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What exactly is the “metaverse”?

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New York: It’s been a long day. You spent the morning jumping between conference rooms, stealing five minutes from the break room to talk to a colleague about a concert you’re going to that night. You find yourself on site after work, delighted to see your favorite K-Pop group performing live. After the show ends, you buy a t-shirt and try to forget that you saw your ex-boyfriend there.

A fairly typical day. The twist? You did everything without leaving your home. Welcome to the metaverse.

What is the metaverse?
The metaverse does not have a unique creator or definition. It can be loosely defined as a digital reality, similar to the World Wide Web, but combining aspects of social media, augmented reality, online gaming, and cryptocurrency to allow users to act and interact virtually. . Although the concept is still in its infancy, its potential is enormous.

“I’m pretty sure at this point that […] the metaverse is going to be a bigger new economy than our current economy, ”said Jensen Hang, CEO of graphics chip maker NVIDIA. NVIDIA, a company whose investment in the Metaverse has led some to predict that it will one day become Apple is just one of many companies scrambling to claim the Metaverse Gold Rush. Epic Games, Microsoft and many others have launched their own initiatives.

For years, Facebook has been investing in virtual and augmented reality for the metaverse. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he expects people to someday think of the social media company rather than a metaverse company. This week, Facebook doubled down on the project, announcing a major metaverse initiative in Europe.

Put it all together
“Instead of just viewing content, you are there,” Mark Zuckerberg told tech blog The Verge in July, contrasting the idea of ​​the metaverse with the standard “two-dimensional” web pages that currently populate the Internet.

Iterations of the metaverse have been around for years, whether in the form of social media, virtual reality, online gaming, or the cryptocurrency realm.
Interactive and world-building games like Second Life, Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox all have elements of the metaverse. There, users can work and collaborate, attend events, and exchange real money for virtual goods and services.

So far, however, these worlds have been largely self-contained. The visionaries of the metaverse predict a virtual universe where one could move seamlessly between these different types of digital worlds. Users could even maintain the same virtual identity – in the form of a digital avatar – and the capital they own in one world would have the same value in another. Everyone would pay with a universally accepted digital currency.

The cryptofactor
This angle of payment is particularly interesting for cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies caused a stir this year, in part thanks to growing public awareness of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a technology that could play a key role in the metaverse.

NFTs are a type of digital asset that function more or less like virtual collectibles. One NFT, a JPG of a photo collage, made headlines earlier this year when it was sold for $ 69 million (€ 59 million). Earlier this month, fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana sold a collection of clothing in the form of NFT, with some of the items intended to be worn by digital avatars.

In some existing virtual worlds, users are already paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency to purchase NFTs of real estate and digital goods. Art dealer Sotheby’s recently acquired its own piece of digital real estate, which it used to build a replica of its London galleries. He then organized a virtual art exhibition there.

The transaction and ownership of most NFTs is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain, the network that hosts Ether, the second largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin. This puts

NFT and Ethereum well positioned to become the structural backbone of the metaverse. Such a move could also legitimize crypto as a form of payment, accelerating the adoption of cryptocurrencies by the general public.

The COVID-19 outbreak
Full functionality of the Metaverse is probably still decades away. Key technologies, especially in the arena of augmented reality, have yet to become mainstream, and the metaverse raises a whole range of legal questions as well.

Its creation will also require a degree of technical cooperation between companies that seems unrealistic when one considers, for example, the landscape of mobile phone chargers.

But the momentum is there, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the development of the metaverse. Global digitization efforts have seen a huge boost after the health crisis prompted millions of people to work from home, and in some ways digital communication platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams have familiarized people with the concepts at heart. of the metaverse.

Many companies are already trying to digitally replicate the spontaneity of human interaction in the office for employees working from home. Even DW has launched formal internal chat rooms called “break room” and “hallway” dedicated to promoting informal discussions among colleagues when working from home.

Still in its infancy, the metaverse could be an $ 800 billion market as early as 2024, Bloomberg Intelligence reported in July.


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