The Briefing

How far away is the metaverse?

Science fiction, memes and Facebook — welcome to the metaverse.

November 25, 2021
Reading time 2 min.

🌈 A quick taster for you:  

  • Is Facebook now recreating ‘The Sims’ in virtual reality? 
  • Science fiction without the fiction.
  • An online concert for 27 million people.

🧐 Why do I care?

Now not only are the jokes and memes about Facebook meta, but the company itself. Mark Zuckerberg has renamed his Facebook Inc. to Meta. There's more to this than the old "Raider is now called Twix but nothing else has changed" type of story. If you want to know what’ll change with your social networks in the future, then join us on a journey into the metaverse.

🔍 What exactly is happening here?

  • What is the metaverse?
    The metaverse is a digital and 3-D world, where we can do everything and anything via our avatar. So we can party, spend a relaxing evening at home, go shopping, attend concerts, or even go to work — all in a digital parallel universe. It's kind of like ‘The Sims’, except that it’s easier for everyone to join in. Hmm, does it sound like total science fiction and somewhat unrealistic? Well, let’s first address point one, and then we’ll get to point two. 
  • Where does the idea of the metaverse come from?
    Originally, the idea for the metaverse came from the sci-fi novel ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson (1992) — it’s in this book that the word ‘metaverse’ was used for the first time. Spoiler alert: The story is set in a dystopian world, in which life isn't really worth living, and so the main character escapes into a nicer online parallel world: the metaverse. This idea of the metaverse has since been the inspiration behind many movies, including The Matrix and Ready Player One.
  • Science or fiction?
    If you're a gamer, then all of this won’t sound new to you. Second Life has tried something similar, online games like Minecraft or Fortnite offer the possibility to deep dive into virtual worlds, and 27 million people attended Travis Scott's virtual concert via Fortnite in April 2020. Of course, due to the Corona pandemic, living in a virtual world practically became part of all our lives, as we met friends online, studied online, and spent countless hours trapped in zoom meetings. So on paper, the idea is not new. But on paper, the metaverse is not supposed to take place.
    It seems that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are the technologies most likely to create the metaverse. If we put on our VR glasses and take two controllers in our hands, we can already move freely in another world. AR, on the other hand, merely adds virtual elements to our existing world — just like playing Pokémon Go.
    In addition to a wide variety of gaming companies, Facebook — recently rebranded as Meta — has also gotten in on the act, and its big vision for the metaverse is that we’ll no longer need controllers or devices to move around in this world. Instead, a mere contact lens will be enough for us to experience the metaverse.

🤓 What does this mean for me?

The metaverse is a very exciting topic, even if it does feel somewhat surreal. The big question is whether us humans will accept the metaverse at all, or whether we actually prefer living and engaging in our existing ‘real’ world. However, in the future there might not be any discernible difference between the metaverse and good old planet Earth, so why not give it a try?

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