How does the metaverse work?

by | Sep 20, 2021

Woman uses a VR headset in the metaverse.
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Unlike the internet, you can’t just log onto the metaverse. The metaverse is an immersive, interactive 3D world that blurs the lines between physical and virtual reality (VR). Using VR headsets or goggles, you’re immersed in a virtual environment that simulates a sensory experience of sight, sound, and even touch. Haptic devices let you “touch” objects as you make your way through your virtual world. Your avatar (a virtual representation of you) can socialize, play, explore, work, and travel the world without ever leaving home.

In reality, we’re not certain what the metaverse will look like in the future. But it’s beginning to take shape as tech companies continue to build it. Mark Zuckerberg recently announced virtual conference rooms and meeting spaces accessible through VR. Games like Roblox and Fortnite are going beyond gameplay and introducing concert experiences within their apps. And crypto-investors spurred a brief land rush for virtual real estate during the late-pandemic non-fungible tokens (NFT) boom.

Understanding the metaverse

The metaverse could be described as a futuristic, , VR world with shared virtual spaces. But experts in the technology world see it as much more.

Matthew Ball, the creator of The Metaverse Primer and a co-founder of Ball Metaverse Research Partners, describes it as an indefinite, unending virtual experience with its own fully functioning economy. Another metaverse thought leader, Jon Radoff, has a different take on how the metaverse works. He defines the metaverse as an evolution of the internet “into a creative space for anyone who wants to craft experiences.”

A single platform won’t be able to encompass the entire metaverse. Instead, platforms will have to work together to create it. Here’s one way to look at it: emerging media, like Epic Game’s Fortnite or Facebook’s Horizon, may operate in the metaverse, but they don’t make up the metaverse. They’re merely ways we can interact with it.

Two designers work with VR headsets in the metaverse to design an city.

What can you do in the metaverse?

Let’s explore some examples of tech companies that are building the metaverse, from Facebook to Microsoft to Roblox.

Facebook’s virtual conference room

Think the metaverse is a cool cyber world of hackers and dangerous viruses? Mark Zuckerberg begs to differ. According to Zuck, the metaverse is for creating virtual conference rooms accessed through the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset. Using it, people can enter a virtual office room as an avatar and go to a meeting. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

This type of technology could be helpful to remote and hybrid business teams. That’s the intention behind Facebook’s first foray into the metaverse, and there’s more to come. Horizon, Facebook’s virtual reality game, is currently in the beta phase.

The “enterprise metaverse” and Microsoft

Like Facebook, Microsoft sees significant applications for business. Microsoft envisions creating live, digital replications of real-world places and environments. These digital twins allow users to apply analytics and simulations, producing vital insights and solutions, or what Microsoft calls “metaverse apps.” These apps can then be applied to real-world situations.

The interconnected world of metaverse gaming

Gaming naturally lends itself to the metaverse. Thanks to technology like VR, . And it gets better as new technology emerges. Gamers are already creating avatars and interacting with others online. In what may be a preview of gaming in the metaverse, up to 100 players can now gather in a digital space to play games like Fortnite Battle Royale.

Standout games offer more than just gameplay. Many work with musicians to provide concerts or offer in-game shopping for “skins” or new weapons for characters.

Fortnite and Epic Games

Fortnite is one of the first genuinely cross-platform games, and it’s free. Users can play it on consoles, PCs, and (Android) mobile phones. Fortnite’s parent company, Epic Games, has long been on the route to the metaverse, and they’re getting closer every day.

Beyond securing funds to advance their technology, the CEO of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, has spoken on the topic. He believes barriers between different OS or platforms will eventually cease to exist as the metaverse grows. In his opinion, everything will develop and work together seamlessly.

What about Roblox?

Roblox empowers creators to make their own experiences within the app for free. Over 2 million developers have created 20 million multiplayer games through a free game development studio. Roblox creators can develop first-person shooters, maze-runners, and simulators. Depending on how engaging a game is, users can even earn “Robux,” the platform’s digital currency.

Female worker uses a VR headset and the metaverse to run scenarios.

How “real” is the metaverse?

While it’s clear that many tech companies are taking steps towards creating it, the metaverse hasn’t fully arrived. Creating a truly integrated, interconnected world that works seamlessly will require collaboration instead of competition. There are many moving parts to consider, too—from XR to the IoT to the users themselves.

There are still many questions about how to use the metaverse. Can you use one digital avatar across the entire metaverse? Will the metaverse be open-source or closed? Will there be one operating system (OS), or will it be possible for the different OS to work together?

When it reaches its potential, the metaverse may change our world as much, if not more, than the internet did.

Check out these other topics about virtual reality:
Types of extended reality: AR, MR, and VR
Is social virtual reality the next big thing?

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