Why is everyone talking about metaverse?

Author: oli Welsh

Twitter ID:@oliwelsh

What is metaverse? Good question.

“Metaverse” is currently a major buzzword in the fields of technology, business and finance. Like all buzzwords, its definition is vague, controversial and shaped by the ambitions of the people who use it.

One thing we can say for sure: this word was coined by Niels Stevenson in his 1992 novel avalanche to describe a virtual world widely used in his imagined future, an anti Utopia of the 21st century. In snow crash, metaverse is a virtual reality world, which is depicted as a market around the planet, which can buy and sell virtual real estate. Users wearing VR goggles can freely choose the form of 3D avatar.

布鲁斯詹森/矮脚鸡图书 Bruce Jason / Bantam book

These three elements – VR interface, digital ownership and Avatar – still occupy a prominent position in the current concept of meta boundary. But in fact, none of them is necessary for this idea. In the broadest sense, metaverse is understood as a graphic rich virtual space with a certain degree of realism in which people can work, play, shop and socialize – in short, do what humans like to do together in real life (or, perhaps more importantly, on the Internet). Metaverse supporters often see the concept of “being” as a decisive factor: feeling like you’re really there and feeling like others are really with you.

This version of metaverse can be said to have existed in the form of video games. But metaverse has another definition that goes beyond what we know as the virtual world. This definition doesn’t actually describe metaverse at all, but it does explain why everyone thinks it’s so important. This definition is not about future vision or new technology. Instead, it looks at the technologies that were and are common to the Internet and smartphones, and assumes that it is necessary to invent virtual worlds to replace them.

Matthew ball, an influential venture capitalist, has written a large number of articles on metaverse, describing it as “an inherited state of the mobile Internet”. (Mark Zuckerberg named his company meta last year and said metaverse would be his focus. He used almost the same phrase; Obviously, Bauer’s article has had a great impact on the thought of Silicon Valley.) Remember, when smartphones revolutionize technology, is it the economy or society itself? Yuanjie is expected to become an equivalent watershed, and many enterprises hope to be ahead of it.

There are many challenges in ball’s vision, but the biggest challenge is that the metaverse he proposed will be a single network, which is as open, interconnected and interoperable as the current Internet. This is a big problem. But we are surpassing ourselves.


Is metaverse new?

In short: laughing loudly is not. We have determined that the term has existed for 30 years, not just a fictional form. For a long time, it has become part of the company’s vision for the future. In the first VR boom in the 1990s, British grocery chain Sainsbury ' S produced a VR shopping demonstration, which is strikingly similar to the video produced by Wal Mart in 2017.

In addition to marketing puffs and proof of concept demonstrations, virtual worlds like virtual worlds have actually existed for almost as long as their fictional counterparts. The hype about people getting married in metaverse will be recognized by anyone who has focused on online games in the past few decades. Second life, the “online multimedia platform” launched in 2003, is one of the most famous virtual worlds and may also be the ideal closest to the virtual world.

第二人生 second life

Second life is very much like the large multiplayer online role-playing games in the early 2000s, such as world of Warcraft, except that it removes all games: battles, missions, stories and rewards. It implements many of the roles envisaged for the future virtual world and has been so since its launch. Users are embodied in avatars and stroll around each other in virtual space. They enjoy virtual versions of real-world experiences, from business meetings to clubs. Users can create their own content and services and trade with each other. There is a virtual economy with its own currency, which can be exchanged with real-world currencies. Second life is almost a virtual world of a textbook, as far as there is such a thing.

PlayStation 主页 Playstation home page

Another notable but often forgotten example of early metaverse is Playstation home. Sony’s ill fated Playstation 3 virtual social center was launched in 2008 and closed in 2015, which grieved its small community. It doesn’t go anywhere and seems meaningless to ordinary users, but it’s an interesting example of what a highly corporate meta Festival – as opposed to anarchic, community driven second life – may look like.

It has many advertisements and one-way purchase opportunities, and there is not much else to do; In your PS3 interface, it is located next to the richer and more interesting virtual world and the game itself. But its clean artistic style, gentle style and utopian futurism clearly Herald Zuckerberg’s recent metaverse demonstration. This is what the company thinks of our dream.

Of course, the reality may be closer to a chaotic and sometimes dirty second life. Give humans the opportunity to build an unrestricted world. They either think of a brand opportunity or a fetish dungeon. This should be a warning to future meta section architects, or an opportunity.


Why is everyone suddenly talking about metaverse?

In the past few years, several factors have made it the forefront of thinking in the technology industry. First, some technologies closely related to metaverse vision have matured. In the 1990s, as Stephenson wrote in snow crash, virtual reality took its first faltering step, but now, well, it has become a reality. There are good quality headphones on the market, including independent wireless devices such as quest. Facebook’s acquisition of oculus in 2014 is an early sign of where Zuckerberg believes his business may go.

The other is blockchain, which is an incomprehensible and energy consuming technology that makes cryptocurrency and NFT possible. In the past year or so, NFT has become an obsession of encryption enthusiasts, snake oil salesmen, suggestive executives and (strangely) some parts of the art world, which can make the ownership of virtual goods and real estate in the virtual world possible.

Mark Zuckerberg of Meta 的 Mark Zuckerberg 介绍了他的Metaverse概念 meta introduced his concept of metaverse

It should be noted that without using blockchain, virtual items can be “owned” or even traded in a large number of games and virtual spaces (including second life) – but this ownership is very fragile and usually requires a license agreement. NFT provides different (but equally fragile) ways to prove ownership. In any case, metaverse supporters are excited by the uniqueness and assumed portability of NFT.

As important as the metaverse trend is the coronavirus pandemic, which has fundamentally changed the global lifestyle. As people spend so much time working at zoom conferences, and as people seek to enter a more colorful and exciting environment without leaving their comfortable and safe homes, technology companies naturally find ways to take advantage of the situation by bridging these two needs.

At the end of 2021, Facebook’s brand reinvention and its mission statement focusing on metaverse finalized the deal. Since then, the word has become more and more common – at least in the business world. It may take time for the government and the political world to catch up, as it focuses on how to curb the power of big technology here and now and how to mitigate the harmful impact of social media on real society – which continues to be a matter. senseless!


Isn’t metaverse just… Video games?

Probably! Do you know who thinks so? Microsoft. When acquiring Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion, Satya NADELLA, CEO of Microsoft, commented: “When we consider our vision for metaverse, we believe there will not be a single, centralized metaverse, nor should there be. We need to support many metaverse platforms… In the game, we see metaverse as a collection of communities and personal identities that are based on strong content franchises and can be accessed on each device 。”

Habbo是另一个虚拟社交空间,自 2000 年以来一直在运行 Habbo is another virtual social space that has been running since 2000

NADELLA may have just thrown out the catchphrase to shareholders, hoping it would help them support such a huge acquisition. Nevertheless, his vision is very different from the all inclusive VR Internet proposed by Bauer and Zuckerberg. In his version, Yuan stanzas are plural, and they are already around us. They are persistent communities around virtual places people want to go – such as world of Warcraft or call of Duty: Theater.

Microsoft has the same idea here. In 2014, around the same time that Facebook acquired oculus, Microsoft acquired mojang and its popular game my world. Minecraft is social, creative and highly customizable. It is usually considered as a game adjacent to metaverse. It is worth noting that Microsoft has not tried to strengthen it as exclusive on its own platform; It believes that minecraft itself is a valuable platform.

Large multiplayer online games such as world of Warcraft have a clear relationship with metaverse in form, if not function. But a closer analogy can be found in two very popular post minecraft games for children. In roblox and fortnite, your avatar, your presence, your custom choices, and your social relationships are almost more important than the game itself – or in the case of roblox, a plural game.

Roblox is an incredible free-form environment, almost comparable to second life, in which players can create their own games and pursue the status and dreams of real-world success – brand creation advertising games as a way to reach elusive teenagers.

At the same time, fortress night held large-scale in-game cultural activities, such as the 2020 Travis Scott concert, which attracted more than 27 million participants. For many observers, including Bauer, these events represent our closest to the real metaverse experience.


Should I resign and live in metaverse?

Pop star Ariana Grande appeared at the rift tour in fortnite

Not just now. Although the idea has matured and is currently obsessed with it on the board, the technology still needs a lot of work – especially if it is really going to be the “next Internet” envisioned by Bauer and Zuckerberg. Although the pandemic has confined many of us to our homes, consumers’ strong desire for a virtual world experience that is more than just video games has not been confirmed.

The biggest obstacle to the realization of ball and Zuckerberg’s virtual world is interoperability. You might want to call it standardization; The idea is that you will be able to take your avatar and digital assets from one application, game or virtual world to the next. (ball imagined bringing a unique Counter Strike gun skin into fortnite, for example)

For metaverse to become the next stage of Internet development, interoperability is crucial, but the obstacles are so huge that they seem insurmountable. There are technical challenges: how to move assets from one graphics engine to another and faithfully render it within a dazzling range of hardware configurations. There are also legal and commercial challenges: circumventing intellectual property rights and persuading countless enterprises to agree not to enclose the garden. For example, this is much more difficult than agreeing on standards for hypertext links.

In addition, people must be convinced that this is what they want. The technology we use to access these worlds needs to be at least as comfortable, convenient and portable as smartphones, otherwise it looks like a setback of the mobile internet it should replace.

Although on the surface, the sci-fi appeal of such a virtual world seems obvious, you have to question how deep your desire to spend time in it is. In novels from avalanche to matrix and player one, Yuan Jie is often conceived as an escape – whether willing or not – from the terrible and intolerable dystopian reality. I dare hope we haven’t fully done it yet.

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