The Only Metaverse Guide You Need: Where Did It Come From and Where Is It Going

SparkAmpLab Editorial Team
August 23, 2021

If you have been keeping up with the tech world, you might have heard of the Metaverse, the concept of countless connected virtual realities that users can access through AR/VR. The topic has been popularized once again now that big companies like Facebook and NVIDIA are investing to create this virtual realm.

However, the concept is still unknown to most consumers, even though it’s seen as one of the most important technological advancements of the present by important players in the tech world.

In this article, SparkAmplify will take a closer look at this emerging tech: its history, how different companies are developing the universe, and its potential future. Here is a quick overview:

  • What is the Metaverse?
  • A bit of the history
  • Key players in the race
  • Important aspects of the Metaverse
  • The future of the Metaverse

Editor’s Note: According to SparkAmplify’s monthly AR/VR trending topic analysis, Metaverse was one of the most discussed topics in July. More on Metaverse: Why Are More Brands Tapping Into the Metaverse Trend?

What is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is a concept that has been bouncing around the tech world for a while, but only recently has it become a tangible goal that many companies are striving towards. For now, it has a shaky definition, but the tech world agrees on certain features: it will be a space “similar to the Internet”, where avatars of users can walk around and interact with one another, in 3D real-time, first person experiences. 

A bit of the history first

The Metaverse is a concept initially derived from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where “the virtual and physical world were inextricably interconnected”. The concept was picked up by gaming companies, which created ‘user-defined worlds’ in which users could live a virtual life through transactions and user interactions. The concept was popular, but it was only recently that companies attempted to reach this 3D aspect.

A decade back, tech writers did predict that a “single, pervasive environment [will] emerge”, which is what seems to be happening. The Metaverse has reentered the tech world, for several reasons. With COVID-19, people are more comfortable with using virtual selves to interact with others and act in normal parts of everyday life, and crypto-currencies – which would ensure verifiable ownership in a digital world – are also booming. 

This has renewed the interest of many companies, like Facebook, NVIDIA and more, in the Metaverse, and the virtual world could be closer than any of us realize.  

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Key players in the race

The concept has ample opportunity for revenue and progress in the tech world; not only would it break barriers with new virtual technology, there’d be no limit to what could be created and sold with its 3D simulation abilities. As such, it’s no wonder the biggest players in the tech world are putting their chips in to achieve the Metaverse first. 

One of the most notable players is Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform which has, in the past years, been expanding exponentially. 

Facebook

In a recent conference call intended as a discussion about Facebook’s quarterly results, Zuckerberg announced plans to make Facebook “transition from a social media company to a Metaverse company”. With a reported revenue of $29 billion since the mid-March pandemic shutdown, Facebook is more than economically equipped to tackle Zuckerberg’s vision: “lots of AR experiences [sharing] a common reality, with users [navigating between them]”. 

The company has dipped into AR/VR with its acquisition of the Oculus virtual reality headset, and the creation of Facebook Horizon, a VR world. Oculus, which has now been renamed Facebook Reality Labs, is creating a map simulation of the real world that users can access through AR glasses, and interact with other users while their social information (name, city, relationship status) is superimposed over their avatar. They are hoping to create revenue streams from the sale of digital goods within the Metaverse, although they predict advertisements will be a key source of revenue.  

However, the response from customers has been mixed. Users fear the possibility that, with its unparalleled power in the race, Facebook will have control of the Metaverse. With its history of proposed antitrust legislation and accusations of misinformation, along with its reliance on ads, the company is not a favorable winner. Zuckerberg has reassured users, claiming that the Metaverse will not be the result of a single company, rather the collaborative work of many. 

NVIDIA

NVIDIA, the computer chip company founded by Jensen Huang, is also ahead in the race. Huang has been very vocal about their stance with the Metaverse and its progress: it has created the Omniverse, or a ‘Metaverse for engineers’-- a collaboration platform with 3D multi-GPU real-time simulation with 50,000 users. 

The chip maker recently announced a major expansion, partnering with Blender, an open-source 3D animation tool, to enable its 3 million users to access the Omniverse production pipelines. Artists, designers and reviewers can now work together in a shared virtual world to design 3D ‘digital twins’. They are also collaborating with Adobe on a Substance 3D plugin, which will unlock new material editing capabilities. 

With the many uses for the Omniverse, NVIDIA is locked in for the future, being one of the main investors for META ETF, which provides investors exposure to the market of the Metaverse. 

When asked about competition, Richard Kerris, vice president of the Omniverse development platform, commented that the goal is to “connect and extend”, as well as “enhance the workflows that currently exist.” 

Epic Games

With the concept of the Metaverse beginning in the gaming world, it’s no wonder a gaming company like Epic Games is also a key competitor. With the success from their video game Fortnite, the company has announced a $1 billion round of funding for growth opportunities related to the Metaverse in April. Tim Sweeney, CEO of the company, announced the down payment will go towards speeding the building of connections between the social experiences within the company’s most famous games.

Investors include Sony Group Corporation, cementing their shared mission of advancing “socially connected online services”, says Sweeney. 

Through the acquisition of other game companies, the company aims to merge different games to create a Metaverse. However, many have pointed out that Fortnite cannot become the Metaverse “by itself”. With the company’s recent down payment, Sweeney has stated that “we will slowly see the barriers between closed systems break down over time… [with no more] closed systems [for social media or gaming]”.

More players

Apart from these three main contestants, big and small names have dipped into the race. Microsoft’s CEO has declared the company’s intent to participate in the “enterprise Metaverse”, and gaming company Roblox is one of the top investors in the META ETF. With so many pawns, the Metaverse is still up for grabs. 

Important aspects of the Metaverse development

Although the concept of the Metaverse is still amorphous, certain key aspects are worth knowing about. 

Omniverse

The Omniverse, as previously mentioned, could be a groundbreaking virtual collaboration platform to unlock the vision of the metaverse. It was created by NVIDIA as a way for engineers to simulate their builds in 3D and work collaboratively in real time, but is now expanding to other occupations. Richard Kerris, vice president of the Omniverse development platform at NVIDIA, states it will serve as a ‘connector of the Metaverse’, through its ability to create 3D items, which will populate the NFT market and power the Metaverse’s economy. 

Immersive experience

Most tech heads at the front of the Metaverse race agree that it has to be an immersive experience, in which users experience the virtual world through their own customized avatars. This part of the experience is why lead players like Facebook have invested into VR and AR, and why VR/AR companies are essential to the development of the Metaverse. HTC Vive has delved into this aspect by creating a platform for businesses to work in VR, in an immersive environment that allows for collaborative work and 3D visualization. 

Blockchain & NFT

Cryptocurrency will also play an important role. NVIDIA’s Huang claims the Metaverse will have an “economy…larger [than the one] in the physical world”, fuelled by cryptocurrencies. Decentraland is one company that has created its virtual world, with MANA, a cryptocurrency which can be purchased with real-life money. It is an imperative part as the Metaverse aims to create NFTs that can be verifiably sold. 

Lootex is one of many companies creating NFTs. Its collectible catalogue includes software for digital avatars, with personalized clothing, unique to the user. 

The future game experience

The Metaverse will also be shaped by gaming. Games like Roblox and Animal Crossing already resemble the Metaverse in some ways - with a user-defined experience and creative liberty over the world - and Epic Games wants to shape Fortnite to work similarly. The gaming aspect of the Metaverse is important as it is the one most users are comfortable with. However, to fully incorporate it into a Metaverse, games will have to go beyond code to allow more flexibility into what users can accomplish. 

Investment opportunities

With its exponential growth, there are plenty of investment opportunities within and around the Metaverse. META ETF is the first exchange traded product globally that players can invest in to track progress in the Metaverse and what to further invest in. KBGP Pte Ltd specializes in such investments, with a large domestic user base that invests in such stocks. 

Stocks can also be purchased with the leading companies in the Metaverse, and the creation of NFTs is said to eventually become a powerful revenue source for users. 

The future of the Metaverse

It is impossible to know exactly when we will create the Metaverse, with its full-fledged potential of connecting thousands of virtual worlds and markets; some say it is decades away, whereas others say it depends entirely on the collaboration of many tech companies – whose heads seem willing to work together for this project. 

With so many companies and tech titans investing into the future of Metaverse, whether through financial investments or progress towards a tangible physical product, there is definitely a future for the Metaverse, a concept that will continue to buzz not only within the tech world but also among the mainstream public. 

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