Against the backdrop of explosive interest in artificial intelligence technologies actively discussed in the IT community, the topic of the metaverse has systematically receded into the background. Moreover, it's barely mentioned even at major tech exhibitions, like Collision 2023 that took place in Toronto at the end of June.
However, it's crucial to understand the concept of the metaverse today as it offers opportunities to attract additional interest to one's business and increase the loyalty of existing clients. In reality, anyone who uses the internet is already an integral part of the genuine metaverse.
Just imagine sitting on your sofa at home in Kitchener-Waterloo, but exploring Banff National Park in Alberta using Apple Vision Pro—this is a vivid example of the metaverse. Moreover, many people today consider even using social networks, like Instagram or Facebook, as interacting with the metaverse.
The metaverse represents the imminent future of technological advancement in our world, which must not be overlooked. It will significantly influence the software development industry and traditional businesses during the next phase of digital transformation.
The term "metaverse" can essentially describe any interaction between different people on the internet. But a more classical understanding of this term in the technical realm refers to the next version of the internet — a more immersive virtual space where one can virtually reside without changing their physical location.
In this context, the metaverse is a network of immersive virtual worlds accessible online for communication, work, study, entertainment, and any other interaction between users. It's a cyberspace with its own rules and laws, reminiscent of the film Ready Player One (2018), based on Ernest Cline's novel.
It's believed that the concept of the metaverse was first formulated in Neil Stephenson's novel Snow Crash (1992). The author described a virtual universe with digital avatars for each user and the use of virtual reality headsets for deep immersion in the events taking place.
To the average person today, such concepts seem like science fiction. However, tech giants think differently and are actively working on metaverse ideas. It's no coincidence that Facebook renamed its parent company to Meta in 2021 and announced plans to develop virtual reality social variants.
Apple. A significant move by the company towards the metaverse is the announcement of the Apple Vision Pro – an advanced mixed reality headset designed for both work and entertainment in the virtual world. The tech giant refers to this device as a true spatial computer.
Alphabet (Google). An essential step for the company towards the metaverse was the augmented reality glasses, Google Glass, which unfortunately did not become a successful consumer product. In 2021, the tech giant consolidated its AR and VR development efforts into Google Labs, whose main product today is the holographic conferencing system, Project Starline.
Meta (Facebook). The company has been engaging with the metaverse for several years, developing virtual reality devices under the Oculus brand. Moreover, not long ago, the tech behemoth launched the virtual platform Horizon Marketplace, which allows users to buy and sell virtual goods.
Nvidia. The company's main initiative related to the metaverse is the free distribution of the Omniverse software suite. It is designed for creating three-dimensional elements that can later be integrated into virtual worlds.
In the commonly accepted sense, the metaverse is a virtual reality system that one can connect to using specialized equipment for various interactions with other community members. It's a separate digital world where you can become anyone you wish.
Most likely, in the foreseeable future, metaverses will generally be categorized based on professional and entertainment interests. It's probable that they will represent separate systems or services for interaction within a specific theme.
In this case, familiar internet services will gradually be transitioned into virtual reality for more effective interaction among all community members. The most relatable example of this approach today are online games, each of which represents a nascent metaverse.
However, there's a possibility that in a few years, a dominant metaverse will emerge, encompassing everything. This could be the further development of Horizon Worlds by Meta or another large-scale system that effectively represents a separate virtual world.
Work. The metaverse allows professionals to operate alongside colleagues in a virtual office for more effective collaboration. The COVID-19 pandemic compelled numerous firms to adopt remote work, and in this sense, the metaverse represents the next evolution of this concept.
Education. With the metaverse, attending classes in schools, universities, or any educational institution won't just be via video calls on Zoom and similar platforms. Instead, it'll be through virtual reality. This format will undoubtedly enhance the efficacy of learning.
Travel. By utilizing the metaverse, exploring new places across the globe won't be as challenging or expensive. One can easily examine the masterpieces of the Louvre in Paris or stand beside the Statue of Liberty in New York without leaving their home.
Gaming. Digital entertainment could very well be the primary driving force behind the metaverse's development. Games are currently at the forefront of advancing virtual reality headset technology. Furthermore, they are also refining the standard of graphic content, which will subsequently be used in the metaverse.
Any progressive business should consider the prospects of the metaverse. Primarily, it's crucial in the context of representing one's brand in a virtual reality world that is likely to become widespread shortly.
Moreover, in the near future, businesses can utilize the metaverse to let potential users test their products in a virtual environment before using them in the real world. This serves as an intermediary step before a complete transition to the metaverse.
It's also essential to recognize that the metaverse can make work processes significantly more productive. Employees will be able to meet for professional interactions using gadgets like the Apple Vision Pro and similar devices. This will become a reality within the next couple of years.
Furthermore, eventually, businesses can also plan new directions that will be in demand within the metaverse. Creating content for virtual reality stands out as the most apparent option, but the scope for innovation is limited only by imagination and creativity.