Imagine you could go back to 1995 – back to the beginning of the internet. Before it birthed the world’s biggest companies. What would you do? There will be a digital life after the internet.
This isn’t to say that the digital infrastructure is falling apart, or that we’re nearing some apocalyptic end. Instead, there’s going to be some sort of social invention that will outdo the internet. In 1995, the internet broke into the scene and took the world by storm – it changed the landscape from pagers and fax machines to chat rooms and websites. Back then, if you had said, we’d all carry high-powered computers the size of our palm all over the world? That would have blown their minds. Now, add the fact that you’ll have instant access to any information you could ever want, and no one would believe you. It’s hard to conceptualize just how far we’ve come with technology in almost no time. But what comes next? Well, it appears “next” comes in the form of the Metaverse, a culmination of the internet and possibilities wrapped up in the mix of augmented and virtual reality technology.
From Sci-Fi To Reality
We can’t say the internet hasn’t done its part – it’s done tons of the grunt work, bringing information, services, and experiences online. But now, there are more efficient ways to discover, interact, and deliver everything that exists on the internet. We’ve digitized countless occasions, information, and more. However, they all live in their own isolated spaces, for now, loosely connected by hyperlinks or occasional social media space. On the other hand, the Metaverse is virtual. It’s a shared space where the luxuries of the internet can all be brought to make us better connected and have them exist simultaneously. This technology will rely heavily on virtual and augmented reality technologies to provide the digital infrastructure related to coexisting experiences. Does this sound a little like science fiction? It’s not a far cry from things we’ve seen in media – the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re a species who have speculated the possibility of such things for years at this point – for as long as we could look forward, we’ve been able to think “what’s next.” Will it be fully-sentient AI? Deep-space colonization? The doors and opportunities are endless and ever-expanding. The Metaverse is groundbreaking now, but it’s just a stepping stone to more powerful tech that will continue to change the world. In fact, the Metaverse may end up being the tip of the iceberg. A large portion of the Metaverse actually already exists. It’s just in 2D form. We find love on Tinder, file our taxes on TurboTax, and trust complete strangers’ digital opinions on yelp. We secure our precious photos by putting them in a cloud with digital giants rather than pasting them into scrapbooks. So much of our lives already exist in the digital world. Every website or online service is part of this Metaverse. But that begs to ask – how will the Metaverse improve this? Instead of bouncing around, clicking back and forth, or searching listlessly – you’ll have the opportunity to exist in this new world – soon so seamlessly it will feel natural. While they could create a metaverse from scratch – just like media like Ready Player One proposes. It will likely be built out of current infrastructures and be crafted out of the internet we already have. In an article from Forbes, titled, “The Metaverse is Coming, and it’s a Very Big Deal,” we learn how 2D search-based internet will be replaced. The primary contender is this 3D world that’s created like a mirror. The Metaverse will completely change the way we live, learn, earn, and connect, and just like the internet in 1995, it’s coming much faster than we think. This Metaverse is an environment in which virtual reality becomes the only reality – and users can begin to interact with others in a purely digital space. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, has been talking about the Metaverse. He pivots Facebook into a “metaverse company” within the next five years. Zuckerberg feels so strongly about this “next generation” of the internet, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s not even alone in these lofty dreams – as many major players and investors are doing just the same. Everyone is interested in being part of the next phase of the internet – because there’s no better time than now. With the way the internet changed the entire landscape of the world, we can only imagine a metaverse will do much of the same thing. The digitally progressive continue to dabble in Cryptocurrencies, and tech giants continue to make moves and change things with their fingers on the pulse. We can already see what it looks like in games like Fortnite, Minecraft, or Roblox that live in that digital world.
What Stopping us?
Like all innovations, things happen when three things come together: Demand, Software, and hardware.
In terms of demand, we’ve already reached a tipping point; in 1995, only 14 million people were online. Which is tiny compared to the 2.5 billion online gamers who interact with virtual worlds daily. Every day, billions of people log on to their devices and interact with the internet. The League of Legends championship in 2019 was watched by over 44 million people. Ariana Grande’s Fortnite event drew 27 million global unique players across all five streams. This shows the potential of in-game virtual events and lays out a clear route for how we will experience similar media in the Metaverse. Our “virtual selves” are actually already primed and ready for the Metaverse.
The second, software, has already arrived. The internet was created by using code to construct websites. Still, this Metaverse is based on the use of engines to create 3D environments. The two most popular engines, Unreal and Unity, are the most capable toolkits. With similar backlists and credits, both with their own strengths and weaknesses, they are the engine equivalents of Android and IOS. They’re both auditioning for the same role. Obviously, they want to be the ones to help develop the Metaverse from the ground up – understandably moving their reach from the vast gaming community to the internet at large.
Finally, we get to the hardware. People everywhere are racing out to get the fastest, cheapest wearable and access the Metaverse for themselves. What started as a limited selection has grown – we have big names like Facebook’s Oculus, the PlayStation VR, and the Microsoft Hololense. Soon, they’ll be replaced by sleek, stylish, intelligent glasses – be it with Facebook and Rayban, Apple’s “fashionable” Apple glass, or Amazon’s Alexa-powered echo frames. There will be options, just like there always are – but the end goal is always the same. The end goal is finding the product that will connect you, too, to this expanding Metaverse and keep you there. As you’re likely aware, the Metaverse is emerging out of the Games market. The world’s 2.5 billion gamers are accessing their virtual worlds in three main ways. 45% by mobile, 35% by game system, and the other 25% by PV.
Each of these is becoming more powerful and faster. With the introduction of 5G, those handsets could have speeds a hundred times faster than 4G. Which, incidentally, is quick enough to establish a seamless connection between our physical reality and the Metaverse.
The End of the internet and why we need it
All of this creates the perfect storm to end the internet as we know it. No more Google search if you have your own virtual assistant doing the searching for us. No more keyboards if we’re able to walk and talk just like we would in the real world. No more apps if we can travel from planet to earth and no more screens as we’re simply accessing the Metaverse with wearable devices. Markets, entire economies, and even countries will grow up within this virtual world. We’ll begin to use it to access and enhance our existing world. Whether you experience the Eiffel Tower in person or online, you’ll have the opportunity to make that choice. In the next decade, this will all be a reality for us for better or for worse. Soon, phones and computers will be just as a relic of tomorrow as fax machines and pagers are today.
The Metaverse will, in turn, relinquish us from the many limits of the physical world. There’s no limit to the amount of space we can utilize, unlike in reality. Travel becomes a nonissue. In the Metaverse, you can explore any lifestyle you wish. New economies and trade and services will flourish as the world expands and brings people in While we may be half a decade away from experiencing this new reality, at least in the fully-seamless way that they’re going to be. However, by the time that happens, we’ll already be fully integrated into its systems. We’ll be living, learning, earning, and creating within the Metaverse long before it becomes its full, final self. As for the internet, its days are numbered – soon, you won’t be watching this video on a laptop. Instead, you could be watching it from the lenses of your smart glasses or on a screen within virtual reality. While the Metaverse may seem like a reflection of our world – it’s more like the more powerful version. It’s the next step, the next generation, just like we always knew would happen. Much like what happened when the internet took hold of us as a society and created a need for itself that hadn’t existed before. Soon, we won’t know how we lived without the Metaverse – soon, new generations will look at smartphones like old-timey relics and a complete thing of the past.
What do you think, do you think you’re ready for the internet’s next big step, or do you think we’re waiting for some ready player one-level action on the other side? Leave your thoughts in the comments down below, and maybe you’ll find some interesting discussions while you’re down there.