A Beginner’s Guide to the Metaverse

The Metaverse is a virtual space where people can connect, game, and socialize together. Other technologies such as VR and AR can be used to create a more immersive experience.
When it comes to the metaverse, images from movies probably come to your mind first. It could be like in Matrix (1999) when machines take over the world and people live in virtual reality (VR); in Ready Player One (2018) where people escape to the virtual world and fight for ownership of the VR platform; in the more recent movie Free Guy (2021) in which background character in a video game become conscious, or in TrendMicro’s sci-fi mini-series “Project 2030” (2021), in which the complexity and augmented reality (AR) play a huge role in every aspect of our daily life.
These movies serve as a reference point for us, or tech companies, to imagine what the metaverse could look like in the future, but none of these worlds can truly depict the entire “metaverse.” However, despite the various opinions on the definition of the term, there are already abundant use cases of metaverse since companies from different industries have been exploring the possibilities. This article will be the perfect first step to entering this mysterious new world, as you will learn everything you need to know about the metaverse, the technology behind it, some popular use cases, and its limitations and future developments.
Metaverse - Use Cases

European Tech School’s lecturer Stefan Schmitt, from Blockdaemon, shares the latest trends of the Metaverse. 

What is the Metaverse?

So, let’s come back to the big question: What is the metaverse?
The word “meta” means “beyond” and “verse” refers to the “universe.” However, to be honest, the definition of this buzzword remains unclear and contested. Metaverse is simply too new to define. The term metaverse refers to a broad speculative shift in how we interact with technology rather than describing one specific type of technology, and the interpretation is often shaped by the ambitions of the people using it. Below, we collect various definitions that will help you get the essence of the metaverse.

“In futurism and science fiction, the metaverse is a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal and immersive virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets. In colloquial use, a metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection.” – Wikipedia.

“The metaverse is a digital reality that combines aspects of social media, online gaming, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and cryptocurrencies to allow users to interact virtually.” – Investopedia.

“The metaverse is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you. You’ll be able to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create, and more.” – Meta.

“The metaverse is a concept of a persistent, online, 3D universe that combines multiple different virtual spaces. You can think of it as a future iteration of the internet. The metaverse will allow users to work, meet, game, and socialize together in these 3D spaces.” – Binance Academy.

“The metaverse enables us to embed computing into the real world and to embed the real world into computing, bringing real presence into any digital space. What’s more important is that we are able to bring our humanity with us and choose how we want to experience this world and who we want to interact with… The Metaverse is not just transforming how we see the world, it’s changing how all of us actively participate in it.” – Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.

It would appear that even though a generally acknowledged definition does not exist, some elements still feature prominently in current conceptions of the metaverse. To sum up, we can say that the metaverse is a shared virtual (often 3D) space that people access via the Internet, in which they can engage, connect, interact, game, and socialize (in short, what people enjoy doing together in real life), and it can be combined with technologies like VR and AR to create a more immersive experience.
It is also worth noting that even though the term metaverse sounds techy and requires various technical developments, the fundamental element of the metaverse is still a social connection and human experiences. Lex Sokolin, Head Economist at ConsenSys, thus mentioned that the metaverse works like an empathy machine. It allows us to feel what other people are feeling in a way that a 2D screen can not provide. The metaverse is not only about providing a better gaming experience, but the underlying idea is about embodying and being with people in a more authentic way. 
Sandbox Metaverse
European Tech School’s lecturer Becky Lattof, Head of Education at The Sandbox, explained the possibilities of the metaverse, the business models, and the interoperability of metaverses.

What’s the Metaverse Like Right Now?

If we look at the definitions above and look back into history, the concept of the metaverse is not entirely new. The word metaverse first appeared in Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk novel Snow Crash in 1992, and the combination of the virtual and real-life worlds has become a popular topic in novels,  movies, and even games. For example, in 2003, the multiplayer online role-playing game Second Life was launched, which was a pioneer metaverse-like digital world with its own virtual economy.
Even though technically speaking, the metaverse is not something new, a few factors did make the metaverse a buzzword these years. As the technologies closely associated with the metaverse have advanced, the COVID-19 pandemic ignited interest in the metaverse as people are taking online courses or working from home. Over the past two years, the developments and obsession of NFTs also enable ownership of virtual items and real estate within the metaverse. In late 2021, Facebook’s rebranding and its metaverse-focused mission statement also made metaverse the hottest topic. Even though we are in the bear market now, the market size of the metaverse is still estimated to reach $824.53 billion or even $1,237 billion in 2030, and more and more players are stepping into the metaverse ecosystem.

Metaverse Market Map, updated on August 31, 2022. Source: Jon Radoff.

Top Companies Building in the Metaverse

Metaverse are still under construction right now, and we are still not certain what we will have in the future, but we can observe that many companies have jumped on the metaverse bandwagon to reach out to the younger generation, create a community, and deliver an engaging and immersive shopping, gaming, or socializing experience.
The current trend of metaverse development is highly associated with “owning” virtual objects, experiences, or land, and the majority of the metaverse adoption is seen in the entertainment industry, such as gaming, events, advertisement, and the fashion industry. However, as discussed in the 2022 European Blockchain Convention panel, in the future, it is envisioned that we will interact with the metaverse on a daily basis. Laurent Perello, Advisor at Tron Dao, believes that the “Metaverse will not be a pixelated world but a reality. We will switch from the real world to the metaverse on a daily basis, and we will work, travel, or even go to the cinema in the metaverse.’’

Top Brands Building in the Metaverse. Source: Crowdcreate.

The Future: Multiple Metaverses with Interoperability

In the future, it is envisioned that there won’t be a single, centralized metaverse but multiple metaverses. There might even be a co-existence of centralized metaverses built by big corporations and fully decentralized ones that are governed by DAOs. The interoperability of metaverses is thus crucial, and brands will need to find a simple way to offer the best experience for users to switch from their metaverse to others.  Meanwhile, the metaverse would be a massive economic engine. We will have an ecosystem of different platforms with interoperability that are pivoted on digital wallets and orchestrated through tokens such as digital cash like CBDCs, stablecoins, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and others. 

Limitations of the Metaverse

While the future of the metaverse seems promising, there are still a few challenges lying ahead. First, the hardware technologies are not mature enough, as VR headsets are clunky and many people experience motion sickness or physical discomfort. Second, we still need to overcome many challenges to make various metaverses interoperable. Not only the technical hurdles are insurmountable, but we can also encounter huge challenges in the legal and social aspects. Last, and most importantly, the companies will have to work hard to make the metaverse accessible, attractive, and convenient in order to reach mass adoption.  

For a more detailed discussion about what will the financial and economic architecture be like in the metaverse, you can read this article from European Blockchain Convention or join the European Tech School to learn from the best and kickstart your blockchain career!