Is the metaverse a concept, a technology, or a place? It seems like the term is broadly used and seldom defined.
How should we make sense of it?
I love Shelly Palmer’s definition of the metaverse:
We are starting with the idea that the metaverse exists as a bridge between our physical and digital worlds. On one edge, the metaverse is superimposed on the physical world. On the other edge, it is blended into the digital world. The technologies that empower our ability to transition seamlessly between the physical and digital worlds are AR, MR, and VR.
So let’s define some of these technologies:
Virtual Reality (VR) is an immersive group of technologies that provide the ability to interact with computer-generated objects through a human/machine interface. It includes computer-generated avatars of other people or bots in computer-generated environments.
These computer-generated environments can range from primitive blocks of color to photorealistic animation. VR is generally experienced by wearing VR headgear that replaces your entire field of vision with computer-generated imagery and provides related audio.
Virtual Worlds can be experienced using VR systems, but these are not required. There are many virtual worlds represented on 2D screens, including Roblox, The Sandbox, and Decentraland, to name a few. Video games are often played in virtual worlds. Church services, conferences, and small group meetings are now happening in virtual worlds.
Augmented Reality (AR) is created by a group of technologies that superimpose computer-generated images on a user’s view of the real world, creating a composite view. AR experiences can be projected or placed using human/machine interfaces, but they are not always required. AR can be projected into many environments. Home improvement and design apps already use AR to “show” us how a couch would look in your living room or give you clothing options.
Mixed Reality (MR) is experienced as a combination of VR and AR seamlessly woven into the fabric of our daily physical-world lives.
These technologies are young but developing quickly. Once relegated to the gaming community, the metaverse can become a great help in connecting people, products, and experiences in a more compelling way than ever before.
The dangers some have warned about leaving the “real” world for the metaverse have been fodder for science fiction movies. In these films, we see people escape their dystopia to live better lives in the digital realm. This further isolation from a human-to-human connection is a significant concern.
However, the ability to create experiences where more people can gather, learn, engage, and develop deeper relationships is the brighter promise of the metaverse.
People can attend conferences without spending thousands on travel expenses and difficult visas. Online churchgoers will have a much richer experience through the virtual reality of “being together” in a church setting.
I can see a physical trainer being able to correct a student’s form in the metaverse, which is a difficult, if not impossible task, just through video conferencing.
What other applications for the metaverse do you see in the future?