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Definition: metaverse


(1) See also multiverse.

(2) The term was coined in 1992 for a 3D virtual world in Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" novel. In the 2020s, the metaverse term has caught on as the latest manifestation of a simulated online world. See augmented reality and virtual reality.

Simulated Universes
In a virtual world, everyone is represented by a digital facsimile, which is either realistic (digital twin) or cartoon-like (avatar). See avatar.

The first virtual world was Second Life, which debuted in 2003 and enables people to create and live a fantasy life in their own online environment. People meet and can even marry in a virtual wedding. Nearly two decades later, the buzz over Bitcoin caused the creation of Decentraland, which offers investing in virtual land with crypto. An organization named Spatial offers artists virtual art galleries to show their blockchain-based NFT art and states that it is "the metaverse of exhibitions." Bloktopia claims to become an all-in-one venue for learning and playing in a metaverse of 21 levels. See Second Life, Decentraland, Spatial, NFT and Bloktopia.

More Than a Virtual World?
Depends on whom you talk to. The ultimate future is envisioned as having a virtual meeting with anyone anywhere just like a phone call today. There are many sci-fi interpretations of the metaverse and a lot of opinions.

However, there is also a lot of development. By 2022, Australia-based Animoca Brands raised $550M to fund an "open metaverse" for crypto-based gaming. Facebook's Oculus division sells virtual reality goggles, and the company is spending billions in metaverse development, even changing its name to Meta Platforms. In fact, Meta's next-generation VR platform is designed to replace a laptop for office workers. Apple's rumored realityOS is expected to be a VR or AR operating system. See Oculus, Project Cambria and Meta Platforms.

VR Goggles or AR Glasses?
Any get-together where people work or play is a candidate for a virtual world, including meetings, sports events, shopping, exercising, concerts and especially video games. In fact, anything in the real world is a candidate for a virtual world.

Most metaverse offerings today are available on a computer screen; however, to be truly catapulted into a 3D environment, a virtual reality (VR) system is required, and that means wearing goggles to drown out the real world.

It Could Be Several Years Away
If VR is the ultimate goal for the masses, goggles have to become a lot lighter and less bulky, and they have to have a pass-through that lets in the real world. Time will tell. In the meantime, the metaverse is getting a lot of buzz. See virtual reality, augmented reality, VR headset, smart glasses, virtual world and Oculus.