What is the Metaverse and Why Should You Care About It?

Trinity Richardson

May 16, 2022

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We've become accustomed to everyday technology-social media, cryptocurrency, NFTs, and even virtual reality. But companies want to take technology one step further. Enter the metaverse.

Tech companies are scrambling to be the first to have their name associated with this up-and-coming virtual reality technology. Apple is working on the release of a new VR headset and Microsoft has developed the Hololens, "mixed reality" smartglasses that allow the user to project information in the real world and even create virtual worlds. Facebook has gone so far as to rename itself "Meta" calling itself the "next evolution of social connection." As of now Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox have all incorporated the metaverse into gaming platforms.

But what exactly is the metaverse?

The term metaverse was first conceived in 1992 in Neal Stephenson's science fiction novel Snow Crash. In the novel, people are able to connect with each other in a three-dimensional virtual reality space, appearing as configurable avatars. Despite being entirely fictional, the book is rumored to have inspired Jeff Bezos to found Blue Origin, and was reportedly required reading for new Facebook recruits.

The metaverse isn't a new concept, by any means, but tech companies see an opportunity for evolution. Mark Zuckerberg claims that it's the future, despite financial losses Facebook has suffered in the process of expanding Reality Labs. He is unworried about the financial blows, explaining that they are "funding product teams to be building our future products, two or three versions into the future. Because when you're designing hardware... these are multiyear plans that you're building."

So, why should you care about the metaverse?

Well, you shouldn't... for now. Zuckerberg thinks it will take between five and ten years for the metaverse to become mainstream.

Nadella and Microsoft believe the metaverse has the potential to change the way we live. "Just like the first wave of the internet allowed everybody to build a website, I think the next wave of the internet will be a more open world where people can build their own metaverse worlds, whether they're organizations or game developers or anyone else."

While the metaverse may seem like a far-off fantasy, parts of it are already creeping into our lives. Not too long ago, the thought of a cell phone was just as fantastical as teleportation. Nowadays, we're no strangers to VR, high-speed internet, and easily accessible online worlds. It makes sense that tech companies want to take these things one step further, intricately weaving them into our day-to-day lives.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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