Ever since the development of the modern computer, the potential of creating a virtual and connected world has always been a dream. Continued advancements in technology and the rapid pace of globalization have created conditions and laid the foundations for the birth of the metaverse.
The timing couldn't be better. As the world struggles to recover from what feels like a never-ending pandemic, the opportunity to escape reality and travel to new and imaginary worlds couldn't be more welcome. At least, that's what Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is betting on after changing their name late last year to reflect their dedication and focus on taking the metaverse from imagination into reality.
The metaverse will fundamentally redefine how we connect, interact, work, and play. Although it will take years to build and gain adoption, this year will be pivotal in the metaverse's history. Most notably, it will demonstrate which companies want to own the metaverse and how far they're willing to go to carve out their segment of the new world.
The Battle of the Big Four
Meta is getting lots of initial credit and attention, but Apple and Google will step into the limelight later this year. Apple plans to announce an AR/VR headset, but technical challenges threaten the release date. Google Cardboard, which launched in 2014 and was one of the first mainstream projects that brought VR to the masses, has been discontinued. Google has been a constant pioneer in the AR/VR space, most notably with Google Glass, and in my opinion, will undoubtedly introduce a wearable device for the metaverse.
Regardless of the headsets available, supporting millions of users in a simulated environment will require the support of significant infrastructure. Amazon already powers some of the largest services on the internet, including Netflix and Slack, through Amazon Web Services (AWS), making it an essential fixture in the metaverse.
Amazon is most likely developing new hardware to give users access to the metaverse, and the company has already been producing headwear with embedded technology for years. Combine this with Amazon's AR view-- the ability to view Amazon products in your own home before purchasing-- and you can start to imagine what Amazon will inevitably be announcing: eyeglass frames that provide an AR experience with voice interaction.
Let The Games Begin
Gaming is arguably one of the most apparent use cases for the metaverse. Many popular video games are already simulated worlds with millions of simultaneous players connecting, interacting, and even transacting at scale. Building a massive multiplayer immersive experience is something companies like Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, have decades of expertise in building and have finely tuned the ability to monetize them.
Microsoft probably isn't the first company you think of when talking about video games, but it should be. Microsoft continues to expand its gaming division, making them a fierce competitor in the metaverse world.
After purchasing Mojang, the creator of Minecraft, for $2.5 billion in 2014, Microsoft now plans to buy Activision Blizzard, the company behind World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, for $69 billion. These acquisitions combined with Microsoft's HoloLens technology make it one of the most powerful contributors to the metaverse. I believe without a doubt, Microsoft will begin demoing new simulations, experiences, and games with the support of these newly acquired resources.
Creating the Metaverse Starts Now
Building the metaverse requires more than just technology. Developing immersive experiences that cater to all types of users requires creators and lots of them. Behind the scenes, many of the big tech companies will be recruiting or acquiring teams of creators--hundreds of them--to start to build the large-scale worlds required for you to experience the full potential of the metaverse.
However, creators have already built many worlds, like The Shire from Middle-earth, created by a few of the 141 million active Minecraft players. User-generated content will be a crucial component of the metaverse. New toolsets will be developed this year to allow anyone and everyone to begin building their corner of the metaverse.
Look Before You Leap
We have a lot to learn about the metaverse, and much of it is still being imagined. While the metaverse raises more questions than answers, many significant challenges need to be addressed before mainstream adoption.
The big companies fueling the metaverse must address privacy, security, accessibility, and legal concerns. As the year unfolds, the realization of these issues will result in discussions, decisions, and actions that will shape the future of the metaverse. These are important conversations that we must start having as people realize what the future of the metaverse holds.
Most importantly, people will need to decide if they want to take the leap and step foot in this new and uncharted territory--a world filled with endless possibilities, unlimited entertainment, and constant connection. Welcome to the metaverse.