We all want to be relevant, and not only to the friends and family we care about and who care about us. We want to be relevant to the world – to be connected to it as it continues to change (and it seems to be changing faster than ever!). One of the ways to stay relevant is to keep up with technology and the terms relating to it, and perhaps the most talked-about term at the moment is ‘metaverse’. So let’s take a look at just what this mysterious catch-word means.
If ‘meta’ or ‘metaverse’ is on your radar right now, it’s probably because the social media giant, Facebook, has just adopted ‘Meta’ as the umbrella term for its many online presences. If you’re feeling confused, it can be helpful to think of the metaverse as a virtual twin of the universe. Or to bring it a little closer to home, a twin of our very own solid, real world.
While those in the 50 plus age group are more used to living in the real world, and physically going out of the home to meet friends, or to buy groceries, or visit an art gallery, those in a younger age group are more, or just as, familiar with doing these sort of things online. They’ll happily spend their evening meeting up with online friends (often anywhere in the world) to play a game on their tablet or lap top. Many of them prefer to shop online, clicking on grocery items on virtual shelves, and then doing a collect later in the day (or asking an Uber to do it for them). Instead of catching a bus to an exhibition at their local art gallery, they might take a virtual online tour around an art gallery in another country.
So far, so good, but how much more this online experience would be enhanced if users felt they were actually sitting across the table from their game-playing friends? Or if they felt they were personally strolling down the aisles of the supermarket (minus the crowds, of course!), or walking around the art gallery (without having to leave home, of course). This is where the metaverse comes in.
In the metaverse, those who want to use technology in this way, will be better equipped to do so because they’ll have a 3D avatar to represent them. Currently, an avatar is a digital icon or a 2D cartoon-style figure that can move and ‘talk’. You can check out Qatar Airways’ avatar here to see an example of one – just keep clicking through until you come to the virtual flight attendant.
But in the metaverse, you’ll have your very own avatar and it won’t be confined to just one website. That same avatar will represent you whether you’re playing an online game with friends, or shopping. If you visit an online art gallery, your avatar will appear to walk around the different rooms, and stand in front of a painting. If it moves away, but then looks back at the painting, you’ll see what it sees. If you want to buy a new car, your avatar will allow you to go virtually to the car dealer and sit in the car. Your avatar may even test drive the car, and it will feel as though you are doing it yourself.
As for how we’ll enter the metaverse, at this stage, it seems as though we’ll require some sort of headset to get us there, or a pair of high-tech ‘glasses’. There’s even talk we might use such equipment, not just in our own homes, but as we walk around in the ‘real’ world, experiencing it in an enhanced way.
If it all sounds like science fiction, just remember microwaves probably felt similar to many 60 year olds who encountered these new devices when they were just kids. And, as always, it will be a case of ‘take it or leave it’. The main thing, is we stay up to date with at least the fringes of what the metaverse is, and may be!