What is the metaverse? Is it a simple buzzword or the future world?
At LS GROUP, we decipher this concept that is still difficult to understand!
If there is a word that is currently in the headlines outside the NFT, it is definitely the metaverse. Semantically, the word metaverse comes from the Greek word “meta” meaning “beyond”, and “verse”, the contraction of universe in English. Thus, the metaverse would mean “Beyond our universe”, a universe transcending our reality, a digital universe. Moreover, the term was used for the first time in the “Snow Crash” book written by Neal Stephenson (1992).
It is a difficult concept to grasp, even to explain, because the metaverse is still in its early stages of conception and remains abstract for many. Furthermore, there are still many gray areas due to the multitude of divergent opinions. Indeed, in its premise, the metaverse painted a rather dreamlike picture of the next social networks and the internet in general: A place where people could meet and do all sorts of activities, similar to what one could do in a persistent world. For some enthusiasts, this concept is similar to the science fiction scenario of Ready Player One (2011). Moreover, many consider “Second life” as one of the forerunners of the metaverse. This game released in 2003 still allows its users to embody virtual characters in a world created by the residents themselves.
So far nothing very complicated you may say, but the metaverse as we perceive it today would be much more complex: it could mix VR/VR and AR/AR, would be accessible at any time with a notion of market where we would use the blockchain, a decentralized network of trust that allows the transfer of digital values such as money and data, in order to make our purchases.
Does the metaverse already exist?
Some may wonder why the metaverse is so fashionable now, if it has been around for so long? Indeed, if we stick to the previous definition, the metaverse is already present in online video games such as Fortnite, Crayta, Roblox, VR Chat, in the cinematographic universe or in literature. Through these different media, we can already see and understand the possibilities that the metaverse would offer us, such as our next methods of understanding our relationships with the internet, our new methods of visiting places, of socializing, all with an economy of its own.
However, the metaverse would not be only a game, but a world directly linked to ours. To dig deeper, we will analyze two schools of thought that stand out: First, it is the idea of a crossover where we can achieve what we can do in real life in a virtual world (via virtual reality for instance), with no limit between applications or games. It would consist of a physical representation of the Internet, almost palpable.
Facebook Horizon demo
To materialize this idea of crossover, it would require an interconnectivity between all the virtual worlds where there will be no more frictions or obstacles. For example, we could socialize, create, play, buy… just as we would on the Internet, with a unique avatar!
Nevertheless, this definition would rely on the cooperation of all the actors of the metaverse, something that is still difficult to fathom in our time, because they are still competitors. Besides, no company would have the “metaverse”, just as no company “owns” the Internet at the moment. Secondly, a second idea of the metaverse would bring together the virtual world and the real world through immersive augmented reality, and enrich this hybrid world with AI. In other words: “augment” life to optimize our daily life tasks. This would completely change our working methods and even our way of life thanks to a complete immersion, a total symbiosis of the real and the virtual.
Adobe Aero demo at the Adobe Max 2019
To better illustrate this definition of the metaverse, Jarvis – Tony Stark’s AI in Iron Man – is the closest thing to the vision of the metaverse as some people envision it: a mix of AI and augmented reality that would really complement our conventional way of life.
How does LS GROUP take part in the metaverse?
As a player developing solutions using new technologies that shape the metaverse, we are involved in the metaverse in various ways: The formation of digital twins in Industry 4.0 also helps to create the metaverse. For example, the digitalization of industrial processes, factories or the creation of training applications are strategies to link the digital and the real. Imagine attending immersive virtual training sessions or visiting factories or nuclear power plants to see behind the scenes, this would change our learning methods, our ways of understanding them and this in complete safety. It is on this subject that our teams have worked with the INSTN and the CEA. In fact, we have created a VR application to simulate training in a nuclear reactor.
But there are not only industrial uses, there is also the marketing aspect of the metaverse, such as virtual showrooms, configurators that are real sales tools today but could become the consumption method of tomorrow, i.e. buy in the virtual store and receive it at home. This is where Light And Shadows comes in. It is on these segments of the metaverse, linking the real and virtual worlds. By doing so, we provide our own piece of the puzzle, as modest as it may be, so that the metaverse can one day be born and prosper.
So why the metaverse does not exist yet?
Following some concepts, today we already have the ingredients for the recipe of the metaverse:
Escape into a virtual world
Virtual reality (VR)
Augmented Reality (AR)
However, we do not yet have the technology to accomplish this mix. As they exist today, AR media are very cumbersome and not recommended for daily use. On top of that, one would need to have access to internet at a very high speed through mobile channels, such as glasses or smartphones, to be able to access the full potential of the metaverse. This would be possible with 5G but would only be optimal with 6G planned for 2030 in South Korea according to some experts.
Will we see the birth of one or several metaverses?
As stated earlier, the metaverse will only truly come to light once AR/VR becomes more widespread within the general audience, as well as with the emergence of more powerful technologies such as 6G and new display/display media. Today, major players in the new technology industry such as Epic Games, Meta (ex-Facebook), Nvidia, Microsoft, Roblox, Unity, Alphabet and many others have already invested millions, even billions, in poles devoted to creating the metaverse. In addition, at the writing of this article, the Facebook group has changed its name to “Meta”, thus confirming the firm’s desire to become more involved in the metaverse and to develop tools and technologies for its genesis.
Finally, the democratization of the metaverse can be encouraged by the huge active communities that the different behemoths have managed to federate throughout their existence: for example, Epic Games has managed to gather between 6 and 12 million people every day, while Roblox gathers around 42 million users per day.
We can then foresee the arrival of the metaverse soon.
However, it is important to wonder if there will be one or several metaverses?
There are indeed several players who want to join and create their own metaverse. For example, how will we manage to link the metaverses of all these players in order to have a coherent and homogeneous metaverse in which everything that is bought there will be transferable to the different ecosystems? Will a universal design be born in order to have a certain uniformity between these metaverses and not to lose the users through several user interfaces? Moreover, other questions related to regulation and legislation arise around the creation of the metaverse: Will there be laws to regulate the metaverse(s) as soon as they are born? Will the laws in real life apply in the same way in the metaverse? Will there be new rules or new authorities, depending on the metaverse?
It is this lack of institutions and legal norms that needs to be clarified in order for the metaverse to develop and make sense.
So, are you looking forward to seeing what the metaverse will bring us?
If you would like to learn more about the subject, please feel free to consult the following bibliography that helped us to write this article: