The metaverse is very much a work in progress, but the fundamental principles are operational today.
The following is a review of the metaverse in practice right now and examples of the core technologies being used to create it.
Many of these will be familiar to even casual metaverse followers, but the clarity and authority that futurist Bernard Marr brings to bear is worth acknowledging.
What Web3 Looks Like Today
Although exactly what defines a Web3 site, service or application is still the subject of some debate, it’s generally agreed that it will be decentralized, with infrastructure that is owned by the users and creators. It will also be deeply linked to the real world due to being built on Internet of Things (IoT) technology and to the concept of immersive, connected environments (aka the metaverse).
READ MORE: The Internet Of The Future: Here Are Best Examples Of Web3 In Practice (Bernard Marr)
The blockchain network that powers Ether, the world’s second most popular cryptocurrency (after Bitcoin). It works as a platform for many of the decentralized applications (dapps) that make up today’s iteration of Web3.
As cryptocurrencies and blockchain tokens are themselves decentralized, Web3 apps, it makes sense that users would want to trade them over networks that are decentralized themselves. Pancakeswap is an example of an exchange for trading and investing in cryptocurrencies and other decentralized tokens.
A decentralized messaging app aiming to become the Web3 version of WhatsApp or WeChat. According to Marr, Secretum aims to prioritize privacy and security by allowing users to connect without an email address or phone number, “both of which can generally be traced back to individuals due to the centralized nature of the service providers which host them.” It also has built-in trading functionality for secure trading of cryptocurrencies and blockchain tokens such as NFTs.
A decentralized YouTube-style video streaming platform that attempts to put power in the hands of its users, with all decisions on video visibility governed by views, shares, and likes. That is pointedly contrary to the YouTube of Web2, which is a centralized corporation (owned by Alphabet) that controls which videos can be seen, when they appear in users’ feeds, and which users can earn money (and how much). DTube has no “owners,” in the traditional sense, who can censor uploaded content by simply removing it from their servers.
YOUR ROADMAP TO Web3:
Does web3 offer the promise of a truly decentralized internet, or is it just another way for Big Tech to maintain its stranglehold on our personal data? Hand-picked from the NAB Amplify archives, here are the expert insights you need to understand web3’s potential and stay ahead of the curve on the information superhighway:
- Magnificent Obsession: Why Are We in Love With Web3?
- Web3 and the Battle For the Soul of the Internet
- Web 2.5 Is Just… Awkward
- Avatar to Web3: An A-Z Compendium of the Metaverse
- Brave New World? Sure, Just Click Here
A decentralized cloud storage for personal files — like a decentralized Google Drive or OneDrive. It is fully open source, so anyone can examine the source code to determine that it is actually doing what it says it is doing and that there are no potential security holes that attackers could use to get at the data being stored. Users can offer up their own spare storage space to the network and get paid for doing so in the service’s own cryptocurrency.
A decentralized social blogging site, similar to Reddit, where users can get paid for their content based on community voting.
A private, centralized company that offers a number of decentralized solutions operating on private blockchains. It is somewhat different from other examples of Web3 applications in that it is built on Hyperledger Fabric, originally developed by IBM, and its focus is on creating proprietary, industry-specific solutions. Marr says, “this demonstrates the fact that there are many different views on what constitutes Web3 and where the future of the decentralized internet is heading.”
What the Metaverse Looks Like Today
The baseline that Marr uses for being part of the metaverse is a “persistent, connected digital environment which focus on providing immersive experiences for users”.
Nonetheless, he acknowledges that he can find no examples that tick all the boxes of what many consider to be a thoroughbred metaverse. Instead, he has chosen platforms that do one or more of the core elements particularly well.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Examples Of The Metaverse Everyone Should Know About (Bernard Marr)
Meta Horizons (Facebook)
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has bet the farm on the importance of the metaverse to the future of digital communications, socializing, and living. So far, the result has been several projects, including Horizon Worlds (a virtual worlds platform), Horizon Venues (events platform), and Horizon Workrooms (virtual office). All of these platforms are interconnected and allow users to create avatars that represent them as they explore and interact with other users.
Marr says, “One interesting aspect that arises from the existence of Horizon is that it forces us to confront questions about whether we want a metaverse where ownership is centralized under a corporate owner or a more distributed, decentralized model of ownership and governance.”
Epic Games’ online multiplayer game Fortnite is “potentially game-changing.” Two main strands that are being followed in order to turn the world of Fortnite into a proper metaverse: live music concerts from global superstars such as Ariana Grande, and Billie Eilish; and brands including UK broadcaster ITV and supermarket Carrefour have used Fortnite to take their first steps into the metaverse.
NVIDIA’s attempt to build a creative metaverse platform for 3D design professionals. It builds on technology developed by Pixar, which created the Universal Scene Description (USD) language that enables 3D objects and environments to become portable across different toolsets. This allows, for example, characters to be designed collaboratively, with facial animators, clothing designers, and other creatives all using tools that they are familiar with.
“As 3D environments become increasingly more detailed and immersive and require more work to build, this kind of creative framework will become an essential tool for studios creating metaverse content.”
Another hugely popular online gaming platform. It lets anyone create and even monetize their own game worlds, which all exist within an interconnected metaverse and share aspects like avatars and currency. Brands including Nike, Forever 21, NASCAR and Vans have all used the platform to set up virtual worlds where users can interact with their brands.
“While anyone can create their own game within Roblox, it’s designed, so they will all have a similar look and feel, meaning that once a player has logged in and experienced one of them, they will feel comfortable in any of them.”
NAVIGATING THE METAVERSE:
The metaverse may be a wild frontier, but here at NAB Amplify we’ve got you covered! Hand-selected from our archives, here are some of the essential insights you’ll need to expand your knowledge base and confidently explore the new horizons ahead:
- What Is the Metaverse and Why Should You Care?
- Avatar to Web3: An A-Z Compendium of the Metaverse
- The Metaverse is Coming To Get You. Is That a Bad Thing?
- Don’t Expect the Metaverse to Happen Overnight
- A Framework for the Metaverse from Hardware to Hollywood and Everything in Between
Something of a cross between a game, a marketing channel, and an experiment in creating a digital, decentralized democracy, Decentraland is deemed by Marr as a true Web3 platform. It’s governed by a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) which implements rules and regulations via a democratic process and comes with its own cryptocurrency, known as MANA. Using these, users can buy or rent plots of virtual land using the platform’s own cryptocurrency, called MANA. Many brands (and celebrity brands) have already done this including Coca-Cola, Adidas, Samsung, and Snoop Dogg. A ‘plot’ of land currently goes for anywhere from $10,000 to well over $1 million.
This mobile game was ported to the Ethereum blockchain in 2018, “becoming one of the first truly decentralized metaverse platforms”. It includes its own object creation tools that allow anyone to build 3D items, characters, vehicles, or anything else they can think of, which are then minted as NFTs, and can be imported into other Sandbox worlds. These NFTs can also be traded and sold via the platform’s built-in marketplace. Sandbox is another platform that has proven popular with brands wanting to establish their metaverse presence — “landowners” include HSBC, Warner Music, PwC, and Paris Hilton.
The Metaverse: Risks and Opportunities
By Abby Spessard
Still in its conceptual form, the metaverse isn’t here yet but it’s already becoming many things to many different people (and brands). Not so fast, argues computer science and psychology student Anke Hao, who points out that, as future users of the metaverse, we don’t necessarily have to accept whatever definition of it we’re handed.
“If we can understand what the possibilities of the metaverse are, we can begin shaping our own definitions of it, and by extension, build a version with standards that protect our rights and open up new opportunities,” she writes on Medium.
Hao breaks down the opportunities the metaverse represents, along with many of the risks.
First up is education and training. Not only is virtual reality already used to aid certain surgical procedures, but it’s also used in various skill simulations. It’s “cheaper, more objective, and more accessible than traditional methods,” she explains. VR provides the opportunity for more practice and training in a range of fields, in any place, at any time, and however many times it’s needed.
Digital doubles and simulations present the next-biggest opportunity. “Digital twins are already saving us from expensive mistakes in manufacturing, administration and policy,” Hao explains. For example, “a digital twin of the Hong Kong International Airport was created to simulate the flow of passengers and how it changes with maintenance, runway backups, and other issues.”
The third opportunity Hao examines is digital experiences. Brands are taking advantage of the new marketing medium. “Digital experiences is where most of the consumer awareness centers around,” she says. As a new medium, the metaverse provides the opportunity to not only interest people, brands, and companies, but to craft “experiences that can eventually surpass what is physically possible in the real world.”
Data privacy is one of the biggest risks Hao identifies, especially considering the widespread security issues inherent in our current Web2. In the metaverse, a “headset might have eye tracking and emotion recognition” — it could even track your health or what grabs your attention, giving companies even more data points to use.
Identity theft powered by deepfakes and synthetic voice technology is also a major hazard, leading to mistrust of public figures and institutions. “These same tools can be used to take away the identity of people in other contexts,” she says. “Without awareness of how to detect and counter these false identities, people will be hard-pressed to know what is real and what is fake.”
Asset ownership could additionally be risky for consumers, Hao maintains, because eventually we may all own digital assets. “If so, we should understand the degree of our ownership before investing our real-world assets into digital ones.” There have already been instances where digital ownership has been thrown into question — spoiler alert: it’s the companies running the platforms.
The solution to dealing with the risks the metaverse presents is to become “architects and educated citizens.” Hao underscores that we only get a say in the development of the metaverse if we clearly understand its possibilities, limitations, and threats. In her eyes, either we become the architects in charge, or the educated citizens controlling our own information, identity, and assets.
While we may not know what form the metaverse will ultimately take, regulation and safety are still a good place to start. The metaverse is primarily made for us, Hao underlines, “so if we’re not at least keeping an eye on how the metaverse will impact our rights and opportunities, we should be the ones joining in on creating and influencing it ourselves.”
READ MORE: Why It’s Important to Learn About the Metaverse (Anke Hao)
The go-to “killer app” for augmented reality (AR), which is predicted to be one of the cornerstone technologies that the metaverse will be built around. “It’s one of the best examples of how metaverse will involve the merging of the real and digital worlds,” says Marr. Creator Nintendo further blurred the boundaries by allowing real-world businesses to establish a digital presence within the poke-verse by launching advertising and promotional campaigns.
One to watch: Otherside
This one has only just been announced, but since it launched by Yuga Labs — creators of the immensely successful Bored Ape Yacht Club series of NFTs — this is deemed a project to keep an eye on. Its developers state, “think of it as a metaRPG (role-playing game) where the players own the world, your NFTs can become playable characters, and thousands can play together in real-time.”
THE ABCs of NFTs:
Are NFTs just more hype, or are they actually the building blocks of the creator economy? Understanding blockchain technology can seem like a lot, but NAB Amplify has the expert knowledge and insights you need to remain at the top of the intersection of art and technology:
- NAB Amplify’s NFT Primer
- What’s the Real Future of the NFT Crypto Art Market?
- Weird Science: The Connection Between NFTs and… Human Nature?
- What Is the Value of an NFT?
- NFTs: Content Strategy or Digital Craze?