Journey to the center of the Metaverse: what it is and how it works

by | Jan 11, 2022 | Social Media

Home 9 Social Media 9 Journey to the center of the Metaverse: what it is and how it works

On October 28, 2021, Mark Zuckerberg revealed his plans for the Metaverse to the world, and since then everyone has been talking about it or seeking information about it. It is clear that this is a virtual universe where people can live a kind of parallel life and engage in various activities. It all sounds futuristic, but there is actually much more to it than that, and Zuckerberg has not invented anything new.

II term Metaverse was coined in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in the novel “Snow Crash” to refer to a 3-D virtual world where humans can interact with each other, as avatars, and with software. Still staying in the science fiction sphere, Steven Spielberg represented the Metaverse in the 2011 film “Ready Player One” (based on Ernest Cline’s short story). The scenario is that of a virtual world, humanity’s refuge to escape the damage caused to the Earth by the energy crisis and global warming.

Returning to reality (not just virtual), many hi-tech companies have been pursuing projects to push into the Metaverse for several decades. Think, for example, of augmented reality devices or the attempts at virtual interaction made in the gaming world, for example, with Second Life, which was very popular at the beginning of the millennium.

This development will be very important for marketers. It could be an extension of existing social networks and offer new points of contact between consumers and brands, as well as new ways to purchase. Let’s take a look at how each company is building its Metaverse and what the future holds.

What is and how does the Metaverse work

The Metaverse is a new version of the Internet. It is a virtual 3D dimension, parallel and interconnected with the real one, where people, in the form of avatars, can interact with each other.

Many have interpreted it as a parallel universe to which to escape from reality, but this is not quite so. In fact, interconnection with the real dimension is one of the most important features of the Metaverse, which, thanks to the virtual, makes it possible to cancel the distances and barriers present in the real.

Today the entry points to the Metaverse are computers, smartphones, and wereable devices such as virtual reality viewers. In particular, four types of technology are involved: augmented reality, mixed reality, virtual reality, virtual worlds.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse: from Facebook to Meta

For years Mark Zuckerberg has been pursuing projects for virtual communities as well as tools for creators and businesses that sell online. Through the acquisition of several companies, it now controls two of the most popular social networks (Facebook and Instagram), and WhatsApp, the world’s most popular instant messaging service. In parallel, it is pursuing virtual reality projects, culminating in the acquisition of Oculus VR, the company that produces the Oculus Rift.

On October 28, 2021, the company Facebook Inc. was renamed Meta Platforms, Inc. or more simply Meta. Further defining Facebook’s plans regarding the Metaverse was Zuckerberg during Connect 2021. “The next platform will be even more immersive, an embedded Internet right where you are having the experience, not just watching it. And we call this the Metaverse. You’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine, get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, buy, create, but a number of things belonging to categories that are not really part of the way we are used to thinking about computers and phones today.”

Zuckerberg often uses the phrase “embedded Internet” to describe what he believes will be the next version of the Internet. The base will be Horizon Worlds, the platform through which it will be possible to explore scenarios where you can virtually meet friends and other users, then there will be other spaces such as Workplace, the place to have business meetings. There will be a business of user-created items and settings that can be purchased online.

Currently, Horizon Worlds is in invitation-only beta. You can get closer to this world through Oculus Quest 2(available on offer on Amazon), the new augmented reality viewer. With this device you can already try the most advanced experiences related to gaming, fitness and entertainment.

Mark Zuckerberg explains the Metaverse at Connect 2021

Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Mesh for Teams

If Facebook has launched itself into the Metaverse, Microsoft has not been idle. A few days after Facebook Connect 2021, Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft) announced the release of Microsoft Mesh for early 2022. It is a communication platform that will be integrated with Teams to provide support for remote work and make video calls with colleagues even more realistic.

Like Horizon, Mesh will also allow users to interact in a virtual space through avatars. The HoloLens 2 visor will make it possible to enter this world to interact within virtual space, while Holoportation technology will allow individuals to virtually enter physical spaces via holograms. In this way we will be able to experience a mixed reality experience that will cancel out distances and barriers.

One very interesting aspect for marketers is the integration of Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces, formerly Dynamics 365 Connected Store, which will allow for accurate measurement of user interactions even in the Metaverse. It will be possible to collect data from the different devices connected to the Metaverse, to personalize the experience and send the right message through marketing automation.

Simon Skaria (Director of Product Engineering at Microsoft) explains how Mesh works

Google and the virtual reality of Project Starline

Two weeks after Connect 2021, Google also announced the integration of augmented reality and virtual reality search programs within the projects of Google Labs, the incubator that focuses on developing products and services from internal and external startup ideas. The new head of this business branch is Clay Bavor who oversaw Project Starline.

Project Starline is a holographic video conferencing system that aims to connect distant people and have them communicate as if they were in the presence. All this without the need to use glasses or headphones. Research in the fields of computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio and real-time compression has enabled Google to create an innovative light field visualization system that creates an accurate hologram of the person.

China’s hi-tech biggies: Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance

Several Chinese companies are approaching the Metaverse. Above all, Alibaba, which, during Singles’ Day (a kind of Chinese Black Friday), launched the Metaverse Art Exhibition. Virtual saleswoman Ayay (who also has an Instagram page) walked users through a section of the marketplace with limited editions that can only be purchased through NFT. The Chinese e-commerce giant has also registered 20 trademarks pertaining to the world of the Metaverse

Tencent (a company that owns WeChat and several video game brands including Epic Games) also maniffested its interest in the Metaverse back in 2019 and has since registered a hundred brands.

ByteDance (a company that owns TikTok) has made several investments in the world of gaming and virtual reality. Interesting among them is the acquisition of start-up Pico Interactive, which ranks third on the podium of global visor manufacturers.

The Metaverse in Gaming

As we have seen so far, the world of gaming and entertainment is at the center of developments in the Metaverse. It is the natural terrain where these virtual interactions can be experienced. One need only think of Second Life, which in the early years of the New Millennium had moved toward creating worlds and communities in a parallel virtual reality. The difference is that back then they lacked the devices that could fully immerse themselves in those worlds, whereas today we have visors and of devices for virtual reality.

Fortnite

As we have seen, Tencent, the company that owns Epic Games, is among those that are investing in the Metaverse. Today Fortnite is its most popular title, and this is where it is experimenting with virtual communities that users access via avatars. One example is Party Worlds, virtual worlds created by users and open to anyone who wants to socialize online. As with Second Life, we have the logic of virtual worlds and avatars, but the ability to merge them with reality is still lacking.

Fortnite is increasingly attracting the attention of brands with items available only online for virtual avatars and actual events. This is the case of Travis Scott’s concert, which in April 2020 was followed online by 12.3 million players.

Roblox

Roblox also allows creators to create 3D virtual worlds where they can play and interact with other users in the form of avatars. The graphics are simpler than Fortnite, but it retains the concept of interaction and exploration. Here, too, brands are investing more and more. The example is that of Nike, which created Nikeland, a virtual world representing the brand’s values.

Investing in the Metaverse: stock market, creators and crypto

As we have seen, more and more brands are attracted to the Metaverse, or at any rate to those gaming platforms that are moving in that direction. Here a battle will be played out that will amplify and extend social media marketing. The rebranding of Facebook to Meta is no accident.

But the revenue opportunities are not only for brands. The Metaverse will give creators the opportunity to make new worlds and objects for use online. These can be sold to users and thus trigger a new market. The mechanism is what we have already seen two decades ago in Second Life.

Another opportunity for gains is in financial investments-from the stocks of companies that are targeting the Metaverse to cryptocurrencies. The dominant currency in these worlds could be the Nft (non-fungible token), the cryptographic certificate saved on blockchain that certifies ownership of a unique digital work.

A look into the future: when will the Metaverse arrive

Many of the largest technology companies are investing in the Metaverse. Facebook seems the most decisive one, but the others are also trying to leverage their strengths to create an immersive experience that merges reality and virtual worlds. From Zuckerberg to Nadella, they all agree that the Metaverse is the new version of the Internet.

However, there are also discordant voices. Visionary Elon Musk bluntly rejected the Metaverse, calling it “more marketing than reality.” He also admitted, however, that he might be like those who in 1995 were unable to understand the potential of the Internet(see Bill Gates on David Letterman’s Show).

In any case, the Metaverse will probably not explode in 2022, but it may begin to take root to revolutionize the digital world. It could have a significant impact in the way we communicate and interact with brands as well as people. It could also significantly change workflows and business processes as well as the world of education. Over the course of this decade we will find out who will be right between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. Should the vision of Facebook’s founder (oops, Meta) come to fruition, the future will belong to those who manage to enter the Metaverse ahead of their competitors.

Luigi Nervo

Luigi Nervo

Digital Marketing Manager

Marketing, Seo and content expert (read the bio).

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Luigi Nervo

Luigi Nervo

Digital Marketing Manager

Marketing, Seo and content expert (read the bio).