If you are a sci-fi fan, you must have heard of the Metaverse. The Metaverse is a term coined in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his book Snow Crash, and since then has been used in many other sci-fi novels and movies. As described originally, the Metaverse is a ‘digital universe’, a collection of virtual worlds, that can be accessed through a special device. All these worlds are connected, so users can travel the Metaverse without encountering any boundaries. The Matrix is a metaverse, and so is the Oasis, the VR world where the action takes place in Ready Player One.
The Metaverse is a ‘digital universe’ that can be accessed through a special device.
Until a few years ago, in most people’s minds, the Metaverse remained a fantasy for science fiction fans, a bit like teleportation or time travel. Lately, the growth of Virtual Reality brought high hopes for the Metaverse. But so far, despite an ecosystem of 3000+ VR apps, the experiences are still very fragmented. If you are socialising in Facebook Spaces for example, you’ll need to exit, go back to device menu, and select Sansar, to swap between experiences. You cannot travel seamlessly from one to another.
Effectively, each world exists separately, but the Metaverse remains to be built. We think it is a very important thing for the industry, and have created a dedicated focus group to conceptualise and design how it could work.
Why do we believe that building the Metaverse is so important? To understand this, let’s consider this analogy with the Internet. Computer networks, such as Arpanet, exist since the 1970s. Back then, the Internet was only used as a way to send data between machines – there was no interface, no directory. It took another 20 years for Tim Berners Lee, a British scientist working at CERN in Switzerland, to create the World Wide Web by developing a standard protocol to simplify data access over the internet.
The World Wide Web created a universal language and interface to navigate the internet, making it simpler for people to use. Amongst the standards created by Tim Berners-Lee, the HTML enables hyperlinks – a way to connect different nodes of the network via a simple link rather than having to type a command or enter an address.
At Advir, we believe that the web was the first metaverse. It is a two-dimensional version of the Metaverse described in sci-fi novels, but it fits the description: a digital universe, accessible through a device. Each website domain is a ‘world’, and worlds are connected through hyperlinks, creating an ever-growing, all-encompassing ecosystem.
The internet era can therefore be divided in 2 phases: pre and post World Wide Web. Pre World Wide Web (up to 1990) the internet was made of approximately 50,000 hosts and 3M people had access to it – mostly companies or Universities. Immediately after the creation of the World Wide Web, the number of hosts grew exponentially to 5M in 1994, to 100M in 2000 and 1.5B in 2018, with 3.7B connected people.
Similarly, we believe that Virtual Reality’s history will be divided between pre-Metaverse and post-Metaverse era. Right now, we stand in the pre-Metaverse era. Like the old internet, the number of experiences (hosts) are limited, and there is no way to communicate between them. We need to create the equivalent of the hyperlink in VR to connect experiences together. This will enable people to discover new worlds, share their experiences, and communicate more naturally in the digital world. This is the first step towards building a persistent layer on top of our reality, rather than a collection of unrelated experiences. It will also make VR easier to use, by supporting inter-operability and a unique digital identity across all worlds.
Long story short, it would revolutionise the VR industry, just like the web revolutionised the internet.
We believe that Virtual Reality’s history will be divided between pre Metaverse and post Metaverse era.
We think this is a very important problem to focus on, to push the VR industry forward. Just like the World Wide Web, the Metaverse is something that transcends the interest of a single company, so it needs to built in collaboration between parties. In the words of Tim Berners-Lee about his invention: “Had the technology been proprietary, and in my total control, it would probably not have taken off. You can’t propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it.”
History has a tendency to repeat itself, so if it is anything like the web, we can only imagine the growth of the VR industry post Metaverse.
I am the founder of Advir.co, the first monetisation platform for immersive technologies. Besides VR/AR/MR and adtech, I talk about behaviour changes, the metaverse, and building the future. To stay in touch with me, follow me on Twitter @samhuber or checkout my personal website samhuber.com.