What is the metaverse, the new digital universe that the tech giants are betting on

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Facebook has just announced that it will hire 10,000 people in Europe to develop the “metaverse.”

But what exactly is this concept that is grabbing more and more headlines, concentrating more investment from big tech companies and being described as the next great frontier of the digital world?

What is the metaverse?

It is still an idea in development and to someone outside the industry it might just seem like an enhanced version of virtual reality (VR).

But experts say it will be to VR what smartphones were, in terms of a technological revolution, to the rudimentary early smartphones.

This virtual universe would be accessed with a VR viewer and probably with a 3D avatar, and it would connect all kinds of digital environments.

Unlike current virtual reality, which is used mainly for video games, the metaverse would be used for all kinds of activities: work, games, concerts, movies or simply to hang out.

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality through its Oculus / GETTY IMAGES device

Why did it suddenly become important?

Interest in digital worlds and augmented reality resurfaces from time to time.

And now there is great enthusiasm for the metaverse among high-capital investors and the tech giants. Nobody wants to be left behind if it turns out to be the future of the internet.

Furthermore, for the first time there is a feeling that the necessary technology is almost ready, with advances in virtual reality games and connectivity.

Virtual reality offers thousands of uses / GETTY IMAGES

Why is Facebook involved?

Facebook has made building the metaverse one of its top priorities.

It has invested heavily in virtual reality through its Oculus device, which is cheaper than its rivals.

According to analysts, the price could be causing losses to the company, which in return makes the viewer of its brand reach more people.

You are also creating virtual reality applications for social gatherings and for the workplace, including those that allow you to interact with the real world.

The workplace envisioned by Facebook has virtual meeting rooms where people can still use their real-world computers at the same time / REUTERS

Despite its history of acquiring rival companies, Facebook says the metaverse “will not be built overnight by a single company” and has promised to collaborate with the industry.

It has recently invested $ 50 million in funding non-profit groups to help “build the metaverse responsibly.”

Although the social network believes that it will take between 10 and 15 years to consolidate.

Who else is interested in the metaverse?

Tim Sweeney, the director of Epic Games (owner of Fortnite), has been talking about his aspirations in relation to this technology for some time.

Online multiplayer games have shared interactive worlds for decades.

They are not the metaverse, but they have some ideas in common with it.

In recent years, Fortnite has expanded its product, hosted concerts, brand events, and much more within its own digital world.

Over 12 million players signed up to watch rapper Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert / GETTY IMAGES

Other video games are also getting closer to a metaverse idea.

Roblox, for example, is a platform with thousands of games that are connected to a single, larger ecosystem.

Meanwhile, Unity, a 3D development platform, is investing in “digital twins,” digital copies of the real world.

And graphics company Nvidia is building its “Omniverse,” which it describes as a platform for connecting 3D virtual worlds.

So is it about video games?

No.

Although there are different ideas about what the metaverse could be, most see human social interaction as the core of everything.

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Facebook, for example, has been experimenting with a virtual reality meeting app called Workplace and a social space called Horizons that uses avatars.

Another virtual reality app, VRChat, focuses entirely on hanging out online and chatting, with no other goal or purpose other than exploring environments and meeting people.

And there may be a whole host of possible applications yet to be discovered.

Along these lines, Sweeney recently told The Washington Post that he envisions a world in which an automaker trying to advertise a new model “loans his car into the virtual world and lets it drive.”

Maybe when you go shopping online, first you try on the clothes in digital version and then you order them so that they arrive in the real world.

Virtual reality allows you to try on clothes before buying them / GETTY IMAGES

Does the technology already exist to develop it?

Virtual reality has come a long way in recent years.

There are high-end devices that can trick the human eye into seeing in 3D as the player moves through a virtual world.

It’s also become more common – the Oculus Quest 2 VR gaming headset was a popular Christmas gift in 2020.

The explosion of interest in NFTs, which can provide a way to reliably track the ownership of digital goods, could be one example of how a virtual economy would work.

And the most advanced digital worlds will need better, more consistent and more mobile connectivity, something that could be solved with the launch of 5G.

For now, however, everything is in an early stage.

The evolution of the metaverse, if it occurs at all, will rage among the tech giants for the next decade, or maybe even longer.

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