The Metaverse Race: The Struggle to Shape the Future of the Internet | Tech News

Last week, I was invited to get my hair done in the virtual universe.

In the weirdest PR email I’ve received in a while, a leading hair-care maker is offering a seat in a virtual salon where my avatar will get the luxury treatment I’ve really dreamed of.

Blurring the line between physical and digital, the idea is that this will be a way for people to “test run” a new look before they may choose to proceed. While I didn’t foresee myself asking a hairdresser for anything slightly more luxurious than a back and side double lap and a top, thank you Metaverse for a risk-free opportunity to experiment.

In this case, all without having to wear bulky headphones.

Like me, chances are when you think of the Metaverse, the first thing you think of is virtual or augmented reality. but in a week Mark Zuckerberg has worked tirelessly to put his stamp on the concept brought into sharp relief Meta cuts thousands of jobsthis odd invitation is a timely reminder that it’s so much more than that.

Meta's latest headset, the Quest Pro, launched last month for $1,499
Meta’s latest headset, the Quest Pro, launched last month for $1,499

Meta’s position in the metaverse

When Zuckerberg talks about the Metaverse, he’s mostly talking about Horizon, the virtual world his company has created to host a variety of experiences when you’re wearing the Meta Quest headset — from chatting with friends to chatting with Colleagues cooperate. Since releasing its $1,500 “Pro” headphones last month, you’ve probably seen meta ads and billboards touting the Metaverse as the perfect home for those exact types of experiences.

Of course there are also believers.

Nicky Danino, lead lecturer in computer science at the University of Central Lancashire, who counts herself among those already on board, says the Metaverse offers “amazing opportunities and possibilities in education and training settings in particular. “. The university is already using virtual spaces to put students in situations and environments they would not normally have access to, while institutions like the RAF have shown how augmented reality can enhance the work of its fighter jet maintenance crews.

But just as renaming Facebook to Internet Inc doesn’t signal ownership of the entire web, don’t let Zuckerberg’s renaming it Meta make you think his vision is the Metaverse. What Meta is building should really be considered a platform in the Metaverse, although admittedly Huge amounts of money (already tens of billions of dollars) have been invested in it.

But there are plenty of other companies entering the space — some of whom you’ve probably heard of.

Meta has been on a metaverse marketing blitz.Image: Facebook
Meta has been on a metaverse marketing blitz.Image: Facebook

For example, there are fortnite From epic games. Instead of just a space for 100 players to parachute onto an island and kill each other, it allows them to create their own games and even attend concerts – performed by actual superstars like Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, Take the stage in a feverish dream of brand synergy and see millions of fans able to appear as anyone from Princess Leia to Neymar.

Speaking of branding, you’ll find some of the Metaverse’s greatest champions there. In December, sportswear giant Nike acquired a company called RTFKT, which was formed to create virtual clothing, collectibles and digital goods such as NFTs. Its first post-acquisition product was the Nike Cryptokicks, a pair of digital sneakers designed for customization and display online.

Then there are virtual spaces like Decentraland, which is by far the largest chunk of the metaverse, which is probably the closest you can get now to living a life that is completely different from real life. As Sky News found out earlier this yearPeople in Decentraland are spending thousands of pounds to buy land of their own.

In some ways, it’s the ultimate utopian vision of a decentralized metaverse, where people own their stuff, monetize it all themselves, and take it with them wherever they go — no strings attached or corporate overlords. This vision does not allow any one company – not even one named after the Metaverse itself – to control the entire court.

In fact, for Immersive Wire’s Tom Ffiske, the idea of ​​”interoperability” between metaverse platforms is absolutely key to its viability – no single metaverse can rule them all.

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Would you buy virtual land?

“The Race to the Future of the Internet”

Now, to many people born before the millennium, all of this might sound absolutely insane. What makes Horizon different from Second Life (an avatar online chat room) of 20 years ago? Why Ariana Grande Wants To Act In A Video Game? You might be wondering why people are so excited to line up sneakers in real life, let alone buy sneakers they can’t even actually wear.

You might think that’s completely insane – the truth is we don’t know yet. The only certainty is that these potentially brilliant, possibly puzzling ideas are here to stay.

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“The race in the Metaverse is about the future of the Internet,” said Professor Xiong Yu, Dean of the Surrey School of Blockchain and Metaverse Applications at the University of Surrey.

“Virtual/augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and the blockchain field all require a skill maturation process that takes a lot of time. Currently, the Metaverse faces issues such as battery limitations, slow internet connections, and the demise of unstable blockchains.

“However, in 10 years’ time, once we have breakthroughs in batteries, we’re using 6G for data transfers, and blockchain has matured, I have absolutely no doubt that the Metaverse is the future. So these companies need to understand By then, there will be little return on their billions of dollars invested.”

The last comment is a pointed rebuttal to Meta, which has seen its metaverse strategy dismissed by financial analysts as it seeks to force its way to the forefront of a secular sea change in how we interact with the internet.

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Is this the end of “big tech”?

Gen Z is the key to it all

Even metaverse advocates agree that running before it goes is an extremely dangerous case when it comes to Zuckerberg’s “go big or go home” approach. He seems to see the pandemic as an accelerator—a time jump that allows us to embrace a decade of technological change in the blink of an eye, and expand Meta’s ambitions accordingly. We surprised him by our willingness to return to our pre-COVID comforts.

Cudo founder Matt Hawkins put it bluntly: “They’re coming in faster and spending more than any other metaverse, and probably not getting more traction,” but he sees the metaverse as “the natural next step.” Phase One” sees the transformation of younger generations growing up in an increasingly digital world.

“Gen Z is fully into the digital world and tends to value digital assets more than real world assets. The idea is that you can carry it with you, you can show it to the world, so if you spend £1,000 on a photo posted on On the bedroom wall, no one will see it. If you buy a digital version, you can show it to the world.”

Again, this isn’t a particularly new phenomenon. Back in 2004, online games like World of Warcraft had players showing off their exotic pets and epic armor to each other. One of the trump cards of Fortnite is that people like to dress up as Star Wars characters, Marvel superheroes, and global sports stars, then hang out with their friends and compare looks.

20 million people watched The Device on Fortnite
Fortnite has become a hub for live events — and a place for people to dress up and show off to friends

The promise of virtual worlds is to blur the lines between our digital and real lives, to the point where the former may be our greater pride. The same generation that worries about never having enough money to climb the housing ladder may decide it’s better to spend money on digital homes, calling them their own.

After all, £5,000 goes farther on the housing market in Decentraland than Rightmove (though, somewhat ironically, Spitfire Homes just became the first UK homebuilder to build a model home in the Metaverse).

Image: Spitfire House
Image: Spitfire House

John Needham is president of esports at gaming giant Riot Games, and before that he oversaw a Microsoft augmented reality project called Hololens, which merges the metaworld and the physical world through headsets that overlay digital effects and items onto real spaces together.

“Millennials and Gen Z are on their phones all day, and their existence depends on their digital presence,” he said.

“What has the game been catching [the metaverse] Looks like a long time, games like MMOs (massively multiplayer online games) and The Sims. I think doing this on a human scale will require much better technology than what we have today.

“But you’re seeing all the signs that your digital role is becoming more and more important, and it’s going to evolve to be the most important thing. I don’t know if it’s this generation or the next, but I think it’s inevitable.”

BAE Systems and the RAF are working with AR to improve aircraft maintenance
BAE Systems and the RAF are working with AR to improve aircraft maintenance

Whether it’s education, industry, or just dancing with friends at an online gig, it’s clear that we’re increasingly dipping our collective toes into the possibilities that the Metaverse might offer.

For Cudo’s Matt Hawkins, all that was missing was a moment of inspiration. Just as access to information and e-commerce pushed people to the internet and connectivity pushed us to social media, what brings us collectively into the metaverse?

Zuckerberg seems determined to make him who he is, and seems ready to make or break Meta to find out.

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