Everything you need to know about the technologies changing our reality
The metaverse: a term that's been tossed around endlessly in Twitter Spaces and public forums. Pre-pandemic, the metaverse wasn't even in people's vocabulary, let alone their minds.
If you haven't heard of it, consider it as Ready Player One meets Westworld. Although there is no clear-and-cut way to describe "the metaverse," people often know what it refers to.
The metaverse is the next iteration of the internet, which is immersive, shared across servers, virtual, and, most importantly, decentralized. It's a space where people can escape the real world and live their dreams through digital means in a seamless and unified experience.
But the metaverse isn't quite there yet. Take Decentraland as an example, a 3D virtual world game where people can buy and sell plots of land with real money, gamble, host parties… you name it. Decentraland is one of many takes on the metaverse. Still, it faces quite a few challenges: the avatars are pixelated and unrealistic, the servers are siloed, the user base is dropping… the list goes on and on.
The only way Decentraland and other metaverse initiatives will advance to form a virtual utopia is by improving the technology running the show. These key technologies include spatial computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and blockchain.
Let's explore the key technologies that power the metaverse and what makes it a tech game-changer.
What is the Metaverse?
In 2021, Mark Zuckerberg did the unthinkable: he announced a pivot in Meta's company-wide vision. The tech giant would pour billions of dollars into creating what he deemed "the metaverse," or the successor to the internet.
And although Meta's change of heart brought uncertainty to its investors and the public, the metaverse is what hundreds of tech companies are building towards.
But what is it exactly? The metaverse is a virtual world that allows users to interact with a digital environment in a way that resembles real life. It intersects numerous industries and technologies like gaming, spatial computing, IoT, and blockchain. One of the most critical aspects of the metaverse is its ability to allow users to travel between virtual environments without interruption. Think of it as Minecraft, but you can walk your character into a Roblox world and interact with your environment.
In the blockchain/tech world, we call this "interoperability."
And although other gears keep the wheels of the metaverse turning, interoperability is one of the biggest challenges facing the people building this future.
How does the metaverse work?
Since the metaverse is a virtual reality space that functions similarly to the physical world, it needs a combination of advanced technologies to work correctly.
Without these key technologies and their advancements, the metaverse is nothing more than the web as we know it.
One of the key technologies powering the metaverse is blockchain, which provides a decentralized and secure platform for creating, storing, and verifying transactions.
Using blockchain in the metaverse ensures all transactions are transparent, tamper-proof, and censorship-resistant. So unlike Meta running the show, which could lead to privacy issues, a lack of interoperability, and other challenges stemming from Web 2.0, the ideal metaverse wouldn't be owned and controlled by a single entity.
With the power of blockchain technology, users can transact and truly own their data and assets.
Spatial computing comes next on the list of key technologies powering the metaverse. It's leveraging digital technology, including virtual reality, augmented reality, geospatial mapping, and 3D engines, to help computers interact in a three-dimensional world.
But although Sandbox has created an experience resembling a metaverse, it needs more immersion. Users can own land, buy and sell items, and even create their assets, but they can only dive deep into the game if it has VR and AR integration.
Other metaverse experiences, notably Meta's Horizon Worlds, have integrated components of spatial computing to increase the user's immersion further, but the technology has yet to mature.
The Internet of Things
Have you ever heard of the IoT? It's the Internet of Things: a web of computing devices, software, sensors, objects, and people that connect and exchange data.
Most of the technologies you see nowadays have an integrated IoT system. Take self-driving cars as an example—their built-in sensors detect vehicles, pedestrians, and objects on the road, which send data to the central computer. The central computer then processes this data and takes appropriate measures to ensure the driver reaches their destination without hassle.
Although the IoT currently has a small impact on the metaverse, integrating VR and AR will put IoT at the forefront of key technologies powering the metaverse.
By now, you've probably heard of OpenAI's GPT-3 and DALL-E 2 technology —it's changed how we work, search, and gather information quicker. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can potentially shape the future of humanity and the metaverse.
The integration of AI can enable us to navigate and explore the metaverse in entirely new ways by providing us with greater control, automation, and previously impossible insights.
AI also has the potential to generate new experiences, tools, and avatars faster than ever before. Take NVIDIA's Omniverse as an example: adding AI helps developers create workflows and generative digital assets ten times more quickly.
Examples of the metaverse
Although the original vision of the metaverse lies in an immersive, interoperable, and decentralized experience that blends our digital Life with reality, there have been several takes on the metaverse over the past decade.
One of the most prominent examples of a metaverse is Second Life, a virtual world where users can create avatars and interact with one another in a 3D environment. Second Life was first released in 2003 and has since become a profitable business platform. Within Second Life,
users can build interactive 3D environments, buy and sell virtual goods, and establish businesses.
Another famous example of a metaverse is the world of Roblox, which was created in 2006. Roblox is particularly suited for gaming, allowing users to create virtual worlds, games, and experiences. It has a thriving virtual economy, with millions of users spending their virtual currency on cosmetics and other items.
These two experiences need one key technology that makes them less than ideal: blockchain. Decentraland and Sandbox aim to use blockchain technology to their advantage, with decentralization as a point of differentiation. Both games run on robust blockchains, which
allows users to buy, sell, and trade items and land without the interference of a third party, build 3D digital assets through open-source software, and much more.
The metaverse is a vast, interconnected virtual world comprising various technologies such as blockchain, spatial computing, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence. It is a persistent environment that allows users to interact with one another, access virtual goods and
services, and interact with digital data in real time.
Currently, the metaverse needs advanced features to make it a seamless integration between digital and reality. But as time marches on, it will be expanded and improved by developers and users alike. With its expansive possibilities and ever-growing technology, the metaverse is the future of digital space.
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