one we live in turning off the computers;
  • 3D Objects Rendering is the crucial element which makes the virtual worlds of the metaverse capable of connecting and interacting each other, through the process involved in the creation of three-dimensional contents by application programs;
  • Immersion and Sensory Feedback are what the metaverse experience was meant for, concerning the possibility to completely get involved in a virtual reality and live inside that with the feeling of moving across the unplugged reality, the real one indeed, testing on your own body the fascinating sensations that a different dimension can provide; to make this possible the metaverse needs the support of specific technologies and devices which help users to immerse in the virtual space, give and receive inputs to  and from the systems, such as joysticks or joypads, data gloves, motion trackers and of course VR headsets.

Metaverse explained: how to understand the next stage of VR

To understand better the evolution of the metaverse, the next stage of VR, it could be useful to check the three categories of virtual reality in terms of effectiveness of simulations produced by the systems:

  • Non-immersive simulations are the traditional virtual spaces where users interact with the system only through a video screen and a controller for giving inputs (joystick, joypad, keyboard, etc.), just like in the case of common videogames;
  • Semi-immersive simulations are those spaces which jump in and out virtual and physical realities, connecting both these dimensions for specific purposes with the support of technologies, for example Augmented Reality which includes 3D graphics and contents in the physical space via applications designed for it;
  • Fully-immersive simulations are the ones that’s possible to experience in the metaverse, so a wide open virtual environment interconnecting several virtual spaces and users in a simulation which completely cuts out the physical world, especially through the use of specific equipments, like the VR headsets and visors, that enhance the effectiveness of senses stimulations with 3D effects, high resolutions graphics and audios and immersive interaction with the virtual world.

The metaverse and the future: where are we headed?

What’s the possible future for the whole metaverse market? Where are we headed as Internet users for what concerns the creation and development of virtual spaces?

Let’s start from the first question, which is easier to answer by taking into account a few data collected through themed market researches. Starting from a total investment in the metaverse creation estimated around $51 billion in 2021 and grew up to around $68 billion in 2022, the value of this business seems to be increasing, expecting a total commitment around $92 billion in 2023; but it’s not all, as the estimated growth rate for the metaverse industry through all this decade is set around +44,5% for reaching a total market value around $1,3 trillion by 2030.

To answer the second question, instead, is not that easy. Where are we headed about the metaverse? It all depends on several factors to consider, for example:

  • What and how the metaverse will impact the way to experience things;
  • What will be the technologies required to experience the metaverse;
  • If and how users around the world will be truly impacted by the possible switch from physical world to the metaverse concerning a few aspects of their lives.

Of course, it’s probably unrealistic – for the moment – talking about scenarios similar to science fiction productions, but the point to ponder is: do people and business need the metaverse?

Indeed, this virtual environment is not only about videogaming or entertainment, but its application can be very interesting and useful also for other purposes concerning, for example, education, medicine, architecture and engineering, media production, retail and e-commerce. If the metaverse will deeply and positively impact on these sectors, it won’t be a surprise that it will be one of the key points of the digital transformation within the next few years.

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