After social media, the metaverse will be the next reiteration of the internet wherein all of our day-to-day, real-world interactions can be migrated onto, providing 3-D virtual spaces and entire digital worlds for us to “live” in.
From going to school or work, shopping, or attending live concerts, the applications of the metaverse are limitless. But to replicate the same social dynamics that we ascribe to such as notions of identity, ownership, and transfer of value, the development of the metaverse will have to rely on the use of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
What is the metaverse?
Imagine being in a business meeting in an upscale conference room, overlooking a vast metropolitan skyline. It’s been a busy day and you’re thinking you definitely need to unwind afterwards. But you can’t decide yet whether you feel like driving a few laps around an F1 racetrack, skiing down a snowy mountain, or perhaps going on a dungeon quest to look for some loot.
Or maybe just go shopping? By the way, you haven’t left your living room all day–and with your virtual reality headset, you won’t need to as well.
Welcome to the metaverse.
Simply put, the metaverse is being envisioned as the next reiteration of the internet, but instead of just looking at it from laptop screens and mobile devices, the metaverse will be an immersive world with unlimited virtual space for every aspect of our lives–from work to socializing, entertainment and learning. Beyond just being a virtual representation of the physical world, metaverse platforms will be an “extension” of the three-dimensional spaces we move around in.
But what does cryptocurrency have to do with the metaverse? After all, with the way that the metaverse has been described so far, some people may say it sounds a lot like an incredibly immersive video game, allowing users to create their own avatars and interact with others. Does this mean that the metaverse is just a technology that’s geared for gamers?
Not quite. Though we already have the technology to create these virtual worlds, a true metaverse that replicates real-world interactions would need blockchain technology to provide an economic structure within the platform as well as facilitate systems for identity, ownership, and governance.
In short, everything that we do in real life can instead be conducted over the metaverse. In the same way that we can have meetings through Zoom, it is conceivable that we might soon be negotiating business, attending hearings, doing groceries, or taking college classes through the use of personalized digital avatars.
Is the metaverse here yet?
The word “metaverse” was coined in a 1992 Neal Stephenson novel titled Snow Crash. In the novel, the characters make use of specialized computer chambers to enter a digital world called the metaverse, and emerge in the digital world as unique avatars of themselves where they are free to roam around and interact with other avatars.
In the Philippines, the notion of a metaverse was ushered in by the Covid-19 pandemic. The ensuing lockdowns which forced people to stay in their homes accelerated the migration of many aspects of daily life online, from school, shopping, business meetings, and even medical consultations, court hearings, graduation ceremonies and parties. Interactions that were previously unthinkable to do in a virtual space, suddenly became the “new norm”.
But the metaverse isn’t quite here yet, though a lot of blockchain applications already have many functionalities of a metaverse. Games like Decentraland and The Sandbox are built onto blockchains specifically to allow users to purchase and own digital “real estate” which they can develop and build structures on, creating their own in-game economies. Some blockchains like Solana (SOL) and Enjin (ENJ) also specialize in minting non-fungible tokens (NFTs) which are used to represent ownership in games built on their platforms.
Filipinos mostly got their first taste of digital ownership with the popularity of Axie Infinity wherein players could purchase and own digital pets called “Axies” which they then use to form teams to battle with other Axie owners. At its height of popularity, Axies were selling for as high as $800 (PHP 42,000) at floor price, which gives you an idea of what people are already ready to shell out for items that can only be used in a virtual world.
What can we do in the metaverse?
Though the technology is still in its infancy, the applications of the metaverse are already being explored across every industry. Here are a few of the things we might be doing soon on the metaverse:
Gaming is only the tip of what the metaverse can be used for. Pretty soon, sporting events and concerts will be mainstreaming on the metaverse as well.
It’s actually already started. Fortnite, the popular gaming platform, has already featured concerts from artists Travis Scott, Marshmello and Ariana Grande, combining gaming elements with the spectacle of a live show to come up with an entirely unique experience that is way beyond what can be achieved on an actual stage.
The concept of online learning earning isn’t a new thing. But the metaverse has the potential to elevate the level of immersion for students by allowing them to experience not just a realistic virtual classroom, but to dive into simulations to gain firsthand experiences in various fields.
Imagine being a medical student and getting a chance to perform virtual surgery first-hand via a metaverse platform while being guided by your professors, or even conduct experiments for finding the cure for cancer at the molecular level.
Remote work has become even more of a norm, especially in the aftermath of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Though virtual collaboration has already been popularized by platforms like Zoom, Google Meets, and Slack, the metaverse could offer a higher level of immersion that can more effectively mimic the actuality of a physical workplace.
A metaverse workplace offers a number of huge advantages, among them the reduced cost for renting or maintaining an actual office, as well as unlimited options for designing, expanding and streamlining the virtual office space–all while offering the same level of social interaction among workmates.
The metaverse will also present entirely new possibilities when it comes to business. Metaverse-based merchants will be able to give much more immersive customer experiences for purchasing both real world and virtual merchandise, and advertising and marketing will be given an entirely new platform to innovate around with. Much in the same way that social media completely changed the advertising industry, only time can tell how much more the metaverse will change the playing field.
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