Metaverse is the new buzz word on the net. Since I am a new media enthusiast and a digital media professor, people have been asking me recently to explain what is Meta about, or how I feel about the rebranding of the Facebook, because this is how metaverse got to wider audience – Zukerberg owned it.
The metaverse is the next evolution of social connection. Our company’s vision is to help bring the metaverse to life, so we are changing our name to reflect our commitment to this future.– from the facebook.com/meta
Zukerberg created Facebook app in 2004. based on the two web apps that have already existed : Friendster and Friends United. Meta also wasn’t very original idea, because he is trying to grab the keyword Meta to himself and to take credit for concept and technology that exists in Second Life since 2003. : people using avatars, meeting in 3d space, role-playing, working, creating assets, playing games, earning/ spending money, and exchanging digital currency (linden dollar) for the ‘real money.’ Only Facebook has a few hundred million users more than Second Life and so will Meta (hopefully – for Z.).
The word Metaverse came from SCI-fi novel “Snow crash” by Neal Stephenson where he envisioned a VR world similar to Second Life. Terminology is not very fortunate since meta prefix is used to describe something about something , like meta-data : data about data, “meta-emotion” (emotion about emotion), “meta-discussion” (discussion about discussion), “meta-joke” (joke about jokes) and “meta-programming” (writing programs that write programs) . Although in dictionaries it is also translated as : after, beyond, : more comprehensive : transcending… .
So meta-humans and meta-verse are not quite justified terms, although they sound nice.
In last 5 years VR, AR, XR technologies have reached wider audience, and when Facebook bought Oculus and started to produce their own VR headsets (now called Meta-Quest) , it was obvious that they will make changes in their app as well, and that they will merge desktop/ mobile and oculus VR / meta environment.
In the meanwhile a lot of people started to use VR chat apps like VR chat , and Somnium Space for communication, making parties, showing artwork, holding meetings, buying land, assets, creating spaces, or just hanging out.
Gaming industry also prepared a lot of VR/AR content for these new platforms, Creative industry is using new creative tools in virtual workspaces, and Music industry is also present in VR with more immersive experience, since you can teleport yourself on the stage or above the stage not only to see different angles but also to hear different sound. There are also new markets open for digital assets – avatars, clothes, rooms, spaces…
Another popular terms in last 3 years are cryptocurrency and NFTs, generally described as digital currencies (or assets in case of NFT) that can be exchanged , bought or earned by using blockchain technology . Well, this is me trying to explain it in one sentence, but the truth is that you have to be a bit computer savvy to understand these technologies.
Cryptocurrencies and non- fungible-tokens (NFTs) are already present in ‘metaverse’, that is in various VR/AR games and apps, so the economy and marketing tools for metaverse are already set.
Some of the problems of the VR concept is the ergonomy of the devices (mostly glasess and headsets) that we use to participate in metaverse. They have better resolution with each new generation but moving through VR space and long exposure to this immersive environments can bring to users new visual, sensory, neural, and other problems.
There are also lack of laws and regulations in these systems, so that we can expect more bullying, privacy issues, scams etc.
Also, all these technologies require hardware and a lot of energy ( I am looking at you blockchain) that is very bad for sustainability of our natural environment.
But there is always some good in the bad: with this technologies we can erase borders and skip the distances, we can express ourselves more freely in the world without physical limitations, we can simulate some events, and learn skills in safe environment.
So my opinion on Meta – Facebook is that Zukerberg only wanted to ‘put his paw ‘on the next best thing by using technologies that have been already invented and that are present in rather small network of users, but they haven’t been commercially exploited by corporations like Facebook , Microsoft, Google and other ‘nice’ companies.