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This is the term for the moment. And if its applications are pared down further thus far, the potential for the future is real.
Despite its seemingly bad reputation, the term metaverse was first coined thirty years ago, in 1992, by science fiction writer Neil Stephenson. His novel Snow Crash Metaverse envisions a 3D virtual world where individuals – through avatars – roam, interact and interact with each other and with AI-generated characters from the virtual world in which they travel.
In fact, according to the origin of its name, the metaverse (the contraction, in English, for “meta” and “universe”) is a meta-universe, that is, a virtual world. The term is regularly used to describe a future version of the Internet where virtual, permanent and shared spaces can be accessed through 3D interaction. The term “constant” is important because it indicates that the virtual world never stops, unlike the game, it exists and is constantly evolving, even when the user leaves it by disconnecting. In his absence, other people continue to develop there and the world changes. When reconnecting, the user finds a world that has moved.
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It’s a kind of parallel world, developing independently of the user as in real life, where the world keeps spinning when you sleep. Today, however, we are very far from that, and the term metaverse is used more broadly to define a virtual world where individuals can socialize, work, consume and play. What metaverse are we talking about? There are many acceptances and approaches to defining the metaverse. To facilitate understanding, entrepreneur Megan West favors an angle from the user’s point of view, and identifies three main families, in her article Metaverse 101: virtual reality, augmented reality, and virtual worlds.
1- Virtual Reality
Family One is the immersive world that can be experienced through headphones and haptic technology to touch, feel and move in a digital world. Linked to a special app, the headphones allow its users to discover a virtual world in virtual reality, in an immersive way. The possibilities of creating virtual worlds that the user can immerse themselves in are more and more, and the multiple uses: work, play, social, trade…everything is possible. For example, Facebook (which renamed itself “Meta” in October 2021) wants to create its own metaverse, spending $10 billion on it. Their core VR game “Horizon Worlds” is a social world that can be accessed using an Oculus headset.
2- Augmented Reality
Another family is the interactive experience that takes place in the physical world, covered with computer-generated objects and environments, through augmented reality technology. Augmented reality serves to recognize reality, which he learned to recognize, which will not only give him the signal to view the content, but also allow him to correctly position it in space. For example, in 2016, Pokémon GO (created by Niantic) took the world by storm, reaching 232 million users at its peak, with the core experience taking place in augmented reality. Players can move around the real/physical world to capture the pokemon contained in the app on their phone, which can appear anywhere and anytime. Snapchat is also part of this category, as it offers augmented reality filters (and augmented glasses simultaneously).
3- virtual worlds
It is certainly the closest explanation to metaphysics. Traditional games with avatars, skins, proprietary economies, and social platforms can be considered a metaverse in their own right. Existing players, mostly games, rank their positions. Others appear as well, each wanting to create a virtual world. Game players, such as Roblox or Fortnite, are looking to switch to metaverses. They are currently hosting virtual concerts and fashion shows. They have a central design for the metaverse, while new players build games and virtual worlds on the blockchain (such as Axie Infinity and Sandbox), allowing new ecosystems to be created in a decentralized space. For example, Roblox features a world where users can play millions of 3D games online, customize their avatars using skins, and spend/earn Robux, Roblox’s virtual currency.
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These are definitely metaverses 1.0, the beginnings of what will be the metaverses of the future, as we are at the beginning of this revolution. Almost everything has to be built, be it technical foundations, operating rules or uses. The metaverse presents itself as the “next generation of the Internet” – Web 3.0 – which hundreds of millions of users will use. The large corporations that exist, from GAFAM to gaming leaders, will likely play a major role in the development and evolution of the metaverse(s). With a central view of these virtual worlds. Decentralized platforms and services will want to emerge, offering truly immovable decentralized virtual worlds, with digital avatars and digital assets providing access to services, based on the foundational values of the blockchain. Virtual worlds where everyone can create their own virtual space, their own economy, provide services, sell artwork, etc. One thing is for sure, that consumers and brands must be agile, to stand out, adapt to these new uses, and thus seize the opportunities that these metaverses will bring.
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