Everyone’s talking about the metaverse right now – but does it actually exist? Or are we still a long way away from Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a shared virtual reality?
With Facebook recently changing its name to Meta, there is more conversation than ever before about the metaverse – a shared, persistent digital environment where users can do practically anything, including work, play, make cinema trips, game, go to concerts, play sports, and hang out.
But at this point, is the metaverse real?
In a nutshell: No. We don’t have a shared metaverse at this time.
The metaverse concept could be more than a decade away from becoming fully realized, and it’s clear that a true metaverse will require cooperation among the biggest players in the tech world.
However, several companies are working on creating pieces of what could eventually be part of an interconnected metaverse.
- Epic Games, the company that developed Fortnite, has hosted virtual concerts by huge artists like Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, as well as movie trailers and music debuts. The company is also developing photorealistic digital humans with its MetaHuman Creator, which you can potentially use to customize your metaverse avatar in the future.
- Roblox houses a large variety of user-generated games where users can build homes, work and play out different scenarios. The company also teamed up with skateboarding shoe company Vans to create Vans World (a virtual skateboarding park where players can dress up in virtual Vans gear) and opened a Gucci Garden, where you can try on and buy clothing and accessories from the world-famous luxury clothing brand.
- Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella recently said the company is working to build an "enterprise metaverse" as digital and physical worlds converge in its offerings.
- Investment firm Roundhill Investments created an exchange-traded fund (ETF) to track and profit from metaverse companies.
- Computer chip maker Nvidia Corp built its Omniverse platform for creating simulations of real-world buildings and factories. This platform could be the "plumbing" on which metaverses could be built.
- And of course, Meta (formerly Facebook) is also positioning itself towards the metaverse with its virtual reality social media platform, Horizon, which is currently in Beta. It also has a project called “Live Maps” that will create 3D maps of the world using augmented reality (AR).
Metaverses won’t need to be limited to one platform. Your avatar could move from virtual reality (VR) environments to 3D applications rendered on a flat-screen monitor or TV, to AR apps on your mobile phone, depending on circumstances and what your goals are. The important thing is that there's a continuous user experience in the metaverse.
With AR and VR becoming more mainstream and high-end, more affordable headsets that are making virtual worlds a reality for more users, the metaverse seems like it might be just around the corner.
But as of right now, the parts and pieces of what might become the metaverse are still coming together, and the battle for which company will dominate the metaverse is still just beginning.
If you would like to learn more about the rise of virtual and augmented reality, check out my book, Extended Reality in Practice: 100+ Amazing Ways Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality Are Changing Business and Society, and subscribe to my YouTube channel.