What is the metaverse and are we already living in it?
SYL to IOT because everything is so “meta” now.
If you’ve not been on a digital detox the past three months, you’ve come across the word metaverse. But what is the metaverse, how close is it to becoming reality, and what does living in the metaverse mean?
Metaverse is a portmanteau of “meta,” meaning beyond, and “universe.” While theorized in fiction as early as the 1930s, the word was coined by writer Neal Stephenson in 1992’s Snow Crash, a cyberpunk chronicle blending Sumerian mythology and virtual reality. Historically cast as dystopian, today the metaverse is generally defined as a digital world that exists beyond the physical one in which we live.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated our reliance on such an existence as we shifted our experiences online. Everything from virtual business meetings to grocery shopping became not only essential but more immersive in the past two years.
Ever commuted in a self-driving Tesla? Slightly meta. Owned an NFT or cryptocurrency? Very meta. Played Minecraft or Fortnite? Your virtually meta. Conducted a business transaction using only Bitcoin, Zoom and Dropbox? Metaverse.
While these technologies and more will shape a synchronous experience, the ultimate concept of the metaverse goes far beyond any software. Like many cloud-based apps, a metaverse is interactive, immersive and collaborative. But the metaverse, much like the universe, is an indefinite domain of continuously growing shared spaces. Objects will transfer seamlessly between environments through augmented reality. Your digital self will remain congruent across the boundaries we set on the current version of the internet as if your LinkedIn profile served as an identical form of identification to your driver’s license.
Augmented reality fitness is already here. In the metaverse, you'll be able to visit a virtual fitness center with digital gravity keeping your workouts honest.
As the metaverse evolves, so too will our definition of it. But humanity has certainly passed the singularity event that ensures a virtual world as rich as our physical one.
So what is Blinder doing about the metaverse?
We have a lot of ideas. Big, meta ideas. We’re already letting people coordinate conversations, connect face-to-face, edit for content, share with a simple hyperlink -- all without leaving the browser -- and more features are on the way.
The future for us could mean using artificial intelligence to proactively identify seasonal trends in news stories and have our platform recommend interviews between harmonious subjects and publications. I imagine we might build a digital personal assistant for everyone who can answer your calls and have direct conversations by proxy when you’re busy or sleeping. Perhaps, we'll erect a marketplace of virtual bodegas where your ideas and thoughts can be exchanged to buyers who can better execute them.
Whatever it is, it’s coming and we’re excited to face the future.
I’d like to think my on-the-brink-of-nuclear-disaster metropolises in SimCity were meta. Alas, they were only in the multiverse.
Jared Thompson is the VP of Content at Blinder and formerly a sports PR manager at the University of Oklahoma, and digital media director at the NCAA and Purdue University.