The Role of the Metaverse in 2022 and Beyond


Posted by Mike Fitch on Feb 9, 2022


It’s time to take down our blinders and remove the earmuffs. The metaverse is here to stay and it’s probably that time we all step back, take a seat and ask ourselves, “what is the metaverse and why should I care?”

 

From the Top: The Metaverse Origin Story

The idea of the metaverse is nothing new. You could even make the argument that the initial idea stems back more than 170 years — in 1851, London’s Hyde Park erected a 3-story glass building that was entirely dedicated to the future, all to inspire innovation. This building and its corresponding event became The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. The metaverse is encapsulating this exact idea in an entirely virtual and digital way.


In 1968, the first virtual reality headset was created. The “Sword of Damocles” displayed some very simple computer-generated graphics, but it would become the steppingstone to the fully-immersive technology we know today. Today’s virtual reality is blurring the lines between what is virtual and what is reality, hence the creation of the term “mixed reality.” As you navigate through Instagram and TikTok, you’ll find plenty of examples of virtual reality users getting lost in their current surroundings through falls, fails and crashes. And while these compilations can be amusing, it’s become a testament to how much technology has grown since 1968 and how easy it has become to get lost in this virtual environment.

 

The first reference to the actual term “metaverse” came in 1992 when Neal Stephenson wrote “Snow Crash,” a science-fiction novel based on avatars who interacted in realistic 3D buildings and other virtual reality environments. Many of the devices mentioned in Snow Crash coincide with today’s VR headsets and set the precursor for massively multiplayer online games (MMOs).

 

In 2003, Linden Lab created “Second Life,” an online virtual world where users could create avatars and roam freely in an open world. While Second Life may have been slightly ahead of its time due to low compute processing power, its 3D graphics, engaging environment and sense of community helped rocket it to more than 20 million registered users, with more than one million daily active users in its first decade. Second Life had its own economy, with the ability to purchase Linden Dollar virtual tokens (sound a little like cryptocurrency?) for in-platform transactions.

 

That’s great, but again… what IS it?

When you mix these three concepts, displays of innovation, virtual reality and a digital universe, it becomes a trifecta that forms the basic elements of the metaverse.

Photos by Vinicius “amnx” Amano on Unsplash (Left) and https://decentraland.org/ (Right)


However, the term “metaverse” can still be vague and very much has a “choose your adventure” or “fill-in-the-blank” ambiance to it, depending on what you, as a user, want out of it. Just to help with the clarification and to offer some additional perspectives, we found some trusted sources to also help us define it:

  • CNET: Unsatisfyingly, the metaverse is a squishy concept. An evolution of the internet, it’s often described as online spaces where people can socialize, work and play as avatars. Those spaces are shared and always available; they don’t disappear when you’ve finished using them.
  • The New York Times: The metaverse is the convergence of two ideas that have been around for many years: virtual reality and a digital second life. In what techies like Mr. Zuckerberg call the metaverse, virtual reality serves as a computing platform for living a second life online.
  • Time: Whether in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or simply on a screen, the promise of the metaverse is to allow a greater overlap of our digital and physical lives in wealth, socialization, productivity, shopping and entertainment.
  • The Verge: Unlike a lot of things The Verge covers, the metaverse is tough to explain for one reason: it doesn’t necessarily exist. It’s partly a dream for the future of the internet and partly a neat way to encapsulate some current trends in online infrastructure, including the growth of real-time 3D worlds.
  • Wired: Broadly speaking, the technologies that make up the metaverse can include virtual reality — characterized by persistent virtual worlds that continue to exist even when you’re not playing — as well as augmented reality that combines aspects of the digital and physical worlds. However, it doesn’t require that those spaces be exclusively accessed via VR or AR. A virtual world, like aspects of Fortnite that can be accessed through PCs, game consoles, and even phones, could be metaversal. It also translates to a digital economy, where users can create, buy, and sell goods.

The bottom line: How, and why, is there value in the metaverse?

You may have read about the virtual property within the Decentraland metaverse that sold for a record $2.43 million, yes, million, back in November to expand the digital fashion industry. Forbes called the metaverse a $1 trillion revenue opportunity. So how is it possible that this much value in the metaverse exists?


Image source: U.S. Global Investors


In short, our online lives are evolving. We are in a very elementary stage of this cyberspace where early adopters and investors are analyzing and capturing the spaces within the metaverse that have current and/or future value. We mentioned the fashion industry within the metaverse already, but it’s clear that this space has gone beyond just “gaming” to also be a prime location for real estate, NFTs, cryptocurrency, entertainment, social networks and beyond. Are there risks? Of course, but the risks of missing out just might be too big to ignore for many organizations.

 

It’s the same way with art; canvas and paint as a standalone are worth exactly what they retail for. But what if that paint was put to canvas by an original Impressionist artist, like Claude Monet? What if the piece has stood the test of time for centuries to exist in pristine condition? There’s now a significant audience who raises the value of that piece of art because of its rarity and its one-of-a-kind exclusivity.

 

Another timely example with the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, think about an NFL football, which retails for about $150 and a Sharpie that you can find for about $2. Those two things by themselves are worth face value, but what happens if it’s a playoff game ball? What if Tom Brady was the one using that Sharpie to sign his name on the ball? All of a sudden, the buyer demand for that ball shoots up, and it’s worth exactly whatever the buyers determine it’s worth at auction.

 

And that’s the metaverse and why you should care.



About the Author

TD Synnex Editor

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Mike Fitch
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Content marketer and communicator through and through. ASU grad with more than 10 years of B2B tech marketing/communications experience.