The Metaverse: Why does it meta?

Ah, the modern era. It seems like new developments rush up to greet us faster and faster now. From the rapid appearance of cryptocurrency to the more recent rise of NFTs and now to the ‘metaverse’, it can sometimes seem like innovation has jumped from 0-100 overnight. 

And, of course, that’s not a bad thing. If we don’t innovate and grow, we stagnate and largely, technological leaps have changed the way we approach modern life on a scale not seen since the industrial revolution in the 19th century. 

For this blog, we’re looking at the next big thing currently being discussed as something that will change our lives in the future; the aforementioned ‘metaverse’. This term has been around for awhile, first coined in Snow Crash, a 1992 science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson. Science fiction has notably provided predictions and insights into where we are going, and this is no exception. Since the original 1992 mention, the metaverse has been bubbling away in the background in the form of virtual world games like Second Life and Roblox. Largely these games are spaces to, just like the title states, live a second, virtual life. You create an avatar and then explore a digitally created world, communicating with others, trading, socialising, building and creating virtual property and services. Picture a sort of Animal Crossing but deeper, richer and more complex. 

Moving forward into 2021, a wave of reports appeared claiming that Facebook was about to change its name; a strange move for a globally recognised giant that had operated with the same name since its creation. Shortly after, the new name was revealed as ‘Meta’ with a new infinity symbol logo, an explanation that Meta was now the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, as well as all their other services, and a shiny and colourful video presentation from Mark Zuckerberg about a new project, the metaverse. 

Watching the presentation, the picture began to be painted that Zuckerberg’s idea of their metaverse would be a virtual space in which you can work, socialise, play, learn and connect our race in brand-new and exciting ways. Described as an embodied internet and a successor to mobile internet, the company promised to provide the feeling of being with someone while not being with them, rather than seeing them on a screen. He gave an example of sending his parents a video of his kids and that viewing it in the metaverse would feel like they were there with their grandkids, rather than like they were peering through a tiny window.

Playing games would become more immersive, taking you out of your living room or bedroom, and dropping you into the world you’re playing in; literally surrounding you with characters and stories to discover. Work, which is already a more remote experience due to the pandemic, would take on a whole new life with you working remotely but within the confines of a virtual office, sitting next to your colleagues and collaborating closely as you would in person, but while actually sitting in a desk chair at home. 

Alongside this comes the promise of a fully customisable virtual home that you’ll live in and even a wardrobe of virtual outfits and cupboards filled with virtual items that you can take from space to space. In essence, an entire world within our world that we will live in, in the same way as we live in our current world and that will cross the boundary between the digital and real world. Whew, complicated, right? 

Since the Facebook.. Sorry.. Meta presentation, Disney, Epic Games and Microsoft have announced they’re working on their own metaverses, with an expectation that all of these will eventually be meshed together as a combination of a mix of worlds and experiences. 

Now, if all this sounds a little bit out there, strange and unimaginable, absolutely. It could be a innovational leap that is too far, too soon. There’s every chance that the idea, while interesting in principal, could fall away in the same way as Google Glass, Mini-Discs, Betamax and all the other technologies from history that just couldn’t quite make it stick. But on the flip side, this idea could take off and become something that integrates with our everyday lives. Even if it doesn’t fully capture the interest of society, we’re very likely to see side-benefits from this like a further integration of AR and VR within our daily lives. 

In present terms, the creation of the metaverse is likely to go hand-in-hand with a huge influx of recruitment for computing-based skills such as programming, UA testing and coding. It may even create new roles with skills that have never existed before, providing opportunities to train in a brand-new industry branch at the beginning. Whether the overall concept is successful or not, the future is looking exceedingly bright for the computing and tech industry. 

Tech companies are definitely taking a monumental leap of faith with the metaverse and whether it sticks or slips, taking risks can only be a great thing when we will likely feel some benefit regardless. But of course, there’s always the risk that this is too much too soon and introducing the overall concept in smaller increments makes more sense. A drip rather than a flow as it were. 

At the moment, it’s hard to tell whether the metaverse will fly and we’d be silly to place a bet on the outcome of it, especially when the overall concept hasn’t been fully revealed yet. The biggest take away at the moment is that as a species, we’re fortunate to still be pushing the boundaries, taking risks and trying the impossible. Ultimately, whether these efforts work or they don’t, we’ll still move forward overall, learning and growing, and that can never be a bad thing. 

If you’re feeling inspired and want to learn the skills that will help you ride the metaverse wave, check out our computing courses here.