With the Mark Zuckerberg-led company planning to rebrand its family of firms around the metaverse and announcing plans to hire 10,000 engineers in the European Union (EU) to build the platform, here's a look at what this buzzword really means:
What is the metaverse?
Touted as the next generation of the Internet by some tech giants, it is a collection of virtual worlds on the Internet with their own currencies and purposes where people can exist in their digital avatars and interact with each other, similar to an online video game.
While users cannot currently move from one virtual world to another seamlessly, the metaverse is expected to solve that as more companies get into the space and draw up collaborations.
Why does it matter?
Silicon Valley giants like Microsoft and Facebook have been highlighting it as the next big opportunity, with the Mark Zuckerberg-led company even planning to rebrand its family of firms around the metaverse and announcing plans to hire 10,000 engineers in the EU to build the platform.
The social networking firm's India head Ajit Mohan has even spoken about how the creator economy can fuel the metaverse.
How different is it from playing an online video game?
It's quite similar, except that it is being seen as a way of living where people interact with each other, entertain themselves, buy property etc., all completely virtually as their digital alter egos.
"If you could dream of something and live inside your dream, it is called the metaverse. You cannot do it with just your mind because the body also has to participate in it," says Icertis CTO & co-founder Monish Darda.
The company works on blockchain technology, which powers cryptocurrencies and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) which are used in the metaverse, to draft digital contracts.
What are its use cases?
As it can connect people who are far away in an almost lifelike and semi-real environment, it opens up a lot of possibilities.
For instance, friends in different locations can watch a movie together in the same virtual movie theatre-like space at the same time, says Darda. In August, pop star Ariana performed a series of concerts inside the hit video game Fortnite.
How is it powered?
Technologies like virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality make the virtual spaces lifelike, which can be experienced through the use of specialised gadgets.
"The crypto and blockchain technology which allow you to own, especially anonymously, and create stuff like NFTs in that universe is also another technological aspect powering this. The technologies and social side of things are the two big powers moving this," says Darda.
Are there any concerns around this?
While the metaverse doesn't belong to any one company, it is expected to be monopolised by a bunch of technology companies, much like how the Internet functions today. Besides, there are concerns about the privacy of users and its socio-neurological impact on them.
"There are massive concerns about whether people will lose touch of reality. The concerns get bigger as we get more hooked to technology. Whether people will make that jump and adopt this technology is also yet to be seen," says Darda.
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