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What Is the Metaverse, and Will It Be Worth the Wait?

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Imagine a three-dimensional online world where you can teleport from your London office to a conference room in Singapore, shop at a digital replica of your favorite clothing store, and play virtual golf with friends. For some, this ambitious version of the Internet metaverse It is the future of human relationships. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg renamed his company Meta Platforms Inc. and is pouring billions of dollars a year into efforts to dominate this “next frontier.” But it’s unclear what a unified virtual universe will look like, or if people really want it.

1. How does the metaverse work?

Combine technologies such as video conferencing, games like Minecraft and Roblox, crypto tokens, email, virtual reality, social media and live streaming. Like creating a document in Microsoft Word and sending it to a colleague at Google via his Gmail to read on his Apple iPad, items in the Metaverse move through an ecosystem of competing products, their value and functionality can be maintained. For example, a piece of digital art purchased from Company A as a non-fungible token (NFT) can be displayed on a virtual wall in a game house created by Company B.

2. What do you do there?

work and play. Example: “Jane” creates her 3D avatar, a digital representation of herself within Facebook or Microsoft Teams, to use in his virtual office meetings. After work, Jane gets tickets to a virtual girlfriend concert with her friends, all of which avatars appear in an audience of hundreds. The music ends and the band says, “Don’t forget to buy a T-shirt!” Via her avatar, Jane browses designs at a stall just like she does on Amazon, Asos, or Taobao today, pays with cryptocurrency, and wears it to her virtual office the next day. Her colleague asks to borrow it for her daughter to use at a Roblox game that night and Jane lends it to him.This scenario includes her tools for corporate communications, live event streaming , e-commerce, and sharing of anything of value. It only works if each provider builds their system in a way that makes assets like avatars and shirts compatible and transferable.

3. When can I enter the Metaverse?

Not for a few years, if ever. Use crypto tokens to buy “land” in browser-based virtual worlds such as Decentraland, attend meetings in VR using vFairs, and wear clothes using his 3D fitting room on Sizebay. You can try them on. But these products are far from the cohesive, interoperable world envisioned by Zuckerberg and others. Investors continue to bet on the metaverse coming to fruition, but the biggest checks are on semiconductor makers, video game studios, and other companies whose products can thrive whether the metaverse happens or not. . Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in January that plans to buy game maker Activision Blizzard for $69 billion would help build the “next internet.” However, “there will not be, and should not be, a single centralized metaverse,” he added. The metaverse also requires super-fast internet capable of handling hundreds of simultaneous data streams, and most current wireless connections barely support multiplayer games like Fortnite.

4. Is there demand?

Convincing people to put a VR headset on their face and hang out with cartoonish versions of their co-workers and best friends is proving difficult. Zuckerberg was widely derided in August when he posted a primitive “selfie” from the Metaverse to promote his VR platform, He Horizon Worlds on Meta. There isn’t much evidence that people working from home would want to switch from his regular Zoom calls to his meetings in VR. For some, the benefits of feeling “in a room” are offset by the dizziness and nausea that come with constant movement. , people working on technologies that could play a role in the future metaverse were fired first. Meta’s VR division has been making headsets since 2014 and has reported heavy losses, with earnings only a fraction of Meta’s main ad-funded business. Many exchange-traded funds and mutual funds focused on metaverse-related businesses have plunged in 2022 as interest rates rise, prompting investors to seek companies with more predictable returns and tangible returns.

5. What if the metaverse succeeds?

This changed in the 1990s from static text and images on the page to places to buy books and watch movies, to attending college lectures and collaborative product design. It could be a technological leap similar to the Web that made it possible. It could change the way people gather, socialize and spend money, creating unique virtual living experiences. This is the kind of future imagined by Neil Stevenson in his sci-fi novels like ‘Snow Crash’ and movies like ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Ready Player One’. Note that each of them depicts a dystopian shape.

(Adds details about metaverse-related funding in section 4. Corrected spelling of author Neal Stephenson’s name in reference shelf section in previous version of this article)

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