All One Needs to Know about Metaverse
Maybe you have heard about the Metaverse thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook (now Meta), publicly announcing that he wants to create his own Metaverse. But you should know the term Metaverse has been coined a few years ago to further facilitate the digital transformation in every aspect of our physical lives. The core of the metaverse is the vision of an immersive Internet as a gigantic, unified, persistent, and shared realm. The metaverse may seem futuristic, but there are emerging technologies such as Virtual and Extended Reality, 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and moreover that make the Metaverse not so far away.
Metaverse, a combination of the prefix meta (imply- ing transcending) with the word universe, describes a hypothetical synthetic environment linked to the physical world. The word metaverse was first coined in a piece of speculative fiction named Snow Crash, written by Neal Stephenson in 1992. In this novel, Stephenson defines the metaverse as a massive virtual environment parallel to the physical world, in which users interact through digital avatars.
Most of the Internet and research communities are converging towards the definition according to which the Metaverse is a virtual environment that allows linking the physical world with the digital one through a combination of technologies such as IoT, Internet, Augmented / Virtual / Extended Reality and more, creating an immersive and multi-sensorial virtual world that gives the feeling of being physically present in that world.
The characteristics of Metaverse
Despite there are different points of view on the concept of Metaverse, most communities are in agreement about the main characteristics that the Metaverse should have:
- Perpetual: The Metaverse should be always online, if the user close or exit, the virtual world should continue to guarantee the existence of the environment and everything inside it
- Shared and Concurrency: The metaverse should guarantee the simultaneous presence of multiple users who can interact with each other and with the environment in a concurrent manner.
- Immersive: The user should have the perception of being physically present in the virtual world. This perception could be simulated through a VR device able to reproduce images, sounds and/or other stimuli that give the sensation to live the simulated situation.
- Linked to the physical world: This is an important aspect that makes the real difference with classic Virtual Environments. Different experts propose the concept of duality as the characteristic of the Metaverse with which the user or an object has its digital copy (Avatar) in the digital world and the physical and digital copy are linked in some way, meaning that each action or change performed in the physical world should reflect in the digital world and vice-versa.
To achieve such objectives, the development of metaverse has to go through three fundamental steps: implementation of digital twins or avatars; management of the digital contents; coexistence of physical-virtual reality.
Digital Twins or Avatars
Digital Twins or Avatars are the results of the digitalization by software that collect the information, processes and decisions from the real world and convert them into digital data represented by a digital 3D copy in the virtual world able to imitate and replicate every operation and action performed in the physical world. In a few words, digital twins are replicas of physical objects or people in the virtual world. They are useful in different contexts to improve productivity, profits, simulations and moreover.
In accord with the duality concept, the digital twins should replicate every change and evolution of its physical copy and vice-versa. Physical and Digital copy influence each other.
The following step concerns guaranteeing the possibility to create digital assets within the Metaverse, they can have a physical counterpart or exist only in the virtual world. However, this functionality has various issues such as regulating the creation, sales and the exchange of such objects, in practice, it should be necessary the creation of a robust and regulated economic system.
This aspect differentiates the Metaverse from other online virtual environments. In the Metaverse, users creating content can contribute to establishing a solid economic and social structure.
Coexistence of virtual and physical world
Finally, the last step is to guarantee the coexistence and the interoperability of the two worlds: Virtual and Physical. As already mentioned above (see Digital Twins), the virtual world should influence the physical one and, of course, vice-versa. For example, let’s suppose to have a digital copy of a smart city. Operators can monitor the city’s infrastructure performance, traffic, smog, human dynamics and more. The digital copy of the city gives the possibility to simulate and anticipate changes of state in the systems and predict possible future behaviours before performing some actions that reflect in the real world.
At the moment we are far away from the concept of Metaverse just described. Actually, there are virtual worlds in which the user can create an avatar and interact with the world and other users.
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It is true, there is a lot of excitement behind the metaverse, much of that excitement seems to be from tech and social media companies themselves, but investors interested in the metaverse as an investment opportunity will need to be cautious and patient.
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