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What is the “Metaverse”? Understanding the Idea That Still Promises to Change Technology

What is the “Metaverse”? Understanding the Idea That Still Promises to Change Technology

The concept of immersive virtual worlds started to gain popularity during the pandemic

In 2022, the term “metaverse” came in second among the Oxford University Press (OUP) words of the year. The concept has won over big names in the tech world, most notably the founder of Objective, Mark Zuckerbergwho even directed investments and changed the name of his company (previously called Facebook) to encapsulate his vision according to which the “metaverse” would be the new great technological revolution. But, after all, what is this “metaverse”?

The term “metaverse”, coined by American science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book Snow Crash, is now widely used to refer to shared virtual worlds that can be accessed by people via the Internet. These virtual reality environments allow users to interact with each other and their surroundings in immersive ways, through avatars – and can be made more realistic with the use of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (VR) devices. Today, however, most virtual spaces still resemble the interiors of video games more than real life.

The “metaverse” has gained a lot of notoriety during the pandemic COVID-19when social isolation forced the population to attend work and school remotely, through virtual interactions – and this situation ended up making us reflect on how to make these online interactions more realistic.

The idea of ​​a virtual world became even more present in the collective imagination when Mark Zuckerberg’s company, formerly called Facebook, began announcing million-dollar investments to build a metaversein 2021. In October of the same year, an important change was announced: Facebook has been renamed Metaa holding company that includes the social network Blue Logo, but also Instagram, Whatsapp, companies related to the metaverse, among others.

Zuckerberg laid out his vision for building a metaverse and said he believed the future of virtual connections lay in creating this shared virtual world, and not just in the formats that current social networks can offer. The company was also investing heavily in devices, such as augmented reality glasses, that would help access the company’s metaverse.

The new branding came during one of Facebook’s worst crises, as it faced scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers after leaked documents about its negligent content moderation, which also led to testimony in the U.S. Senate. The new branding brought a much-needed change of focus to the company’s troubled times and, as the metaverse began to emerge, also had the potential to drive adoption.

However, while Meta has become the most famous example of a company investing in the metaverse for the general public, it was not alone in this endeavor, nor was it a pioneer. The idea was already attracting the interest of investors and companies, with Microsoft, Google AND Applefor example, conducting research into the development of these technologies. Games like Roblox and Fortnite, with their own universes, are also considered part of the metaverse: Fortnite has already attracted millions of people to virtual reality shows, such as that of singer Ariana Grande. Brands like Hermès, Burberry, and Valentino have also invested in virtual catwalks, with avatars of pieces that people can wear in metaverse environments.

Despite all the investment and effort, the metaverse has not yet “taken hold” as expected. For example, Meta’s metaverse arm, Reality Labs, has posted losses of over $45 billion since 2021. In June this year, the company announced a restructuring of this division, separating the metaverse from wearables: the reorganization is aimed at strengthening Meta’s position in the mobile market. artificial intelligence (AI) wearable. By redirecting its previously unsuccessful efforts in the metaverse to focus on artificial intelligence, the company has pleased investors, who have once again bet on its success: today, the target once again has a market valuation of trillion dollars.

In February of this year, Apple’s Vision Pro glasses hit the US market. Revealed by the company in June 2023, the device has been considered the “last chance” for the metaverse to become popular. The company, however, does not use the term “metaverse”: its technology is a sort of mix between virtual reality (with total immersion) and augmented reality (with interaction with the real world) and it was called “spatial computing”.

Vision Pro would be a “infinite screen”, according to the company, which allows the use of the surrounding space to use applications. It also allows interaction with three-dimensional digital content through voice commands, eye tracking and hand gestures – a big change from computers and mobile phones, which require mouse and finger movements with the two-dimensional interface of a screen. O State tested the Vision Pro in the United States, in reviewer who found the device impressive, but still heavy and very expensive – the launch price started at 3.5 thousand US dollars (about 19 thousand R$). The device arrived in other countries in June, but there is still no date for its arrival on the Brazilian market.

Source: Terra

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