What is the Metaverse and What Does It Mean?
The Origin of the Term and the Metaverse Concept
What is the Metaverse: Definition and Characteristics
To date, it is still a concept that is difficult to define precisely, as the metaverse is still an ongoing and evolving project, with many open questions such as hardware capabilities, identity, privacy, and user security. Simplistically, it can be said to prefigure a set of interconnected virtual and real worlds populated by avatars. Some argue that it is not a technology but a process of digital convergence that will shape the future of the internet.
Although the metaverse is open to various interpretations and is often discussed in an approximate and confusing manner, it actually has a definition and characteristics that describe it accurately.
According to Matthew Ball, one of the most authoritative and influential experts in the field, the metaverse is (or should be):
An interoperable and large-scale network of real-time represented three-dimensional virtual worlds that can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with data continuity, such as identity, history, acquired rights, objects, communications, and payments.
The main attributes that the metaverse should be composed of are:
These are computer-generated virtual environments. They can simulate the real world ("digital twin") or represent an imaginary one.
Three-Dimensionality of Environments
This is a fundamental aspect of the metaverse. It is an element that distinguishes this future network from the current internet. Although not all experiences within the metaverse are necessarily three-dimensional.
Real-Time Representation of 3D Worlds
This means that the rendering process - which involves a computer generating objects or environments - must respond in real-time and smoothly to user inputs, or else users become impatient. Naturally, more complex environments require more computing power.
This means that systems and platforms, through a series of shared standards, communicate with each other seamlessly, allowing for easy movement from one environment to another and continuous interaction from any platform, just as browsing the web allows you to move from one site to another.
Interoperability Between Users and Platforms
This will allow for smooth and continuous experiences in the digital world, ensuring data collection, transmission, and protection for cybersecurity and privacy.
The property that allows the metaverse to operate endlessly without the possibility of being paused, turned off, or reset. In this condition, the effects of users' actions remain unchanged and visible indefinitely to everyone. The experience is continuous, persistent, and without the possibility of resetting between one browsing session and another.
Experiences in the virtual world must simulate those in real life, so interactions between people must be fluid and exist for everyone in real time.
Unlimited Number of Users
Therefore, there should be no limits on the number of people who can participate simultaneously in the same event and experience a real sense of presence in that place, at that time. So, anyone at any time should be able to enter and stay in the metaverse as they please.
Currently, technological limitations do not allow for the design of a single parallel reality in which an unlimited number of users can interact and communicate simultaneously. With some technical tricks, a few hundred avatars can coexist, as in the case of Travis Scott's concert, where more than 120,000 identical copies of the game were created to allow 27.7 million viewers to watch the live music performance on the Fortnite platform simultaneously.
These elements make the metaverse an unprecedented technological challenge that will require at least ten years and the work of hundreds of companies, each dedicated to solving specific problems and meeting the needs of their customers (business or consumer).