The Metaverse Is More Than Just AR and VR
What do augmented and virtual reality, a new internet iteration built on blockchain technology (Web 3.0), and collectible digital cats have in common? According to both crypto and tech enthusiasts, they’re going to be shaping an immersive digital parallel universe, currently advertised as the metaverse, where users can socialize, work, play, and go shopping for virtual assets (NFTs).
Ever since Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebrand to ‘Meta’ and the major shift in the company’s priorities — building the metaverse and pushing the limits of human interaction in the digital world, numerous people have voiced their concerns regarding what this whole story is all about.
Is the metaverse the best technological breakthrough since the mobile internet? Or is it just a flashy marketing campaign devised by big tech corporations? Or perhaps it’s a techno-dystopian world similar to the one described in Ernest Cline’s ‘Ready Player One’ but with Face...Meta (still can’t get the hang of it) as the bad guy.
While we’ve yet to see how the metaverse will operate, we’re excited to share with you a few key insights we’ve gathered on our way down the crypto rabbit hole. That being said, in this article, we’ll do our best to break down what Web 3.0 and NFTs are, how they work, and how these elements could come together to form the digital fabric of this futuristic computer-generated world.
What is the Metaverse?
There are numerous ways to define the metaverse. Still, for the sake of keeping it entertaining for you, we’ll go with the definition that was able to spark our geeky imagination. So, in short, the metaverse is a never-ending 3D immersive virtual extension of our physical reality that people can interact with and explore through their digital avatars.
Imagine donning your VR goggles and haptic suit and stepping into this synchronous, shared, and always live virtual universe, where you could frictionlessly travel between platforms such as Facebook, Google, and Fortnite while bringing all of your data, avatar skins, and digital currency with you. That would be the open metaverse powered by community-driven governance and focused on fostering interconnected experiences across the virtual ecosystem.
On the other hand, we could also end up in a closed metaverse, where a single gatekeeper dictates the metaverse standards and policies for both users and developers, limiting interoperability between platforms and locking your avatar and all your digital goods within one virtual space. We can only hope that Meta (sounds unnatural, doesn’t it?) will move on from its data hoarding habits and play fair with the other kids on the metaverse playground.
These issues being put aside, one can’t help but wonder what technological innovation will be at the core of such an extensive virtual simulation. The answer, at least for now, lies in the decentralized mechanism of Web 3.0.
What is Web 3.0?
Who still remembers the screeching dial-up sound and static internet pages of the early 2000s? Web 1.0, or the read-only web, is the first version of the internet built on open-source protocols, which brought about the first wave of internet browsers such as Internet Explorer and Netscape.
If Web 1.0 had been a decentralized digital space characterized by passive content consumption, the mobile-first, cloud-only Web 2.0 is focused on interactive experiences, where non-tech users can effortlessly become creators thanks to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
With billions of people using the internet on a daily basis, Web 2.0’s model is engineered to run on mass centralization and exploitation of user data, which makes maintaining data privacy a continuous struggle (or a lost battle, as some would say) for companies and users alike. If we add that, in a twisted turn of events, we’ve become the product and advertisers the end consumer, we shouldn’t go and blame blockchain enthusiasts for upholding a somewhat idealistic vision of Web 3.0.
Therefore, the next era of the internet or Web 3.0 is envisioned as a decentralized network built on open standards and secure and transparent public blockchains. Among others, that means breaking down the gigantic databases held by internet behemoths like Meta and Google (mentally insert champagne popping GIF) and allowing users to regain ownership of their data and fully control their online identities and digital assets — or what crypto people call self-sovereign identity (SSI).
As far as defining features go, Web 3.0 is trustless, meaning that participants can interact directly without a trusted third party, and permissionless, referring to the fact that anyone can participate without the need to obtain permission from a central authority. That’s why the very nature of Web 3.0 will lead to the creation of new business models such as DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations).
These companies are controlled not by a central decision-maker but by a community of stakeholders, which are given equitable and liquid ownership through governance cryptocurrency tokens powered by the same blockchain technology.
Speaking of tokens, it’s high time we talked about a special kind of digital tokens, that is, non-fungible tokens or simply NFTs.
What are NFTs?
NFTs represent unique, immutable, and traceable virtual assets held on the blockchain that can prove users’ ownership for things such as digital artwork, music, basketball highlights, and collectibles such as cartoon apes or tradeable digital cats (you read that right, back in 2017, cats invaded the blockchain world with the launch of CryptoKitties).
The central role of NFTs is to enable artists to authenticate and monetize their work in a new way without any middlemen involved and attest to the scarcity of the virtual asset in an online space where most digital art is freely available and easily replicated. Furthermore, the artist gets a share of the proceeds from every future secondary sale of their NFTs.
Despite the accusations of being the latest get-rich-scheme of the online world, the usability of NFTs is expected to go beyond spending millions of dollars on a drawing (the hype is real, folks) to act as a certificate of ownership in the metaverse. This digital document would allow, for example, players of a game to own and trade an item outside that gaming platform, thus ensuring interoperability.
How do the pieces of the Metaverse puzzle come together?
According to technologists and Twitter crypto-focused threads, Web 3.0, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and NFTs are going to initiate a decentralized metaverse built on blockchain systems and community-driven standards, without gatekeepers or centralized entities. This virtual world would empower users to take ownership control of their digital identities and assets and actively participate in the future of virtual, immersive communities while getting rewarded for it.
In such a world, interacting with decentralized apps won’t require the old-school username and password login or the Facebook/Google Login, as your digital crypto wallet will become equivalent to your identity. Thus, you’ll be able to take your avatar, cryptocurrencies, and virtual assets from one metaverse experience to another.
Looking at the various forms of the proto-metaverse (e.g., Roblox, Fortnite, and Decentraland) already here, we’re excited to see how things are going to evolve in the next 5 to 10 years.
There’s no place like the Metaverse
The metaverse, as far as the vision presented in this article goes, has many technological layers and structures that together will drive significant changes in the real world, from how we handle our personal data to what the organizational structure should look like, and how we support the work of our favorite artists.
For that reason, entrepreneurs and companies ought to keep in mind that, in time, technologies that have started as a toy — be that virtual reality, augmented reality, or NFTs — have the potential to completely redefine how we learn, how we do business, and how we interact with those around us.
If you’re curious to explore the possible use cases of AR/VR within your business, don’t hesitate to contact us. See what the team at Flint Tech has been up to and get inspired by taking a look at our latest projects.