The Metaverse was a massive topic in 2021, creating all kinds of conversations about what it is, the kind of business opportunities it represents, and how to be a part of it. The metaverse has generated a lot of attention lately, it is hard to find anyone who has not heard about it yet. To prove that the concept is here to stay, Facebook changed its name in October to Meta.
A bit of history about the Metaverse
The term was created by Neal Stephenson in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. In that book, the Metaverse was described as a virtual reality, in which people were represented in three dimensions through images or avatars.
What is the concept of the Metaverse?
“Meta” comes from Greek and means “beyond.” For some, it is a way to communicate with people via the Internet, in a completely virtual way, but in an environment that simulates the physical and real world.
Some people may consider the Metaverse not as a virtual place, but as an era where our lives are based on the digital world. The game Second Life was created about 19 years ago, and it was one of the first platforms to introduce the idea of a Metaverse, where people could create an avatar and interact with other people around the world in a digital space. Users of the game Second Life can now even invest in it.
Nowadays, there are a few video conferencing applications where you can create an avatar and a room, like your office; and you can see all your colleagues not just in a square video, but in 3D. This can be considered a kind of Metaverse because, in practice, we don’t really see the person but a digital representation of them on our screen.
What activities can be done on the Metaverse?
In this environment, we will be able to carry out different activities in the Metaverse, or in several Metaverses, interconnected or not. For example, study in a virtual classroom with your teacher on another continent and your classmates from many different countries. Watching a sports match, attending a concert, or interacting with the characters of your favorite movie.
Many of these activities are already a reality today. For example, the singer Ariana Grande held a concert in Fortnite’s Metaverse, along with other artists like Travis Scott.
Other games such as Roblox are also entering the Metaverse with their environments, creating a world of possibilities for the users.
According to developer Epic Games, “Travis Scott’s in-game performance was seen by 12.3 million live viewers. The Ariana Grande event is likely to top that and persuade many more artists to engage in the Metaverse.”
Are we in the Metaverse yet?
Currently, video games offer the closest experience to the Metaverse concept. Developers have expanded the limits of games through events and with the creation of complex virtual economies.
One of the main points that should bring companies to an exponential adoption of the Metaverse, is the possibility of creating thousands of jobs and work opportunities for people around the world regardless of their geographic location. People will be able to offer services and be paid for doing so in a virtual environment, and what’s more important, they will be “inside” the Internet instead of connecting to it.
We will undoubtedly see new applications directed to the Metaverse and its evolution, but we already know that it is not just a social network that you need to put on VR glasses to use or just a game in a virtual world. Millions of people are already participating in virtual worlds daily (and spending tens of thousands of hours per month inside them) without VR/AR devices. We should not expect a precise definition of the term “Metaverse,” especially at a time when the Metaverse has begun to exist.
The Metaverse impact on the Internet infrastructure
The Metaverse will not replace the Internet but instead, it will be built on it and transformed along the way. EdgeUno as an Internet infrastructure operator, finds various challenges in this new era. What impact will this technological evolution have on the Internet infrastructure? Is the current infrastructure ready for Metaverse applications?
One of the most relevant applications for this topic is virtual reality, which is known to be a great bandwidth consumer. To bring a level of realism to the user, the quality and latency of the network are crucial.
But it’s not just latency that matters, as VR is an application with high bandwidth consumption, the content must be hosted on an Edge Computing platform, and with infrastructure close to the end-user we will be able to provide high-capacity bandwidth along with low latency. “The concept of Edge Computing aims to reduce network latency, bringing computing power to an infrastructure close to user access.”
What technology is needed for the Metaverse?
The main reason for the evolution of the Metaverse is primarily due to advances in technology, including:
- Hardware: Extended Reality (and that’s where AR, VR, XR come in),
- Computing: The growing prevalence of cloud services
- Networks: new broadband Internet access networks such as 5G, FTTH, and low-orbit satellite networks
- Payment: more sophisticated and reliable blockchain technology for the development of applications, mainly economic, that demands trust between the parties in a distributed way
- Devices: Finally, technological evolutions of devices that have occurred in recent years, miniaturizing processors, and allowing high computational power with low energy consumption and at an affordable cost.
The Metaverse will require countless new technologies, protocols, and innovations to function. And it won’t come into existence instantly; there will be no precise time to think of a “Before and After Metaverse.” Instead, it will emerge over time as different products, services, and capabilities integrate and merge.
Who owns the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is likely to see a more accelerated transition in the coming years, with a wide range of services emerging. And this news will not be led by just one company or a few large ones, but by a combination of them with several startups trying to build experiences for the Metaverse.
Many companies are trying to position themselves to benefit from this new concept. There is no other way to genuinely do this without taking advantage of the cloud and Edge Computing technologies. This infrastructure is highly effective for making new products and services evenly and quickly available.
Another great example of what can be done within the Metaverse is Star Atlas. A blockchain-based video game, based on a massive multiplayer metaverse, that brings the user to space and uses Unreal Engine 5’s Nanite to create cinematic and visual experiences on the game.
Although Star Atlas is still a work in progress, it demonstrates that it is just the tip of the iceberg. And for technologies, video game developers and internet and infrastructure providers, the Metaverse is here, and everyone wants to be a part of it.