We all have many things in our heads that we want to do but can never imagine doing them for real.
“What if I tell you that you can be as tall and handsome as you want to be and walk up to the most beautiful girl in the world, propose to her, and become her boyfriend. Sounds ‘impossible’?”
There are many ‘impossible’ things in life, and metaverse is here to make them possible.
As metaverse is an evolving concept, it is hard to explain it in totality. But as per the current status and developments in the metaverse, we can define it as a virtual platform that is shared by people and accessed via various devices. The metaverse allows freedom of movement and interaction between people.
The Evolution of Metaverse
Almost everyone who surfs online will be familiar with the term metaverse and have a basic understanding of what metaverse means. However, the level of understanding of metaverse will vary from person to person. If you have come across the term on Facebook, you might believe that it is a brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg. But in reality, the concept of the metaverse is much older and dates back to 1992 when the term was coined by Neal Stephenson in a sci-fi novel called ‘Snow Crash’.
When the concept of metaverse was created, no one would have thought it would be so popular that a company like Facebook with a net worth of nearly 1 trillion US dollars (933 billion US dollars in 2021) would be changing its name to Meta. But after almost three decades, we find ourselves living in a time where the metaverse is the most happening thing in the world, and every tech giant in the world is ready to capitalize on it.
Is Metaverse a New Concept?
We all had heard that metaverse is coming for so long that it is hard to remember when the craze about this virtual version of reality started.
Metaverse is not really a new concept. It has been around for decades, two to be precise. Back in 2003, a game called ‘Second Life’ implemented the idea of a metaverse in a very raw form. The game provided the players the freedom to explore, meet other players, form relationships, and live life as they wanted – just like a second life.
Metaverse in those times was not what it is today. But, if you have played Second Life and then watched Zuckerberg’s demo, you will know exactly what we are talking about. The jump from pixelated images to life-like graphics of today plus a seamless Virtual Reality experience makes metaverse VR the most happening place to be in.
For a tech-savvy audience, metaverse should not come as a surprise. People who use VR headsets to play games or watch immersive videos have already experienced what Zuckerberg is offering. In addition, we already have a well-polished platform called VRChat that allows users to interact by using their online 3D avatars.
On the eve of the 2021 New Year, the traffic on VRChat shot up so high that the site was closed down because the service providers thought it was a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. This incident indicates that people are intrigued about metaverse. Therefore, technology giants such as Google and Facebook are trying to tap into a potentially vast but reasonably unexplored market.
Why is Metaverse Gaining Popularity?
Every new technology has a take-off point from where it skyrockets and becomes very popular. That time for metaverse is right here and right now.
There are many facts and statistics that point to the popularity of metaverse.
Case in point being, the metaverse industry is estimated to be valued at more than 12 billion
US dollars by 2024. It is an incredible rise considering it was only valued at five billion US dollars in 2021.
AR and VR technology are not mainstream yet, but the hardware required for these technologies has become affordable because of the entry of many new players in the market. Therefore, top IT companies in the world have concluded that it is the most suitable time to unleash their metaverse plans in front of the world audience.
In many ways, metaverse feels like an outcome of all the innovations taking place in recent times. The entry of smartphones, the launch of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, and the enhancement of Computer-Generated Graphics (CGI), all seem to be a part of the greater plan, and the metaverse feels like a culmination of that plan. No wonder it is gaining popularity so rapidly, and so many companies are trying to get a slice of the metaverse pie.
An Example Use Case that Proves Metaverse can Change Lives
Metaverse will open new opportunities for everybody. It will help us get past our inhibitions and do those things that we never imagined we could do in our real lives.
To show what metaverse can mean to humans, let’s look at one of the most relevant metaverse examples:
Suppose you are an introvert and can’t express yourself in office meetings. As a result, despite your extensive knowledge and intelligence, you can’t impress the boss because you do not put your ideas forward in the office meeting.
The reason for your reserved demeanour could be your short stature or a weak voice, or a general lack of social affinity. Now, imagine an office meeting where you can choose your avatar (persona) and your voice. The way you would perform in such a virtual meeting would be much better than in a real-life meeting.
What is Facebook Metaverse and the Vision Behind it?
As mentioned before, Facebook has renamed its parent company as ‘Meta’.
Meta means ‘beyond’ because the Meta platform is expected to go above and beyond how we connect with others, play games, and live our lives in general.
The Meta platform has been promoted as a future that is created by everyone. Mark Zuckerberg has put special emphasis on making Meta a collective project, in which just about anyone in the world can create for others.
According to Zuckerberg, you will be able to do almost everything in metaverse that you do in real life. For example, you will be able to hold and attend meetings and even purchase real estate in the virtual world.
Facebook’s Metaverse Plan
Facebook’s metaverse plan includes mastering the below-mentioned two technologies and releasing hardware required to best use these technologies:
Facebook’s Quest 2 device is one of the best for attending events or playing sports in the metaverse. As virtual reality is a critical component of your metaverse experience, the Quest 2 has been made with great care.
The VR experience by Facebook includes Workrooms that serve as the perfect place for office meetings. In addition, music applications such as a Beat Saber (bought by Meta) allow you to enjoy music with your friends and family. The level of immersion brought by the VR apps sets them apart from the crowd.
As far as VR goes, the technologies mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to come from Facebook, sorry, Meta.
Augmented Reality is all about enhancing reality with technology. With metaverse on the horizon, augmented reality will become a part of our daily life like never before.
Meta is focused upon giving power to its users by allowing them to create and share their creations online. By providing a platform called Spark AR, Meta will inspire creativity amongst users and build intrigue about ARs potential in the metaverse. For example, you will develop your own avatar with its special augmented powers. Just like the unimaginable size of the metaverse, the possibilities regarding Augmented Reality (AR) are endless.
Facebook Metaverse: Be the Maker of Your Own World
By mastering AR and VR technologies and familiarizing every potential user, Meta is laying a stepping stone for a collective project that will be created by the users and will be open to anyone from just about every walk of life. There will be no divide amongst people, and everyone will have to play by the rules of the metaverse world.
Meta is building a learning ecosystem by spending $150M. The money will be used to train metaverse creators from the next generation to create immersive experiences. Are you intrigued and want to learn?
If yes, you can register for Meta’s AR training and certification program, which is already available.
Facebook’s metaverse plan is very ambitious. But it has immense potential as it allows you to be the maker of your own world.
Google’s Plan for the Metaverse
Unlike Facebook, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai has an entirely different take on metaverse. Sunder believes in the metaverse, but according to him it is just an enhanced version of the existing Augmented Reality.
Sunder emphasizes the fact that the way we use computers will evolve over time. We will have computers but not in the shape and form we see today.
Google’s plan for the future is more about ambient computing, immersive computing, and Augmented Reality.
It is possible that what Google is building currently will eventually be similar to Meta’s metaverse. But their approach is more towards enhancing the technologies in their current form and letting the technology adapt to human needs. Their primary focus is still on ‘Search,’ but they are looking for ways to change how search is done and make the searching experience more convenient.
With Google Lens and Google Glass, the company has already given us tools to interact with our environment differently. Google Lens is often used on smartphones to search about the viewed object, but its best implementation is via Google Glass. Similarly, many technologies that we are using nowadays via our smartphones and computers will become accessible through other platforms (e.g., by using VR and AR) in more convenient, intuitive, and innovative ways.
Google’s Metaverse Initiatives So Far
In 2014, Google launched its Google Cardboard campaign that was aimed at familiarizing the users with Virtual Reality (VR). The experience wasn’t the greatest because of low video resolution and quality, but it helped many people, especially young college-goers, gain awareness of VR.
Before Cardboard, the Google Metaverse project was restricted to an Augmented Reality (AR) project called Glass. They wanted it to become mainstream, but it wasn’t a success due to the high cost of glasses. As the glasses did not sell well amongst the masses, the production of Glass was later restricted to enterprises.
The AR-powered Glass is like a light and wearable computer that comes with a transparent display. It does not require the workers to use their hands, which means they can take advantage of their small computers without compromising productivity.
Currently, AR glasses are sold to enterprises. These glasses are helping workers stay focused, enhance the accuracy of their work and collaborate with each other in real-time. In addition, many of Google’s clients, such as DB Schenker and DHL, are using Google Glasses and enhancing their day-to-day operations. However, in the near future, when the craze for the metaverse will rise, it is expected that these glasses or a different version of them will become our tool to access Google’s metaverse.
Microsoft’s Plan for the Metaverse
Unlike Facebook, Microsoft finds metaverse most suitable for work. Due to Covid-19, we have already experienced a significant transformation in our work culture.
For better or worse, there has been a revolution in how office work is done. Microsoft estimates that the metaverse of work will become a $2 trillion market cap opportunity as we reach 2025. As Microsoft already has access to and expertise in the best software and hardware, it is in a strong position to exploit the fantastic market opportunity presented by remote work.
Microsoft owner Bill Gates believes that online meetings will soon become a three-dimensional affair instead of the current two-dimensional camera image grids. It will be the realization of metaverse in one of its most useful and productive form.
Microsoft’s Mesh and its Multiverse Vision
Microsoft Team is already a popular platform used by many companies. But recently, in Nov 2021, Microsoft came up with Mesh for MS Teams.
The people at Microsoft believe that Mesh is a portal to the metaverse and for good reasons too. Microsoft is planning to develop immersive spaces that will be present within teams and help people connect in ways that they have never connected before.
Mesh leverages mixed-reality capabilities and helps create holographic experiences. When combined with other productive features of MS Teams, it can benefit a company to collaborate remotely with its employees.
Just imagine chatting and collaborating with your teammates, sending them files, and participating in team meetings in almost life-like environments created by a blend of VR, AR, and MR.
Microsoft is banking on the fact that productivity in the metaverse-powered work environment will surpass productivity in physical spaces. If that happens, no one will be able to stop Microsoft from overtaking Facebook and Google in the battle for gaining supremacy in the metaverse.
Microsoft Already has the hardware
Apart from their ambitious plans, Microsoft already has the hardware needed to make metaverse a reality. Some major hardware devices for metaverse that Microsoft launches are:
- Microsoft Mixed Reality Headset: Come with a camera and integrated motion tracking. Several third-party manufacturers like Dell, Lenovo, and HP have already launched Microsoft MR headsets.
- HoloLens: Available in the basic and industrial version. It can enhance the work output and accuracy of workers. It is ideal for field services, manufacturing shop floors, construction sites, remote work, teaching, sales, teaching, and a wide range of other domains.
The launch of Microsoft’s hardware and their focus on office work gives them an edge over other players in the market. But it is too soon to say if their plan will materialize as per their expectations in the near future.
When it comes to the metaverse, Apple metaverse plans might be going under the radar because they are not as prominent as Facebook or Microsoft’s plan. But if experts are to be believed, then Apple is the perfect stock to invest in when it comes to metaverse development.
Just like oculus metaverse headsets, Apple has its very own version. But what makes Apple a potentially standout performer in the coming years is its ability to convert even the most sceptical buyers into long-term users of its products. One of the most popular Apple analysts, Chi Kuo, has revealed that Apple is likely to launch its Augmented Reality (AR) wearable devices by the end of 2022.
Apple might be coming late to the metaverse party, but it has a much larger consumer base to tap into. Unlike Meta, which is primarily wooing Instagram users, Apple has a large fanbase at its disposal. Moreover, Apple is renowned for the efficiency, quality, robustness, and security of its devices. Therefore, it is likely to be the most formidable contender in the metaverse universe.
Apple Might Be Slow, but it is Waiting for the Right Metaverse Opportunity
Apple has lagged behind its competitors in terms of launching its AR and VR devices. It is actually waiting for the perfect opportunity to arrive.
Currently, some tech limitations are preventing AR smart glasses from becoming lightweight products. There are some lightweight glasses such as ‘Snap’, but they are still very experimental. If Apple can work out a way to reduce the weight of the glasses in a practical manner and improve its AR capabilities, it might be able to replace its flagship iPhone with a cutting-edge metaverse product in the next decade.
Now, just imagine what the world will be like if all iPhones are replaced with Augmented Reality. These possibilities are what put Apple in a formidable position when it comes to the metaverse.
Metaverse: A Long Way to Go Still
Just because so many companies are invested in metaverse does not mean that we will see it in its complete form anytime soon. Instead, to realize metaverse fully, the software and hardware companies across the globe will push for something called ambient computing.
Ambient computing, also known as ubiquitous computing, is a software engineering paradigm that makes computing available at just about any time and anywhere. Just about any device can be used for starting the communication with other devices, and there is no limitation posed by the format, platform, or hardware used by the device.
At the same time, the hardware and software required for AR, VR, and many other relevant technologies need to mature and become affordable. Generally, the hardware becomes cheaper when the requirements arise, and many companies start producing the same hardware, e.g., AMD GPUs are helping keep the price of NVIDIA GPUs down.
Due to competition, the prices decrease, and hardware becomes accessible to people from different financial backgrounds. However, given the current situation due to Covid-19, it might be harder to increase hardware production. So, the time for full-fledged metaverse implementation might come later than what is expected by many of us.