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What Is the Metaverse?

November 30, 2021

Christina

What Is the Metaverse?

There has been a lot of talk about the "Metaverse" lately, with Facebook changing its name to "Meta" and many tech companies, including Microsoft, Apple, and Google, revealing their interest in shaping its construction. But what is it?

"Metaverse" made it to Collin's dictionary's shortlist for word of the year, only to be beaten by NFT. So, if you are increasingly pulled into conversations about this topic and aren't sure what to say, we have you covered. 

[Read now: 5 real-world use cases for NFTs]

The metaverse is a 3D virtual world

It should be noted first of all that the metaverse remains a concept rather than a completed project and encompasses the idea of an online 3D virtual world that connects users across all aspects of their lives. The concept was first explored as far back as 1992 in the science-fiction novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. However, while the metaverse once pertained to fiction, it now looks closer to becoming a reality.

When you consider that our connections between the physical and virtual worlds are constantly increasing—working online, settling financial transactions, socializing via Zoom calls—the idea of a metaverse ceases to seem so extraordinary. In fact, the metaverse is the next logical step in making our lives more digital as it will connect multiple platforms, just as the internet currently connects to different websites with a single browser. 

The metaverse will be driven by various technologies, and augmented reality, the internet, and blockchain will be fundamental in making it happen. Each person in the metaverse will have their avatar and, using a VR headset, may conduct a meeting in their virtual office, socialize with friends in a virtual park, or unwind by playing a blockchain-based game. They will also manage all their various cryptos, NFTs, and finances inside the metaverse.

Examples of what the metaverse may look like are already here. Popular video games such as Fortnite and Second Life, for example, and blockchain-based games and virtual worlds like Axie Infinity and Decentraland, show how gaming and finances combine (GameFi) through Pay to Play (P2P) models and virtual land ownership. We're also seeing how personal avatars may work with NFT technology to provide immutable digital ownership. 

Crypto's role in the metaverse

Thanks to NFTs and other characteristics innate in blockchain technology, crypto will play a vital role in the digital proof of ownership, governance, accessibility, interoperability, and transfer of value. 

By owning your own wallet, crypto allows you to provide digital proof of ownership in the metaverse as you have access to your private keys that show you own an asset on the blockchain. So, say you needed to prove a certain activity or transaction to show accountability, crypto would allow you to do so.

Through popular blockchain-based loyalty platforms like Chiliz's Socios, we're already seeing how crypto enables digital collectibility. And, just as it allows us to prove ownership in the digital realm, it also allows us to verify that an item is original and unique. NFTs of digital objects such as in-game items, collectible characters, avatars, etc., can never be copied or forged and represent ownership of physical, real-world things, like diamonds, artwork, or even land deeds.

Blockchain and crypto also enable the transfer of value across the internet and will be fundamental in enabling commerce in the metaverse—whether this takes the form of BTC payments, CBDC payments, or payments with in-game or in-app currencies.

As the metaverse takes hold in our lives, the question of governance will become increasingly important. Who makes the rules, who controls the interactions between us in this virtual world? Blockchain can help metaverse users maintain a democratic environment online using tokens to vote on important issues such as platform developments and upgrades. 

Just as we have the right to vote in real life, we will also do so online. Implementing fair and just governance in the metaverse will be crucial—and blockchain is already showing us how to do it.

A final key aspect in making the metaverse a reality will be allowing different systems to interoperate. Solutions such as Cosmos and Polkadot are already starting to make this happen. Blockchain interoperability will be crucial to a fluid and seamless user experience in the metaverse.

What is the future of the metaverse?

The accessible, interoperable, and seamlessly connectable metaverse is still some way from reality and the technology to make it happen is in its infancy. Moreover, it is not a certainty that the metaverse will ever fully take off. As the BBC points out, "The evolution of the metaverse - if it happens at all - will be fought among tech giants for the next decade, or maybe even longer." 

In the meantime, it will be interesting to watch more and more metaverse-like projects evolve that integrate blockchain and VR technology into our daily lives.



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