Tech CEOs keep talking about the “metaverse”. Mark Zuckerberg insists Facebook will be considered a “metaverse company” instead of a social networking company. Satya Nadella claims Microsoft is creating a “metaverse stack” for the enterprise. So in this article, we will learn about Metaverse.
Author Neil Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in Snow Crash, a cyberpunk novel published in 1992.
In the novel, the metaverse is a kind of 3D virtual world. It is not simply a virtual reality game but also a virtual world that is connected and shared with each other. Or rather, it’s an entire universe of interconnected virtual spaces — essentially, you can teleport between them.
If you think it’s like Ready Player One or a more high-tech version of Second Life, you’re right.
In fact, in 2011, Stephenson told Forbes that he views games like World of Warcraft as the real metaverse: A virtual world in which you can live with your friends. In 2021, games like Minecraft and Fortnite are probably closer to the vision of the metaverse that Stephenson foresaw.
Honestly: When Mark Zuckerberg talked about the metaverse, part of the conversation was just a desire to rebrand virtual reality. No, it’s not just running the game or social app on the Facebook Oculus VR device, it’s accessing it!
In 2017, Stephenson made that case with Vanity Fair, pointing out that virtual reality (VR) rather than augmented reality (AR) is needed for that kind of vision:
If you’re using an AR app, you’re in your physical environment, you’re seeing everything around you normally, but there are other things being added. So VR has the ability to take you to a completely different fictional location — the one depicted in the Metaverse in Snow Crash. When you enter it, you are on the street, you are in the moon and your surroundings disappear. In the book, Hiro lives in a dingy shipping container, but when he arrives in the Metaverse, he has changed his appearance and has access to super-premium real estate properties.
So what is the metaverse? A massive alternative digital simulation that we access through VR glasses, where we can pretend to live a good life while we actually live in the novel’s “bad places” ?
No no, of course not – not according to Mark Zuckerberg anyway. Here’s what he told The Verge:
Metaverse is a vision that embraces many companies – the entire industry. You can think of it as the successor to the mobile Internet… you can think of the metaverse as an embodiment of the internet, where instead of just viewing content – you are in it. And you feel present with others as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you don’t necessarily have on a 2D app or website, like dancing… I think a lot of people, when they think about the metaverse, they just think about virtual reality – which I think will be an important part of that… But the metaverse is not just virtual reality. It will be accessible on all of our different computer platforms; VR and AR, as well as PC, as well as mobile and handheld devices
Zuckerberg went on like that, emphasizing that the “metaverse” will be the next big thing and that, “in the next five years,” Facebook will be seen as “a metaverse company” rather than a social media company. .
To Zuckerberg and other tech CEOs, the concept of the “metaverse” seems to have more in common with “Web 2.0.” It’s a bunch of new technology: VR Glasses! Digital World! Imagine having an office meeting in VR while working from home—but don’t worry, you can avoid the VR glasses and just join on your laptop if you want!
When you realize Facebook owns Oculus, the company’s desire to aggressively promote a VR-based platform in the future makes a lot of sense.
Microsoft and the “Digital Twins”
Microsoft’s vision for the metaverse seems to be a bit rambling, heavy on the keywords “twin worlds” and “physical to digital convergence” with “mixed reality”. Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology can do it!
Of course, the term “mixed reality” usually just means Virtual Reality to Microsoft. However, it can also mean augmented reality: And, you should remember Microsoft also has a pair of glasses to sell you: HoloLens. In short, these companies just exaggerate the concept of Metaverse to sell.