What is the metaverse?

It can be defined as a digital reality made of virtual spaces and domains shared with users and connected in a virtual universe. It is a virtual and continuous parallel universe and at the same time related to the physical world where people socialize, play or work.

Is this a transformation of social networks?​


It is more like an Internet evolution only that instead of accessing the internet through a screen, the person experiences it with 3D virtual reality devices, augmented reality in addition to accessing it through applications on their devices. While we talk today about “connecting to the Internet” we can predict a time in the future when people will “enter the metaverse.”

What can users do in the metaverse?​


It’s a vision of a digital future where the users socialize, play, work and carry out commercial activities through multiple virtual spaces and domains. It’s expected that the metaverse will be socially and economically connected and integrated with the physical world. For example, someone can attend a virtual concert in virtual reality and can do so with the friends that they know in the physical world. When they buy a commemorative concert t-shirt, their avatar can put it on in the virtual world but the next day, a physical t-shirt can arrive at their home too. This is the style of interaction that can be expected in the metaverse.

What changes are implied for users with respect to the way in which they move on the platform or how is this space expected to be visually?


There is much work to do before the metaverse can become a reality. At this year’s SIGGRAPH computing conference, a collaborative workspace was organized between various companies which are trying to develop the metaverse including Epic Games (creators of Fortnite), Roblox, Nvidia and Unity amongst others. They recognized the challenge of establishing a series of new standards for the metaverse spaces or domains that companies create to function without friction between them so that the user can enter and go from domain to domain. If the user buys a car in Roblox, they need to be able to own the car in the domain created by Fortnite, for example. This level of detail needs to be resolved to develop standards. The IEEE also is participating in the development of these new standards.

It’s expected that the user will enter spaces using diverse devices such as virtual reality viewers such as Oculus, or glasses like Google Glass or with a mobile telephone application that allows augmented reality like the Pokemon Go game. 

Facebook has promoted the creation of this space, but what other companies have shown their support?


Gaming companies like Epic and Roblox are the leaders in the development of virtual worlds which are the predecessors of metaverse. Epic announced a USD 100 million fund as the first round of financing for the metaverse. With the acquisition of Oculus, Facebook has entered into the virtual reality world and has recently declared itself to be a metaverse company too.

But the metaverse has a long history. Recently, the idea of the metaverse was popularized in the movie “Ready Player One” with the world of Oasis or the Amazon Prime television show “Upload” which imagines a metaverse called “Lake View” where the digital avatars of people who are dead in the physical world are stored and can interact. But the term “metaverse” originated in the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in 1992 where he describes a 3D virtual world inhabited by the avatars of real people.

Will Facebook and technology companies in general have more access to user data in the metaverse?


The ways to share information and to protect user data in the digital world of the metaverse are not yet known. If the metaverse ends up as a digital universe with virtual spaces and domains created by businesses, organizations and governments in which people move from domain to domain taking digital artifacts with them, then there will be interest from business in tracking all the data from interactions in these worlds. It is similar then to the internet users today who go from site to site, to social network to social network, leaving signs of their actions and interactions. The abuse in gathering user data and the lack of consent has led to a series of new norms and regulations for personal data management. It’s expected that these will extend to the metaverse.