For decades, technologists have been envisioning a time when our virtual lives are as significant as our physical ones for decades, and today it is known as the Metaverse. So what exactly is it? The Metaverse is the coming together of two long-standing concepts: virtual reality and a digital second life. In theory, we’d spend most of our time in virtual space connecting with our friends and co-workers. In this digital world, we would spend money on different items for our digital avatars as well.
To access this second life, a virtual reality headset is needed along with a set of motion sensing controllers that are used to interact with virtual objects. The idea of the Metaverse is still an extremely new concept, but a similar concept has been known in the gaming community for some time. In 2016, Sony released the $400 PlayStation VR, a virtual reality headset that plugged into its PlayStation 4 console, and they recently announced they are releasing a second-generation headset in the near future that is compatible with the PlayStation 5. But this is just the beginning foundation for what’s to come of virtual reality technology. “Being in the real world is very important, but the Metaverse is about making quasi-real in the virtual world, and I can’t see the point of doing it,” said Ken Kutaragi, inventor of PlayStation. “You would rather be a polished avatar instead of your real self? That’s essentially no different from anonymous message board sites.” He is not very enthused by the way major tech companies are shifting to expand into the Metaverse and thinks that PlayStation has no business following along.
Another way to enter the Metaverse is by using the Oculus Quest 2. This virtual reality headset goes for $300 with standard storage and accessories. Unfortunately, all the games do cost money and purchasing games can rack up a large sum. The headset has internet and online capabilities and the ability to chat with other online players. The first world of the Metaverse to be available on the Oculus was Horizon Worlds, and it is free, but the requirement is that players are over 18 years of age.
Many other large companies have begun to get involved with the Metaverse, including Microsoft, who plans on adding Metaverse capabilities to their software and being a place that supports the Metaverse. This company has developed the HoloLens, a $3,500 headset that shows digital holograms. They have been developing it for years, and it was originally intended for the application of business and government agencies.
Facebook recently changed their name to Meta, and they are heavily focused on increasing technology and software within the Metaverse. Facebook or Meta does not own the Metaverse, but are working to make it more compatible and widespread. They devoted $10 billion to the project and are hoping to reach a billion users worldwide. No company owns the Metaverse, but the two technology behemoths, Microsoft and Meta, both want to increase their influence within the Metaverse. They are both working toward better virtual reality technology and an easier way to access the Metaverse. The futuristic movies and books about an online world are slowly starting to become more realistic.
Facebook has created a page where they discuss the focal points of what the Metaverse is intended for, and Mark Zuckerberg, the Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, discusses his hopes for what is to come. “You’re going to be able to do almost anything you can imagine. Get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop and create, as well as entirely different categories that don’t really fit with how we think about computers,” he said.