What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is one of those topics that only a handful of people had heard of just a few years ago, but now seems to be the centre of attention.

Indeed, Facebook’s name change to Meta was inspired by its desire to play a pivotal role in this slightly dystopian future.

Video game? Virtual home-working solution? A place to make and meet friends? What exactly is the metaverse?

The metaverse fundamentals

It’s generally agreed that the metaverse is no one single technology or innovation. It could be argued that the word is similar to ‘cyberspace’ – a catch-all term that can be applied to various things.

Generally speaking, the technologies that refer to ‘the metaverse’ often feature virtual reality – with persistent virtual worlds which exist alongside our real physical lives. Aspects of the metaverse may also leverage augmented reality, where digital overlays somehow enrich our own physical worlds.

At present, some of the solutions aligned with the metaverse are not dissimilar to video games. It would also not be unfair to say that platforms like ‘Second Life’, itself launched in 2003 (prior to Facebook), have offered Metaverse functionality long before the term entered the mainstream.

However, the main differential with the contemporary hype around the metaverse is the convergence of digital identity & social networking with engagement technologies like VR & AR, and blockchain & digital ownership through NFTs.

How can I enter the metaverse?

While the metaverse isn’t currently one joined up ‘thing’, asking this question doesn’t really make sense.

Instead, there are companies building solutions allowing us to engage with metaverse-style experiences.

Using Meta as an example, the company currently offers the ‘Horizon Worlds’ platform for users of its Oculus Quest VR devices (now ‘Meta Quest’). The company describes it as ‘over 10,000 worlds’ where users can ‘start building, exploring, playing’ with other users.