Table of contents

What is the metaverse?

What is the metaverse?

Metaverse 101

The metaverse is a term used to describe a collective virtual shared space that is created by the convergence of physical and virtual reality. As of now, there is no single, all-encompassing metaverse. Instead, there are multiple virtual environments, online games, social platforms, and digital spaces that represent aspects of the metaverse concept.

What is the metaverse?

In his metaverse primer, Matthew Ball writes, “We should not expect a single, all-illuminating definition of the ‘Metaverse.’ Especially not at a time in which the Metaverse has only just begun to emerge.” He goes on to define it as “a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds and environments which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.”

More simply put, the metaverse is meant to act as an immersive digital world that allows users to interact with each other and with digital objects in real-time. It’s a shared, interactive virtual space that connects multiple digital environments, platforms, and experiences. Users can interact with each other by engaging in social activities, working, learning, or gaming.

Conceptually, the metaverse allows users to move seamlessly between various virtual worlds, games, or applications while maintaining a consistent digital identity. The concept is still developing and improving, but with new innovations and technology emerging, it’s evolving quickly and being adopted by more companies and consumers.

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and blockchain technology have made the existence of the metaverse possible. These technologies theoretically allow users to interact with each other and with digital objects in real-time, creating an immersive experience, although many acknowledge that we are still only experiencing the tip of the iceberg in terms of what these technologies will be capable of in the future.

Are there multiple metaverses or one metaverse?

The term "metaverse" is often used to describe a single, unified, and interconnected digital universe that brings together various virtual worlds, platforms, and experiences. However, as of now, there is no single, all-encompassing metaverse. Instead, there are multiple virtual environments, online games, social platforms, and digital spaces that represent aspects of the metaverse concept.

These individual virtual worlds and platforms are thought of as "mini-metaverses" or components of a broader, evolving metaverse. While they might not be fully interconnected yet, technology and collaboration may lead to greater interoperability and collaboration among these digital spaces in the future.

In the future, the development of technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, and artificial intelligence may further contribute to the convergence and integration of various digital environments, creating a more cohesive metaverse experience. However, as of now, the metaverse is better understood as a collection of multiple interconnected virtual spaces rather than a single, unified digital universe.

What is virtual reality (VR), and how is it connected to the metaverse?

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation or environment that allows users to interact with and explore a three-dimensional world in real-time. It creates an immersive experience by using specialized hardware and software to track user movements and adjust the visuals and audio accordingly. Typically, users wear a headset with a display for each eye, which creates a stereoscopic effect, and use handheld controllers or other tracking devices to interact with the virtual environment.

VR is connected to the idea of the metaverse because it provides an immersive and interactive means to access these shared digital spaces. With VR technology, users can enter the metaverse and, ideally, have a more engaging and lifelike experience compared to traditional screen-based interfaces. VR was created to enable users to feel physically present in a virtual world and enhance the feeling of connection and social interaction.

VR is currently used in gaming, entertainment, education, training, therapy, and design, with more applications emerging daily. It has the potential to revolutionize how we interact with digital content and other people by creating realistic experiences that allow us to broaden our scope of experiences with a screen.

What is augmented reality (AR), and how is it connected to the metaverse?

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that overlays digital information like images, text, or 3D models onto a user's view of their real environment in real-time. This creates an interactive and immersive experience where digital elements enhance or augment the user’s physical environment. AR can be experienced through devices like phones, tablets, smart glasses, or head-mounted displays.

AR enables users to interact with and experience the metaverse by overlaying digital information and objects onto the user's real-world view. This integration of digital elements with the physical world seamlessly blends realities, which is a crucial aspect of the metaverse.

AR has contributed to the creation of the metaverse concept in several key ways:

Spatial computing

AR can anchor digital objects and information in the physical world, enabling users to interact with them as if they were real. This spatial computing capability can be an essential part of the metaverse, allowing users to experience digital content contextually and seamlessly integrated with their surroundings.

Multi-platform accessibility

Unlike VR, which may require a dedicated headset, AR can be experienced through various devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and smart glasses. This enables a broader user base to engage with the metaverse and facilitates a more natural integration of the digital and physical worlds.

Real-world interaction

AR has the potential to enhance and expand social interactions in the metaverse by connecting users with digital experiences that are relevant to their immediate real-world environment. This can create novel social experiences, such as location-based games or interactive art installations, that blend the digital and physical realms.

Digital identity

AR can be used to visualize and interact with digital identities, avatars, and assets in the context of the physical world. This can further bridge the gap between the metaverse and real life, enabling users to showcase their digital presence and belongings in various real-world contexts.

How do I access the metaverse?

As of now, the metaverse is not a single, unified digital space, but rather an evolving concept encompassing various interconnected virtual worlds, platforms, and experiences. To access different parts of what is often referred to as the metaverse, you can use a variety of platforms and applications. Depending on the specific virtual environment or experience, you may need different devices or software.

Here are some of the ways you can currently access aspects of the metaverse:

Decentralized virtual worlds: Platforms like Decentraland or Voxels use blockchain technology to enable users to create, explore, and trade digital items within their virtual worlds.

Virtual Reality (VR) platforms: Using a VR headset, you can immerse yourself in virtual worlds and experiences. Some platforms offer social experiences where users can interact with each other in shared virtual spaces.

Gaming environments: Many online games provide virtual worlds where players can socialize, collaborate, or compete. Some examples include Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, and Meta Horizon worlds. Although not fully realized metaverse experiences, they represent aspects of the concept. According to Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, there are currently over 600 million active users in these virtual worlds, and these games are on a growth trajectory to put that number in the billions by the end of this decade.

Augmented Reality (AR) applications: You can access AR experiences through phones, tablets, or AR glasses. AR apps overlay digital content onto the real world, blending virtual and physical elements.

Web-based platforms: Some virtual environments, like theportal.to, can be accessed through web browsers that allow users to create and join virtual rooms to socialize or collaborate.

How are NFTs connected to the metaverse?

An NFT (non-fungible token) is a unique digital item stored on a blockchain, which ensures its provenance, authenticity, and scarcity. A blockchain is a decentralized record that gets its name from how it stores its data. Once a set of transaction data reaches a certain size, it forms a "block.” This is where every transaction on a blockchain is validated and then permanently stored. The “chain” part of a blockchain is a series of consecutive blocks linked together, forming the immutable ledger.

NFTs are stored on the blockchain, which imbues them with their core qualities of immutability, decentralization, and trackability. NFTs can represent almost anything, and serve as a digital record of ownership. They’re also connected to the metaverse in several ways. NFTs enable users to own, trade, and use digital items within the virtual space. In the context of the metaverse, NFTs may represent collectibles, in-game items, virtual land, ticketing, skins, or other interactive elements of a virtual world.

One of the benefits of blockchains is that they are decentralized systems, meaning, they are not controlled by a single entity. This can help to promote fairness and transparency in the distribution and ownership of NFTs. Decentralization offers a layer of protection and transparency through trustless and permissionless transactions.

Interoperability refers to the ability of different systems or components to work together and communicate with each other. Blockchains enable the transfer of NFTs between various virtual worlds or platforms that support them, enabling greater accessibility, flexibility, and utility.

While true interoperability is still slightly out of reach, ideally, NFTs will be able to be used across different platforms and virtual worlds within the metaverse in the future, allowing users to bring their digital items with them as they navigate between various experiences. This interoperability could bring new kinds of collaboration and better integrate content from developers and platforms.

NFTs also enable users to express themselves creatively by showcasing their unique items, such as avatars, skins, clothing, or art, within the metaverse. This lets users create distinct digital identities, which can enhance social interactions and user engagement in virtual spaces.

And finally, NFTs provide creators and collectors a means to monetize their creations within the metaverse by allowing users to buy and sell items.

Notable metaverse NFT collections

Otherdeed for Otherside

Otherdeed is a collection of NFTs that, when purchased, grants its owner access to land in Otherside, a virtual world developed by Yuga Labs within the Bored Ape Yacht Club universe. Each NFT in the Otherdeed collection has a unique blend of environment and sediment with things like resources, artifacts, and creatures.

Otherdeed

The Sandbox

The Sandbox is a community-driven platform in which players can make their own creations for others to experience or play. As the name implies, The Sandbox allows players to craft entire games and experiences, each with their own characters, objects, monsters, and modes. A large part of The Sandbox is its marketplace, where creators buy and sell the things they’ve made. As the community grows, more creations will organically diversify and enrich The Sandbox platform, in turn attracting more users.

The Sandbox

Somnium Space VR

Somnium Space is an open and social virtual reality world built on the Ethereum blockchain and shaped by its community of users. Users can buy land, build or import objects, and instantly enjoy in-universe items. Streamers can set up virtual studios inside of it, universities can offer courses through it, creators can build and sell digital items or services within it, and collectors can showcase their collections on their land, to name a few applications.

Somnium Space

🧠 Q&A

What will the future of the metaverse look like?

The future of the metaverse will likely be shaped by a combination of technological advancements, industry collaborations, and evolving user demands. While no one can predict the exact trajectory of the metaverse, things like improved interoperability, combinations of existing technologies, widespread adoption, better social experiences, and more opportunities to integrate education will likely drive its development.

Other than gaming, which other genres lend themselves to existence within the metaverse?

Some other prominent genres of metaverse content include social networking and communication, art and cultural experiences, education and training, live events and entertainment, shopping, fitness, and real estate.

How do I properly vet an NFT before buying it?

Web3 technology is still new and constantly evolving, so while no single action guarantees protection, there are best practices that can help. The best rule of thumb is that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Never share your wallet’s seed phrase, be careful when taking actions using your wallet, and make sure to thoroughly evaluate NFTs before buying. 

OpenSea also has an icon visible via a blue checkmark badge on a collection or account. A blue checkmark badge on an account means that account has been verified for authenticity by OpenSea. A blue checkmark badge on a collection means the collection belongs to a verified account and has significant interest or sales. (OpenSea does not endorse verified accounts or badged collections, and OpenSea makes no representations regarding the NFTs in a verified account or badged collection.)

OpenSea makes no representations or guarantees regarding the collections highlighted in this article.  Users must do their own research and use their own judgment before buying any NFT, including those included in the collections highlighted in this article.  The descriptions of the collections highlighted in this article were adapted from descriptions provided by the NFT creators, not OpenSea.

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