By Eran Elhanani
One day you won't be able to imagine a world without the metaverse, and that day is today.
There will be no "before" or "after" the metaverse. Instead, the metaverse will seep into our daily lives as an inevitable evolution of progress. The forefront of technological innovation entering the mainstream in ways that will feel like the metaverse has been here all along, and in many ways, it has.
Coined by the writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, “Snow Crash,” then reimagined as the Oasis in the Ernest Cline novel “Ready Player One,” the metaverse has remained boxed in the hypothetical worlds of futurism and science fiction, leaving many people skeptical of its arrival or transformative potential. Those skeptics view the metaverse as just another tech product, a marketing ploy, or an unnecessarily expensive gaming console.
But the actual "reality" of the metaverse is that it is not a giant tech drop, nor is it some futuristic virtual universe. In fact, it isn’t even some new frontier we have never seen before. On the contrary, versions of the metaverse are here today and have been here for quite some time.
What Is The Metaverse?
The metaverse is not a specific virtual space but a framework for a highly interconnected life. It is not one product or concept but a convergence of themes that creates the opportunity for digital interoperability and interconnection. As different products, services and capabilities integrate and evolve, the metaverse itself will expand, infiltrating into every sector and building upon itself to broaden its definition and solidify itself in our everyday lives.
How We Got Here
In 1973 the first-ever portable cell phone was invented; the Motorola MSI DynaTAC 8000X, a 2.4 lb $10,000 prototype that offered only 30 minutes of talk time and took over 10 hours to charge. Today our phones are an integral part of our lives, from how we conduct business, socialize, access information, create, and explore. Looking at how the cell phone has evolved in the last 50 years, specifically with the implementation of Apple's iPhone AAPL in 2008, the cell phone gradually and then suddenly became one of the most critical pieces of technology we have ever had. Whom among us could imagine living without their smartphone today, just a mere 14 years since its mass adoption.
Technology as a whole has exhibited the same type of gradual progression as cell phones and the internet and is emerging in similarly fundamental ways. These emerging technologies, such as innovations in gaming, smart contracts, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing, showcase just how primed for the metaverse our digital landscape is and has been for a while.
In 2003 a virtual gathering place called Second Life made its way into the mass market. Before that, gaming's purpose was to win. Second Life had no gaming structure and instead, featured a gamelike interface where user-controlled avatars moved through virtual worlds to socialize or conduct themselves as citizens – it was something new, something like a metaverse.
But, as it turns out, what many people want are games. And that's where the metaverse as we know it today starts to take shape.
The Metaverse Today
What separates the emerging metaverse worlds from their predecessors, like Second Life, is both decentralization capabilities and blockchain technology. Both are two key components that help to transfer what was once not metaverse capable into something that is helping to further the exploration and creation of the metaverse.
Today, gaming developers are marketing their projects not just as interactive experiences but as metaverses, utilizing cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to transcend traditional gaming modalities successfully. Epic Games and their top-rated online game Fortnite are one example, capitalizing on an exciting game structure, incentivized by real-world profits, and expanding on the social desirability of its users.
The metaverse isn't meant to be held and controlled by one private platform or corporate entity. In fact, there is and will continue to be many metaverses, with the hopes that one-day technology will allow for interoperability between them all. Thanks to blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, metaverses have the potential to be democratized and governed by the users, creating a genuinely borderless landscape of decentralized social and economic capabilities.
Ways The Metaverse Shows Up In Your Life Right Now
Indeed, proto-versions of the metaverse already exist and have made their way into our everyday lives in indispensable forms. From video games like esports to the deepening integration of social media, videoconferencing, telework, CGI mechanics in Hollywood and even the world of fitness is building on metaverse themes as new innovations come to light.
Take the popular smartphone game Pokémon Go, an augmented reality (AR) mobile game with approximately 65 million active monthly users. Some may call this game a simple mobile app. Still, with its widely beloved augmented reality design and pocket convenience, Pokémon Go is an early metaverse innovation, normalizing the augmented reality experience for the average person, and bringing the metaverse into the palm of your hand. It won't be surprising to see more augmented reality games, advertisements, and apps pop up in casual non-metaverse settings more often.
Peloton is another viral company that takes metaverse experiences and applies them to everyday practices. Their workout equipment is meant for more than sweating calories as their large interactive display is designed for immersion and connection. Taking the user into a peloton world where they can escape their physical reality and find themselves supported by other users from around the globe in workout classes. Heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of fitness can create belonging even at home through metaverse-related technology and ideology.
There are more subtle ways that the metaverse is already present in our everyday lives. Many apps and platforms use avatars instead of photos to represent their users' identities. The more customizable and fine-tuned these avatars become, the more normalized they are. As mass adoption of avatars intertwines our physical identity with our digital one, we are more likely to want to dress our avatars in designer clothing, creating a more specific personal brand in digital spaces. This will amplify the need and desire for interoperable avatars that we can use across all platforms.
All of these innovations are happening in common online spaces with or without VR goggles. And these emerging trends and advancing technologies will continue to occur in the metaverses of the future as they grow and change and become an even more significant part of our lives.
A Look at the Not So Futuristic Future
The future of the metaverse can almost be described as more of a vibe than a vision. It would do us a service to cast aside the sci-fi notions of this futuristic metaverse world and see the practical and exciting ways the metaverse is already showing up as an integral part of our everyday lives.
At its best, the metaverse will bring heightened feelings of interconnectedness and community, becoming something that we not only depend on but cannot go back from. This is how the metaverse will solidify itself as an entity woven into the fabric of our daily lives. The thing about progress is that once progression becomes the norm, the only option we have is to continue moving forward.
Mass adoption of advancement and innovation does not happen overnight; just as the smartphone incrementally unfolded into our lives, the metaverse is already in the process of doing the same. As time goes on, we will identify as being more ourselves through the use of metaverse themes and technology than without them. Just as we can't imagine a world before the internet, cell phones, or even social media, we have already created and adopted a world with budding metaverses that we cannot live without.
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Co-Founder of BullPerks and GamesPad
Founder of Part One Capital, a crypto investment firm. Advisor on multiple crypto projects. Elhanani is a serial entrepreneur, seasoned angel investor, speaker and previous Venture Partner in a boutique VC, and holds a BSc in Medicine, Computer Science, and Math.
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