The Race for Metaverse: The Struggle to Shape the Future of the Internet | Science and technology news

Last week, I was invited to have my hair done in the metaverse.

In what was the strangest PR email I’ve received in some time, a leading hair care manufacturer offered a seat in a virtual salon where my avatar would get the luxurious treatment I could only dream of.

By blurring the lines between the physical and the digital, the idea is that this will become a way for people to “test run” the new look on themselves before choosing to go ahead with it. While I wouldn’t expect to ask my hairstylist for anything more extravagant than two circles on the back and sides and a little on the top, thanks, the metaverse offers a risk-free opportunity to experiment.

And in this case, all without strapping on a bulky headset.

Like me, there’s a good chance that when you think of the metaverse, the first thing you associate with it is Virtual reality or augmented reality. But in a week when Mark Zuckerberg’s tireless attempt to put his stamp on the concept blatantly before Thousands of job cuts in MetaThis bizarre call was a timely reminder that she’s so much more than that.

The Meta's newest headset, the Quest Pro, launched last month for $1,499
Meta’s latest headset, the Quest Pro, launched last month for $1,499

Meta Place in Metaverse

When Zuckerberg talks about the metaverse, he’s mostly talking about Horizon, the virtual world his company created to host different experiences — from chatting with friends, to collaborating with co-workers — while wearing a Meta Quest headset. Since its $1,500 “Pro” headset was released last month, you’ve likely seen Meta ads and billboards touting the metaverse as the perfect home for those exact kinds of experiences.

And there are certainly believers.

Nicky Danino, Principal Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Central Lancashire, counts herself as one of those already out there, saying the metaverse presents “amazing opportunities and possibilities” in educational and training environments in particular. The university is already using virtual spaces to put students inside situations and environments they would not normally be able to, while institutions such as the RAF have demonstrated how augmented reality can enhance the work of fighter aircraft maintenance crews.

But just like renaming Facebook as Internet Inc wouldn’t signify ownership of the web in general, don’t let Zuckerberg’s renaming Meta make you think his vision is all there is when it comes to metaverses. What the Meta is building should be seen as a platform within the metaverse, though admittedly it has An astonishingly large amount of money (tens of billions of dollars really) is being thrown at him.

But there are plenty of others making moves in space – and you’ve probably heard of quite a few of them.

Meta was in a metaverse marketing campaign.  Pic: Facebook
Meta was in a metaverse marketing campaign. Pic: Facebook

For example, there Fortnite From Epic Games. The space is no longer just for 100 players to parachute onto an island and kill each other, it also allows them to create their own games and even attend concerts – among those who perform are real stars like Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, on stage in a feverish dream of synergy The brand, which sees millions of fans, is able to pose as anyone from Princess Leia to Neymar.

Speaking of brands, here are some of the metaverse’s greatest advocates. Last December, sportswear giant Nike bought a company called RTFKT, which was launched to create digital goods such as virtual clothing, collectibles, and NFTs. Its first product after the acquisition was the Nike Cryptokicks, a pair of digital trainers designed to be customized and offered online.

Then there are virtual spaces like Decentraland, one of the biggest slices of the metaverse pie to date, which is probably the closest you get right now to living a life entirely separate from your real life. As Sky News discovered earlier this yearIn Dycentraland, people spend thousands of pounds on plots of land that they call their own.

In some ways it’s the ultimate vision of decentralized decentralization, where people have their own and can invest everything themselves, taking it with them wherever they go – no chains or corporate masters attached. It’s a vision that allows no corporation – not even one with the Metaverse name itself – to control the entire Court.

In fact, for Immersive Wire’s Tom Ffiske, the idea of ​​”interoperability” between the metaverse platforms is absolutely key to its viability – there can be no one metaverse to rule them all.

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Will you buy virtual land?

The race for the future of the Internet

Now, this all probably sounds completely crazy to a lot of people born before the turn of the millennium. What makes Horizon different from Second Life (a virtual online chat room populated by avatars) of 20 years ago? Why would Ariana Grande want to perform inside a video game? You might be baffled as to why people get excited enough to queue up for trainers in real life, let alone buy pairs they can’t even put on their actual feet.

You might be right in thinking he’s totally crazy – the truth is, we don’t know yet. One thing is for sure, these potentially fascinating and potentially baffling ideas are here to stay.

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“The race to the metaverse is about the race to the future of the internet,” says Professor Yu Xiong, Director of the Surrey Academy for Blockchain and Metaverse Applications at the University of Surrey.

“The fields of VR/AR, AI, and blockchain all require a skill maturation process, which takes a long time. Currently, the metaverse is facing issues with battery limitations, slow internet connections, and the unstable demise of blockchain.

“However, in 10 years, once we have breakthroughs in batteries, use 6G for data transmission, and the blockchain matures, I have no doubt that the metaverse will be the future. As a result, these companies need to understand that their multi-billion dollar investment will not be It has little return until that time.”

This latest comment is a positive fork toward Meta, which has seen its metaverse strategy debunked by financial analysts as it attempts to claw its way to the forefront of what could be a long-term sea change in how we engage with the Internet.

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Is this the end of “big tech”?

Generation Z is the key to all of this

Even metaverse apologists agree that when it comes to Zuckerberg’s grand approach or going home, it’s a very risky situation to try and run before he can walk. He seemed to think of the pandemic as an accelerator — a time skip that would see us through a decade of technological change in the blink of an eye, and expand the Meta’s ambitions accordingly. He was surprised by our willingness to return to pre-coronavirus amenities.

“They accumulate more quickly and spend more than any other metaverse and probably never get more oomph,” is the candid assessment of Cudo founder Matt Hawkins, however he believes the metaverse is the “natural next phase” of a transition that has seen younger generations grow into a digital world. increasingly.

“Generation Zs have grown into a purely digital world, often valuing digital assets more than real world assets. The idea is that you can take it with you, you can show it off to the world, so, if you spend £1,000 on a picture and put it up on your bedroom wall, they won’t see it.” Sun. If you buy a digital copy, you can show it to the world.”

Again, this is not a particularly new phenomenon. Online games like World Of Warcraft have had players showing off their exotic pets and epic armor to each other for as long as 2004. One of Fortnite’s trump cards is that people love being able to dress up as Star Wars characters, Marvel superheroes, and international sports stars, and then Go out with their friends to compare looks.

Twenty million people have seen the device on Fortnite
Fortnite has become the epicenter of live events – and a place for people to dress up and show off to friends

The promise of the metaverse is to blur the lines between our digital and real lives, to the point where the former may be the one we’re most proud of. The same generation that fears not having enough money to get up the housing ladder may decide the money is better spent on a digital home to call their own.

After all, £5,000 would go a little further in the Decentraland housing market than it would in Rightmove (although somewhat ironically, Spitfire Homes became the first UK housebuilder to construct a show home in metaverse).

Pic: Spitfire houses
Pic: Spitfire houses

John Needham is the head of esports at gaming giant Riot Games, and before that he oversaw Microsoft’s augmented reality project called Hololens, which blends the meta and physical worlds via a headset that covers digital effects and objects in real space.

“Millennials and Gen Z are on their phones all day, and their presence is defined by their digital presence,” he said.

“The games were scratching [the metaverse] It will seem for a long time, with MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) with games like The Sims. I think doing that, on a human scale, would require much better technology than we have now.

“But you’re seeing all the signs that your digital self is becoming more and more important, and it’s going to evolve into the core thing that matters. I don’t know if it’s this generation or the next, but I think it’s inevitable.”

BAE Systems and the RAF are working with the AR to improve aircraft maintenance
BAE Systems and the RAF are working with the AR to improve aircraft maintenance

Whether it’s education, industry, or just dancing with friends at an online party, it’s clear that we’re increasingly dipping our collective finger into the possibilities that the metaverse might offer.

For Cudo’s Matt Hawkins, all that’s missing is a eureka moment. Like access to information and e-commerce pushed people towards the internet, and connections led us to social media, what collectively takes us into the metaverse?

Zuckerberg seems determined to make it his own, and seems willing to make or break the Meta to find out.

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