Picture this: you enter a world as a customisable avatar, interact with people in the setting, travel from one place to another and make purchases, all from the comfort of your sofa.
Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the premise for the novel and movie Ready, Player One written by Ernest Cline and Directed by Steven Spielberg.
It is easy to dismiss a virtual world as mere Hollywood fiction, but this reality is much closer than you think.
In October 2021, Facebook rebranded as Meta. This ushered in the next evolution of the internet as we know it.
What is the Metaverse?
The term ‘Metaverse’ can be traced back to Neal Stephenson’s 1992 dystopic, cyberpunk novel Snow Crash. In the novel, this ‘metaverse’ is a virtual 3D space that users can access remotely and interact with one another.
In fairness, such online communities have existed since the advent of the internet – think IRC, MSN messenger, Friendster etc. The metaverse is just the next frontier of virtual interaction.
As Mark Zuckerberg puts it, “We’ve gone from desktop to web to mobile; from text to photos to video. But this isn’t the end of the line. The next platform will be even more immersive — an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build.”
Who’s in it?
The metaverse, in its entirety, will not and cannot be built by one single company. Instead, it will be built by a diversity of creators and developers.
In order to cover all aspects of the virtual environments, collaboration among various forms of technology is a must. AI, cloud engineering, applications, and user-generated content will all come together to form the proposed Metaverse. Beyond technological requirements, the metaverse will be a holistic immersive experience that encompasses entertainment, gaming, commerce, social interactions and education.
This unlocks a potentially larger creative economy free from the restrictions and policies of the ‘real world’.
So, what’s in it for me?
It is precisely this untapped potential that banks and investors are taking note of. The concept of the metaverse is an opportunity to create any universe you can possibly imagine. In that same way, we look at 5 different things you can look to invest in for the metaverse:
The technology needed to build and develop the metaverse will only get more complex. Look at stocks for certain companies that are involved in the manufacturing of products such as VR headsets, cameras, projection and tracking systems.
As the metaverse evolves, processing speeds and faster networks will be critical for a seamless user experience. Think GPU chips, fibre optic cabling, wireless chipsets etc. Beyond this, it could be worthwhile to look at network providers and the services that provide the backbone that powers the metaverse.
The future of payments will be digital. The development of digital payment platforms and operations will be integral. This includes fiat on-ramp services, crypto financial services and other blockchain technologies.
A myriad of content will be created within the metaverse – from music to products and even NFTs. Global brands and celebrities are slowly jumping onto the bandwagon and creating virtual products and unique drops in anticipation for the metaverse. This ecosystem will only expand and more offerings will be rolled out in time to come. Thus, it is wise to do your own research in the areas of interest.
Security of assets
The migration of assets to the metaverse can be a scary thought. All your valuable NFTs, cryptocurrencies and data need to be stored securely. The rise of hacks and malware pose a security threat to the metaverse. Hence, it can be beneficial to explore storage and secure protection of such digital assets.
When to expect the Metaverse?
That’s the question isn’t it? When will we see the metaverse fully fleshed out or at which point do we acknowledge that the metaverse has ‘finally’ arrived?
Truth be told, nobody really knows.
The current hardware and infrastructure, while impressive, will still need to evolve before the vision of the metaverse can happen.
Just as Ready, Player One offers a glimpse of a fully immersive world, in reality, we have an example in Decentraland.
Decentraland is a fully decentralized world that has no central leadership. This digital world sits on the Ethereum blockchain network and is run by a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). Through voting and the DAO, players can decide the policies that determine how the world behaves. Decentraland also has its native token, MANA, which can be traded on various cryptocurrency exchanges for other altcoins.
In the grand scheme of things, Decentraland could be but one of the many decentralized worlds that make up the metaverse, with transactions and virtual goods flowing between them the same way trade is happening in the real world.
As it is, the lines between the virtual and real world have become blurred beyond recognition, so much so that the danger of replacing real-world experiences with virtual ones becomes apparent.
If the metaverse is the evolution of the internet as we know it, the future might not be as bright as we envision.
Hacking, catfishing, harassment, data privacy and rumour-mongering are perils of our digital age; problems that could potentially be exacerbated with the advent of this new metaverse.
Navigating through this brave new world might be perilous, but it’s something we all need to face head on as the world waits with bated breath for this new dawn.
Undoubtedly, the metaverse will revolutionise almost every industry and facet of our lives. In building this next step of the internet, completely new sectors and ecosystems will be created, as will niche types of skills, certifications and professions.
For those whose lives are already partly in the metaverse — despite its infancy and teething problems — that building has begun.