Photo: Getty
  /  09.30.2022

In 2022, we are able to buy virtual land, attend digital musical festivals, and make money in the metaverse as video vixens. Are we on the brink of the biggest technological revolution ever or are we just the subjects of the next Jordan Peele movie? Whatever your thoughts are, they don’t negate the fact that this technology is here and it’s here to stay. But the question is what really constitutes the metaverse? Where do we draw the line between virtual reality and the real world?

Lets first start by understanding what the word “metaverse” means: Webster’s dictionary defines it as “computing: a persistent virtual environment that allows access to and interoperability of multiple individual virtual realities.” Based on that definition alone, the metaverse doesn’t fall under the Web3 category. For an item to be considered Web3, it needs to be built on blockchain technology, but that’s not a requirement of a metaverse.

The conflict of how to define this new, emerging reality has sparked a debate across the Web3 community.  Especially after the recent announcement of Walmart’s move into the parallel virtual world by way of Roblox. Many Web3 community members side-eyed the news, as Roblox is not built on blockchain technology or decentralized and doesn’t have a tokenomics aspect to it.

To get more perspective on the topic, I asked the creator of Black in Meta, Tina Bonner, and metaverse consultant Don Allen Stevenson for the true definition of a metaverse. Bonner responded with, “A digital experience in which the same things you are doing in the physical realm, you are doing them in the digital realm. So, a digital environment in which you socially interact and transact all the things you do in the physical world. Another big point of the metaverse is where the experience is — in the internet — as opposed to the Web2 realm, where you are just on the internet … scrolling on social media, for example.” Stevenson defines the metaverse as “a moment in time when people value their digital selves more than their physical selves. I also think of it as the future of the internet and digitalization. The metaverse is a platform, hardware, a company, and agnostic.”

The origin of the word comes from the sci-fi novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson that was later made popular by movies like Ready Player One and The Matrix. The metaverse was created for the purpose of providing a virtual escape where the characters could get away from their harsh realities.

The creation of the metaverse didn’t start with the description that Stephenson gave us, it actually started with virtual reality technology, which was first created was by Morton Heilig in 1956. He made a VR machine that simulated the experience of riding a motorcycle in Brooklyn, NY. It was the foundation for the first virtual reality headset that was created by Ivan Sutherland in 1968. The tech gave Stephenson the ground work to conceptualize the metaverse within his novels.

The first computerized metaverse developed from the 1982 coined term “cyberspace,” which is defined as “a notion of an environment distinct from the real world, which deals only with communications over computer networks. In a way, this is like a very basic metaverse. It creates the idea of our online activity taking place in an environment separate from the physical world.” But in 2000, Gartner further fleshed out this concept with the term “supranet,” defined as “fusion of a digital/virtual world with the physical (real) world.”

The version of the metaverse we know today was made popular by the gaming industry. In 2003, the world was introduced to Second Life, a virtual game where users could create an avatar and curate a fictional life in a parallel world, and many consider this the first metaverse. Since then, the development of gaming computer experiences such as The Sims have provided opportunities for people to curate not just fictional characters, but full blown story lines that evolve like a human’s would.

But, in the last few years, the new “metaverse” game, Roblox, has emerged and taken over the masses — especially in the Gen Z generation. I asked expert Bonner if Roblox should be considered the metaverse. Her response? “Roblox is absolutely the metaverse because the characteristics of the metaverse are a shared experience where you are virtually interacting with people, and you can do the same things in the digital realm as you can in the physical realm. If Roblox did not have a component that allowed you to interact with other people, it would be considered a game, not necessarily the metaverse. Every game doesn’t have to be in the metaverse, but if it has a social aspect or connectivity aspect, then it is,” she explained.

As it pertains to Web3, metaverses built on the blockchain tech — Decentraland and Facebook’s Meta — have become a popular development, yet none of them have triumphed the user engagement and popularity of Roblox.

What is the future of the metaverse? Bonner told REVOLT, “I see the metaverse as being a way of life. I envision that at some point very soon, within the next decade as Apple releases their new headset, just as everyone had a DVD player in their house, everyone at someone point will have virtual headsets or augmented reality glasses in their home. It’s not meant to take away experiences we have now, its meant to add to it.” Stevenson added, “I see the metaverse becoming more relevant than the internet in the next 10 to 15 years. I think it will allow for increased user experiences that aren’t limited to space, time, or 2D. Our next generation of social media will involve the virtual world in more ways than we have seen before.”

Whether it’s concerts or virtual shopping experiences, the metaverse is here to stay, and it will be incorporated into our daily lives sooner than we think.

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