The concept of the metaverse has recently become a huge talking point in the world of tech after Facebook in late October rebranded itself to Meta. Many, however, are still confused about what the metaverse exactly is, with the technology for it not being as mainstream yet.
Well, in case you’re curious, Ashley Dudarenok, a marketing expert and entrepreneur in China, shared a concept video from Douyin user maz1999 that shows how the metaverse might look and work in the real world, giving us a peek at what this so-called next-generation internet is all about.
The 30-plus-second-long Douyin video is recorded in first-person perspective, wherein the person behind the camera is seen putting on a pair of augmented reality (AR) glasses that allow her to see virtual pandas walking the streets of Chengdu and digital overlays that label the food she’s eating.
“Metaverse is a hypothesised iteration of the internet, supporting persistent online 3-D virtual environments through conventional personal computing, as well as virtual and augmented reality headsets,” said Dudarenok in a post on LinkedIn.
If you think about it, the concept of the metaverse is not entirely new, having been implemented in video games before, albeit in a limited form. Fortnite, for example, earlier this year hosted a live Ariana Grande concert within the game world itself, where players used their avatars to attend the in-game event. This is just a tiny taste of what you could possibly do in a fully-realised metaverse.
Dudarenok in her post says that current plans for the concept are centred around addressing technological limitations and expanding its use across spaces like business, education, and retail.
Some of the technologies needed to create and use the metaverse are already available, such as ultra-fast internet speeds and virtual reality (VR) and AR headsets. They’re not as accessible yet, though, meaning that as of now, not everyone can take part in the metaverse the same way as, say, social media.
Dudarenok also explains that the metaverse will use extended reality (XR), a catchall term for the different types of computer-altered reality.
VR covers all immersive experiences using real-world content, synthetic content, or a combination of both. These include 360-degree videos, simulations and VR games.
AR, meanwhile, is an overlay of computer-generated content in the real world that can interact with the environment in real-time. It supposedly blurs the lines between what’s actually there and what isn’t. The IKEA app, for instance, uses AR tech to let you see how a piece of furniture would look in your home before you buy them.
Mixed Reality (MR) essentially combines VR and AR together. It is also an overlay like AR, but it’s anchored to real-world objects and can be visibly obscured by physical environments. This type of reality is not that common yet. However, tech experts see a lot of real-world uses for MR in various industries, including education, healthcare and entertainment.
Big tech is already investing heavily in metaverse-related research and development. Meta is, of course, one of the companies that have publicly announced that it’s betting big on the concept. Microsoft later followed suit, saying that it also wants a piece of the metaverse pie. Who knows, perhaps there are other companies out there who have yet to reveal their own plans.
While talks about the metaverse are not likely to die down anytime soon, the technology we see in the concept video could still be quite a ways off. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted, despite acquiring VR headset maker Oculus and pouring millions into the development of AR applications, that it could take his company up to a decade to have a working metaverse platform that would fit his vision.
What’s known for sure is that this is where we’re heading today, with big tech seemingly already duking it out at who will strike gold first in this emerging virtual space. There’s no guarantee that it’ll be widely adopted when it arrives, but it has all the potential to upend how we might interact with each other and our world in the future.