What exactly is the “metaverse”? | Business | Economic and financial news from a German point of view | DW


It’s been a long day. You spent the morning jumping between conference rooms, stealing five minutes from the break room to talk to a colleague about a concert you’re going to that night. You find yourself on site after work, delighted to see your favorite K-Pop group performing live. After the show is over, you buy a t-shirt and try to forget that you saw your ex-boyfriend there.

A fairly typical day. The twist? You did everything without leaving your home. Welcome to the metaverse.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse does not have a unique creator or definition. It can be loosely defined as a digital reality, similar to the World Wide Web, but combining aspects of social media, augmented reality, online gaming, and cryptocurrency to allow users to act and interact virtually. . Although the concept is still in its infancy, its potential is enormous.

“I’m pretty sure at this point that… the metaverse is going to be a new economy bigger than our current economy,” said Jensen Hang, CEO of graphics chip maker NVIDIA. NVIDIA, a company whose investment in the Metaverse has led some to predict it will one day overtake Apple, is just one of many companies scrambling to claim the Metaverse’s gold rush. Epic Games, Microsoft and many others have started their own initiatives.

For years, Facebook has been moving in this direction by investing in virtual and augmented reality technologies. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he expects people to someday think of the social media company rather than a metaverse company. This week, Facebook doubled down on the project, announcing a major metaverse initiative in Europe.

Second Life is one of several interactive games that already contain metaverse elements.

Put it all together

“Instead of just viewing content, you are there,” Mark Zuckerberg told tech blog The Verge in July, contrasting the idea of ​​the metaverse with the standard two-dimensional web pages that currently populate the internet.

Iterations of the metaverse have been around for years, whether it’s social media, virtual reality, online gaming, or the cryptocurrency realm.

Interactive and world-building games like Second Life, Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox all have elements of the metaverse. Users can work and collaborate there, attend events, and exchange real money for virtual goods and services.

So far, however, these worlds have been self-contained. The visionaries of the metaverse predict a virtual universe where one can move seamlessly between these different types of digital worlds. Users could even maintain the same virtual identity – in the form of a digital avatar – and the capital they own in one world would have the same value in another. They would pay for everything with a universally accepted digital currency.

The cryptofactor

The payout angle is especially good for cryptocurrency fans. Cryptocurrencies have been causing a stir this year, and that’s partly due to growing public awareness of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a technology that could play a key role in the metaverse.

NFTs are a type of abstruse digital asset that function more or less like virtual collectibles. One NFT, a JPG of a photo collage, made headlines earlier this year when it sold for $ 69 million (€ 59 million). Earlier this month, fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana sold a collection of clothing in NFT form, some of which are intended to be worn by digital avatars.

NFT auction in Hong Kong

Immersive art installations will also be part of the metaverse sphere

In some existing virtual worlds, users are already paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency to purchase NFTs of real estate and digital goods. Famous art dealer Sotheby’s recently acquired his own piece of digital real estate, which he used to build a replica of his London galleries. He then organized a virtual art exhibition there.

The transaction and ownership of most NFTs is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain, the blockchain network that hosts Ether, the second largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin. This puts

NFT and Ethereum well positioned to become the structural backbone of the metaverse. Such a move could also accelerate the adoption of cryptocurrencies by the general public, thereby legitimizing crypto as a form of payment.

The COVID-19 outbreak

Full functionality of the Metaverse is probably still decades away. Key technologies, especially in the arena of augmented reality, have yet to become mainstream, and the metaverse raises a whole range of legal questions as well. Its creation will also require a degree of technical cooperation between companies that seems unrealistic considering the landscape of mobile phone chargers.

But the momentum is there, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated its development. Global digitization efforts have seen a huge boost after the health crisis prompted millions of people to work from home, and in some ways digital communication platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams have familiarized people with the concepts at heart. of the metaverse. Many companies are already trying to digitally replicate the spontaneity of human interaction in the office for employees working from home. Even DW has launched formal internal chat rooms called “break room” and “hallway” dedicated to promoting informal discussions among colleagues.

While still in its infancy, the metaverse could be an $ 800 billion market as early as 2024, Bloomberg Intelligence reported in July.

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