Since virtual reality was introduced to consumers, it has primarily been marketed as an innovative and fresh way to play video games. The most popular headsets tout their ability to level up the gaming experience, including Facebook’s Oculus, HTC’s Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR.
Throughout the past few years, there has been a shift towards finding new and alternative use-cases for virtual reality. Currently, virtual reality is being used and tested in education, sports, mental and physical health, retail, and more. Recently, there have been discussions around a much larger, more aggressive goal for virtual reality called the metaverse. In fact, Facebook just announced its plans to hire 10,000 employees in the European Union over the next five years to help create a metaverse. So, what is the metaverse and how will it incorporate virtual reality?
The metaverse, which some people are calling part of Web3, can be challenging to explain. This is mainly because one does not exist yet. However, people have presented their visions for the metaverse, which we will use as a reference. Essentially, think of the metaverse as an immersive, 3D, and communal virtual universe. Users will be transported into the virtual world, similar to how users are transported into a virtual reality video game through a VR headset.
Now that we have a very basic understanding of the metaverse, how will users access it? Currently, the most commonly agreed-upon method of accessing the virtual universe is through VR headsets. In the future, technologists hope that VR headsets will not be needed to access the metaverse, but for now, VR headsets are the most promising method. This explains why companies such as Facebook are heavily investing in VR headsets and virtual reality in general. For more information on the current state of virtual reality technology, where it is headed, and current VR trends, listen to our podcast episode below with special guest Luke Levene, the VP of Sales at XRApplied.
You may be wondering what’s so special about the metaverse if we already have virtual reality. There are key differences between virtual reality and the metaverse. First off, it can be helpful to think of virtual reality as the vessel and the metaverse as the destination. Furthermore, when in the metaverse, users can do significantly more than play games, which at this point is the dominant use case for virtual reality. In the metaverse, users will be able to socialize with other humans around the globe, shop, conduct business, and more.
Additionally, cryptocurrency will play a significant role. Visionaries have stated their desire for metaverses to have their own cryptocurrencies to make purchases, as well as the option to pay with other common cryptocurrencies. Unsurprisingly, NFTs will also be an integral part of the metaverse.
One of the key components of the metaverse is the incorporation of NFTs. NFTs are frequently regarded as a form of digital art, whether it’s an illustration, music, meme, virtual clothing piece, magazine article, etc. However, there is an entirely different use case for NFTs in regard to the metaverse. NFTs can represent land in the metaverse.
In any particular metaverse, there should be a finite amount of land created. This creates scarcity. Scarcity increases value per the law of supply and demand. So, just as an individual in the real world would buy the deed to a plot of land, users in the metaverse will be able to purchase land in the form of an NFT. They are then free to hold onto the NFT for as long as they wish and can sell the NFT (aka the land) when they are ready.
In fact, there is already land being sold as NFTs in virtual worlds. For example, Republic Realm, a digital real estate investment company, bought land in Decentraland for $913,000 in the form of an NFT. Decentraland is an Ethereum-based virtual reality platform. Also, Minecraft players can purchase land in the game by using Minecraft currency. The purchased land is also in the form of an NFT.
There are a few key players in the race to build a metaverse, including the usual tech giants such as Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Snap. Additionally, there are large companies that are not considered household names currently but are also investing heavily in the metaverse, such as Nvidia and Roblox.
Nvidia is known for creating computer graphics processors, chipsets used in automobiles and robotics, and is investing heavily in artificial intelligence. On the other hand, Roblox is an online gaming software where users can share games that they develop and create. Both companies are major players in the gaming sphere, so it does not come as a surprise that they are involved in the metaverse trend.
The metaverse is a massive undertaking that consumers might not experience for decades to come, if ever. As companies grapple with transforming their visions for these artificial worlds into reality, virtual reality continues to be a key factor in the process. Who knows, by the time the metaverse is ready for consumer adoption, new technologies could emerge that replace the need for virtual reality. Only time will tell.
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