You might live in this world, but soon enough there will be others to populate (no, we're not talking about Mars, sorry Elon). Enter the metaverse, the hottest topic of 2021. Sometime this year, between the third and whatever pandemic wave we're now at, the term creeped into our lives - and it won't let go. This latest tech buzz has got the usual suspects (read Facebook/Meta, Microsoft, and the whole Silicon Valley bunch) coming around the block for a piece of the action, but smaller players are making a move, too. But what exactly is all this metaverse hype about? And what does it got to do with blockchain or NFTs or living 24/7 inside the internet? There's plenty to unpack, so let's jump right in.
So, what is the metaverse?
For starters, defining the metaverse is a big ask. We can all agree that there's been plenty of yada yada, but at the end of the day would you be able to explain to your grandpa over Sunday roast what a metaverse really is? Since we're talking about something that doesn't exist yet, it can get confusing. Let's keep it simple then; a metaverse is a shared virtual space that is hyper realistic, immersive and interactive thanks to the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology.
There can be several virtual worlds inside a metaverse, where people can engage in a wide range of activities that are the result of a mix between physical and digital. Instead of staring at a screen like you do now, in a metaverse you'll be able to be inside all your online experiences, like shopping, meeting friends and family, going to a concert and even getting official paperwork done.
The metaverse has several major advantages over what you're currently getting for your screen time (been doing a lot of that lately? we're guilty of that, too), so it all boils down to incorporating your day-to-day activities into a highly interactive platform that lets you get more done in one single place.
This idea has been around for a while, or at least since Neal Stephenson coined the term metaverse in his 1992 dystopian novel 'Snow Crash' (to be fair, he has distanced himself from any metaverse plans). And many of us would have come across some meta references in pop culture like in the Matrix, Ready Player One or Tron, so the basics of the concept aren't that unfamiliar after all.
Speaking of covering the basics, here's a breakdown of some of the features that define a metaverse:
BOUNDLESS - As a 3D virtual space, the metaverse eliminates all types of barriers, physical or otherwise. It's an endless space where there are no limits to how many people can use it at the same time, what types of activities can take place, what industries can enter it, etc. It widens accessibility more than current internet platforms.
PERSISTENT - A metaverse can't be unplugged, reboot or reset. Users can join the metaverse freely at any time, from anywhere in the world, and in doing so there's always continuity to their experience. A metaverse will evolve over time based on the shared contributions of its users, like the content and experiences designed by them.
DECENTRALIZED - The metaverse isn't owned by a corporation or a single platform, but by all of its users, who can also take control over their private data. Blockchain technology is a big part of this (more details later on) because it ensures that all transactions within a virtual world are public, easily tracked and safe at all times.
IMMERSIVE - Whether you're using a VR headset, AR glasses or just your smartphone, you'll be able to enter a new level of immersion and interactivity, where all human senses are more fully engaged and users feel more present in their experiences. As a highly realistic space, the metaverse will also have the capacity to adapt to its users who can directly influence, for example, its environments, objects, colors, lighting, and more.
VIRTUAL ECONOMIES - Metaverse participants are able to engage in decentralized virtual economies powered by cryptocurrency (like Sensorium Galaxy's very own SENSO. This includes marketplaces where users can buy, sell and exchange items like digital assets like avatars, virtual clothing, NFTs and event tickets.
SOCIAL EXPERIENCES - The beating heart of the metaverse boils down to its users. Every participant in a virtual world takes part in co-experiences and helps co-create the future of the metaverse through user-generated content, from virtual creations to personal stories and interactions with AI-driven avatars.
In truth, metaverse-like experiences have existed even before Facebook's recent Meta rebranding. Earlier iterations can be found in games like Second Life and The Sims, where users are in control over the life of their online avatars. Even circa 2009 Facebook was dabbling in some pre-metaverse experiments like Farmville, a game that let participants run their virtual farms and sell their produce in return for Farm Coins. And while these platforms have some elements of the metaverse, they are still contained events that don't have much impact outside their original platform.
A true metaverse is a continuous experience, integrating elements from different platforms and audiences into one. Now that we have this part nailed down, what else can make the metaverse tick?
Crypto makes the metaverse go around
Anything can happen inside the metaverse. And we mean anything because, in part, nobody really knows what the future holds.
For now, gaming and entertainment are at the forefront of the race as they have the most developed infrastructures that can be adopted in a virtual world and evolve within it. A big contributing factor to this has to do with their virtual economies. Take Roblox, Axie Infinity or Fornite. These metaver-esque platforms have found extreme success, not just on the back of their entertainment offerings, but also for their thriving marketplaces where users can buy, sell or exchange items in return for native tokens like V-Bucks or AXS. All of these digital-native spaces rely on a thriving virtual economy to create new assets (like NFTs), experiences and activities, which has helped lay the blueprint for the economics of metaverse.
There's no sense in living a metaverse if there isn't an economy that can't support the activities (and financial ambitions) of its users. And so, creating value that can easily monetized is a crucial element of any virtual world. Remember, all types of activities can take place inside the metaverse and users need an incentive strong enough to want to enter and stay in it. Competition, scarcity, supply and demand, those are the real-world economics that speak to any of us.
Blockchain-based currencies allow all assets inside the metaverse to be easily and securely created, exchanged, shared and tracked, potentially allowing items to be seamlessly moved by its users across worlds or meta destinations. Inside Sensorium Galaxy, for example, one SENSO token is worth $10 per unit. This rate is applied to those buying SENSO through traditional fiat payments. However, SENSO is also traded through crypto exchanges, slightly above $2.5 at the time of writing, meaning that getting SENSO in the open market can provide a dynamic discount for users.
Holding SENSO also gives the metaverse users additional benefits, like participation in metaverse governance through a DAO where users are given the possibility to join the Council and enjoy voting rights on product decisions, along with other perks.
A decentralized economic model based on blockchain fills a wide gap between gaming and the metaverse, unleashing a new era of digital-native assets and monetization opportunities. Unlike playing a game where all in-platform assets are owned and controlled by a developer, inside a centralized server system, in the metaverse users are the sole owners of their entire experience. This includes creative endeavors, like art pieces, music and dance choreographies. In metaverses like Sensorium Galaxy, these can be minted as NFTs and sold in exchange for SENSO, in a perfectly secured environment where ownership and authenticity are always preserved by the blockchain.
Blockchains like Wakatta, provide another layer of functionality by introducing new types of NFTs, which are upgradable, time-limited and text-based. The reason why this makes the metaverse even more exciting is that you'll not only be able to create NFTs of your work but collaborate with other creators or artists to build on top existing art without it being illegal (read infringing on copyrights, intellectual property or ownership rights). Equally, Wakatta’s NFTs can help metaverse event organizers tokenize tickets and game developers interested in issuing in-game assets tied to specific timeframes.
At the end of the day, the metaverse equals big money. By some estimates, the annual revenue opportunity for virtual worlds could be worth as much as $1 trillion, across segments like advertising, digital events and e-commerce. So, it's fair to say that - now that the metaverse remains largely undeveloped it's not the time to fall asleep at the wheel.
Buckle Up, We're Going Meta
So you've decided to take the red pill and see how far the metaverse rabbit hole really goes. Now what? Well, for starters you need hardware. The good news is that you don't need to go out and buy a piece of high tech gear that's likely to cost you a pretty penny. Your smartphone is enough to enter a metaverse and there are plenty of meta features that are currently available in Sensorium Galaxy's mobile app, for example. The only caveat is that you might not be getting much of that meta experience after all as you'll be missing out on the immersiveness aspect of the metaverse, which is really what makes it all so spectacular.
A phone is great for a sneak peak, but for the full experience you might want to consider purchasing a VR headset or, if you aren't willing to go all the way in, a pair of AR smart glasses. There are many aspects to take into consideration when choosing how to get into the metaverse. Picking the right VR headset is perhaps one of the most important factors that are likely to make or break your experience. We've put together a guide on this topic to help you ease into the process. The idea of choosing a VR headset over other mediums is that you become fully immersed in the metaverse and are able to achieve a real sense of presence. Depending on the headset you have, you'll also be able to communicate with others through your chosen avatar and engage all your senses.
When it comes to headsets, Meta (formerly Facebook) is way ahead of the competition as its Meta Quest 2 remains the most sought-after headset on the market, followed by Playstation VR and Valve Index. Demand for VR headsets has grown over the past few years, but it's projected to boom even more, no doubt thanks to all this talk about the metaverse. Even Apple is rumored to be entering this sizzling race.
After a decade of hype over virtual reality, it seems that both the technology and high-quality VR offerings are catching up, not just in gaming. Applications have sprung up across a number of sectors, including fashion, music, education, sports, and more, leading to a sharp rise in demand.
This is a trend likely to continue as even more platforms move to virtual reality and get in the metaverse for the first time.
As mentioned earlier, there are already some metaverse-like experiences available. Video gaming platform Roblox has dabbled in meta events like hosting Gucci's 100th anniversary or opening NFL's first meta store. Meanwhile, competitor Fortnite isn't trailing much behind after holding mega successful virtual concerts by Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, Marshemello and others. But there are many angles to the evolution of the metaverse, and there likely to follow some of the trends already at play:
Corporate: With a great part of the world population moving to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, working online is already a reality for many of us. The metaverse would be just a continuation of that as Facebook (sorry Meta) has already tried showing us with Horizon Workrooms. Others like Microsoft are following suit and we can only expect more companies to try and send their workers into the metaverse.
Gaming: It's fun, you can make new friends and earn a lot of money. That's why games like Axie Infinity, Sandbox, Illuvium and Decentraland are at the forefront of the metaverse race. With a strong social network and a decentralized economy at its core, these are the types of platforms likely to attract the most users to the metaverse.
Entertainment: Downtime can soon look very different in the metaverse. From socializing with real-life users and making friends with AI-driven avatars to watching your favorite performers headline a mind-blowing virtual concert, the metaverse hypes entertainment to a new level. Sensorium Galaxy is one of the metaverses focusing on out-of-this-world experiences. Built in collaboration with some of the world's leading artists like David Guetta, Armin van Buuren, Steve Aoki and more, this metaverse has a vast musical offering that appeals to a whole universe of fans. In addition to its music-dedicated world, Sensorium Galaxy will also consist of additional content hubs, including a world for meditation and self-actualization practices.
Real Estate: Feeling the rent crunch? Can't buy a house? There's no clear way out of the rat race? While real-world real estate might be out of reach, buying a plot of virtual land on the other hand could make you very, like very rich. Just a few days ago, Decentraland broke yet another metaverse record after a 'virtual estate' sold for $2.4 million. And there's plenty more to buy in virtual worlds like, for example, Sandbox. You'll be able to find not only land, but also houses or even yachts (equipped with helipads, hot tubs and DJ booths) for those into more exotic real estate options.
But really, when it comes to the metaverse, you'll probably find whatever you want in it, no matter your field of interest. With so many players in this mix, imagination is the only limit to the possibilities of virtual worlds.
Enter the metaverse... but when?
A full-fledged metaverse might be years, if not at least a whole decade away. There are still plenty of technical hurdles to overcome, starting with the fact that the world doesn't have an online infrastructure that could sustain millions (or even billions) of people using the metaverse at the same time. Adding to that, uninterrupted and reliable internet connection is a key building block of the metaverse because a glitchy, 'loading' virtual world scenario is a far cry from what a bona fide metaverse is supposed to look like. But technology like 5G and edge computing is still under development, and currently unable to meet the demands of a complex infrastructure like a metaverse. There are also other issues associated with data privacy and security. Only time will tell when the stepping into the first true metaverse will be reality - but when you do, we’ll see you there.