The fifth episode of Untangling Web3 with hosts Alec Burns and Jack Davies featured a less tangible and more abstract topic than previous episodes: the concept of the metaverse.
“The metaverse is both tangible and intangible. It can mean many things to different people, but it is quite hard to wrap your head around some of the concepts,” Davies declared immediately.
He described the metaverse as an idea of virtual worlds, realms, and realities that may or may not be blended with our visual perception of normal reality.
“It’s essentially a way of doing new things in immersive environments,” he said.
Burns defined the metaverse as a fully interactive digital reality that merges the physical and digital worlds. He explained how there are varying levels of immersion, everything from VR to AR and XR, and in order to experience the magic of these digital worlds, some sort of hardware is required, such as Oculus headsets, HoloLens, Google Glass (NASDAQ: GOOGL), or even something as simple as looking through the camera lens of a mobile phone.
The metaverse is actually an intersection of several disciplines; some people refer to it as a 3D internet, as Burns pointed out, plus there’s also AI, blockchain, and, of course, Web3 technology woven in as well.
Before expanding on these disciplines and how they relate, the hosts provided a brief history of where the concept of the metaverse came from.
Davies started by pointing out how the metaverse concept dates much further back than Facebook’s rebranding to Meta (NASDAQ: META), bringing the concept into the mainstream.
“A lot of people go back to this Sci-Fi novel by Neil Stevenson called Snow Crash from 1992, and I think that’s where you’d have this first description in fiction about what metaverse is like,” Davies stated.
Burns added the next big data point was a life simulator video game called “Sims” that was made in 2000, and six million copies of the first version were sold. Then there was “Second Life,” not a game according to the creators, but more of an experience of creating a virtual life in a virtual world. It was all about the creator economy, Burns said.
Both Burns and Davies went on to talk about the influence “Ready Player One“—both the book and the movie—had on their perception of the metaverse.
“[Ready Player One] captured the philosophy of the ideas most vividly to me, this idea of plugging into a new virtual world where you can do anything. The possibilities are endless in there,” Davies expressed.
The pair agreed gamers will likely be the first adopters of the metaverse, but the real-life utility is coming. An example of this is trying something on in the virtual world and having it delivered to you in the real world, just like in Ready Player One.
So how do businesses and large organizations adopt and grow the metaverse, and what exactly is the relationship with Web3?
“The metaverse in my mind right now is effectively the gateway to Web3…Web3 is the foundational protocol that allows that space to function at the lower levels,” Burns shared.
Davies said he views Web3 as the technological rails of getting real utility in the metaverse.
“So without Web3, the metaverse might just be this smaller, narrower, focused thing where you might have metaverses for gaming. But with Web3 and the technology stack, enabling micropayments, enabling ownership of digital property, that’s where I can certainly envisage metaverse becoming this much bigger thing that provides all this utility and can be used in lots of different applications beyond just gaming,” he said.
Burns talked about digital property and how Web3 enables ownership, creating a path for peer-to-peer engagement and value exchanges.
“There’s obviously a lot of overlap there between what Web3 will enable and how that will directly incentivize usage of the Metaverse through digital property and ownership,” he said.
Davies added that better engagement is something businesses will be interested in; they will want to use this new “digital real estate” as their entry point for new customers.
“Instead of going to the physical Apple Store and trying on or playing with a new product, if you can get the experience good enough, then you can see how you could do that entirely, virtually…if you could try before you buy without having to go to the store, that’s going to make people more likely to buy from these companies. I think that’s a really big proposition for them,” Davis said.
Other examples of metaverse-related use cases include attending a virtual concert, a virtual wedding, buying up advertising around digital land, education for young people, medical procedures, and a more powerful office set-up. The possibilities really are endless.
But before we get too far here, the pair also discussed some of the biggest challenges within the metaverse space and the technology that powers it, the first being interoperability—there are a lot of individual developers with individual metaverses within walled gardens.
“It’s going to be really hard to have lots of different versions of the metaverse. People want a seamless transition from place to place,” said Burns.
“Interoperability is a really pressing matter right now. People are really trying to develop standards, and I think in the AR and the VR space, there are standards that are emerging from, I think Disney actually, and Pixar pushed these standards, but we really need to see standardization across the board of solve this interoperability problem so we don’t get these walled gardens that are one of the issues right now with Web2,” he added.
Davies agreed and said this is where Web3 needs to come in.
“By baiting things on a blockchain, by having digital assets that are themselves interoperable, then we have a common shared currency that can at least go between these different worlds,” he said.
“I don’t necessarily think it’ll be one universal world, but it will be somewhat a universe of worlds, and having a currency that can be used between them makes sense. Having essentially common records, common databases that are shared by these worlds, which the blockchain can provide, is also super important,” Davies added.
The pair agreed it’s been a slow, awkward start to the party but predicted in the next 10-15 years, we’ll be hitting that critical mass that will make the metaverse extremely fun and immersive.
“In the Metaverse, you have a similar problem that’s being faced in Web3 as what will be the killer application. It could even be that the metaverse as a concept is the killer application of Web3 that makes it take off,” Davies suggested.
Watch: Web3 is natural progression of technology
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