A virtual place where we will spend more time than in the real world? For some, it sounds like a dream. For some, it sounds like a nightmare. But what exactly is the metaverse?

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What is the metaverse?

The short and easy definition is that no one knows. There are many visions and ideas about what the metaverse should be or become. But today, there is no real consensus about it.

The basic concept of the metaverse is an online 3D universe where you can communicate and interact with the environment and other people. You will most likely get access to the metaverse with a computer or smartphone, assisted by a VR headset or a device that supports virtual or augmented reality. The goal is to create an immersive experience like you’re really in the metaverse.

There are different versions of what the metaverse experience should be. Some early versions of the metaverse make you create an avatar, a digital version of yourself. You can customize such things as the appearance and clothes of this avatar to represent you. Anyone who has played a video or console game knows how this works. You control a character exploring and interacting with the world while you see it from a third-person perspective.

Another vision for the metaverse is that you don’t need to create an avatar. Instead, you will see everything from a first-person perspective, giving it an even more immersive feel.

What will you be able to do in the metaverse?

You will be able to do basically anything since it’s a virtual world. The vision for the metaverse is to create an open world where you can live, explore, and interact, just like in a video game. You will be able to attend virtual concerts, museums, shop, hang out with friends, try sports, explore, and interact in all possible ways.

You will probably be able to buy a digital home for your avatar to live in, and you can furnish it however you want to. It will also be an opportunity to try things in the metaverse first if you consider buying something in the real world. The opportunity for retail and commerce are endless in the metaverse. It could also offer great opportunities for remote work. There will most likely be some digital currency to drive the virtual economy for buying things in the metaverse.

But at the end of the day, entertainment and having fun will probably most make people visit the metaverse daily. In different themed metaverses, you could travel in time and explore another epoch, as an example. Only the imagination is the limit for what you’ll be able to do in the metaverse.

When will the metaverse be launched?

There are already several attempts to create metaverse-like environments. One early example is the game Second Life: where you make an avatar to socialize and interact in a purely virtual world. Several studios are trying to build their version of the metaverse. Maybe this is where we will end up, with many metaverses and not just one single open world for all. That means there will not be one metaverse but a multiverse of metaverses. These will probably all have different themes.

Another thing discussed is if the metaverse should be proprietary or open-source. Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has shown great interest in the metaverse. He even renamed his company from Facebook to Meta. Zuckerberg also declared that the company would invest $10 billion to develop an ecosystem for the metaverse.

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What will be the consequences of a metaverse?

Different versions of the future metaverse exist in popular culture. Some movies exploring the themes of a metaverse are Ready Player One and The Matrix. InThe Matrix, only a few people are aware they are in a simulation or a metaverse.

In Ready Player One, people access the metaverse using a VR headset. However, in The Matrix, they access the metaverse through body implants; you don’t even need a computer or other devices. But the question is: how many people would be willing to go that far?

The most obvious danger of the metaverse is the same as the over-consumption of any media. That could include such issues as addiction and people getting even less exercise. It could also become a way to escape from reality, to avoid confronting real-life issues. Then again, that could be the case with any technology.

But it could also become something completely disruptive and positive. It could become an immersive way to socialize with friends physically far away. It could be a way to explore and try new things that are not possible where you live. It could also revolutionize shopping and other social activities such as events and concerts.

When the internet became commercialized in the 1990s, few understood what it would eventually become and what it is today. The same thing could be the case with the metaverse. What it could become can be far from how we envision it today.