Race to the Metaverse: The Battle to Shape the Future of the Internet | Science and technology news | Wbactive

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

In the strangest PR email I’d received in a while, a leading hair care company offered a spot in a virtual salon where my avatar would receive a luxury treatment the real me could only dream of.

Blurring the lines between the physical and the digital, the idea is that this will become a way for people to ‘test’ new looks on themselves before perhaps deciding to proceed with them. While I don’t anticipate ever asking a barber for anything more extravagant than two rounded backs and sides and a bit of the top, thanks, the metaverse offers a risk-free opportunity to experiment.

And in this case, all without ever having to strap on a bulky headset.

Like me, there’s a good chance that when you think of Metaverse, it’s the first thing you associate with it virtual or augmented reality. But in a week if Mark Zuckerberg’s tireless attempt to put his stamp on the concept was greatly relieved by Thousands of job cuts at Metathis bizarre invitation was a timely reminder that it’s much more than that.

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

Meta’s place in the metaverse

When Zuckerberg talks about the Metaverse, he’s mostly talking about Horizon, the virtual world his company has created to host various experiences – from chatting with friends to collaborating with work colleagues – while wearing a Meta Quest headset. Since the release of the $1,500 “Pro” headset last month, you’ve probably seen meta ads and billboards promoting the metaverse as the perfect home for exactly these kinds of experiences.

And there are certainly believers.

Nicky Danino, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Central Lancashire, counts herself among those already on board and says the metaverse offers “amazing possibilities and possibilities” particularly in educational and training settings. The university is already using virtual spaces to put students in situations and environments they would never normally get to, while institutions like the RAF have shown how augmented reality can improve the work of their fighter jet maintenance teams.

But just like renaming Facebook to Internet Inc. wouldn’t suggest he owns the internet in general, don’t let Zuckerberg’s renaming to Meta fool you into thinking that his vision is all there is when it comes to that metaverse goes. What Meta is building really should be viewed as a platform within the Metaverse, although admittedly one with an amazingly large sum of money (already tens of billions of dollars) is thrown at it.

But there are many others moving into space – and you’ve probably heard of some of them.

Meta was on a metaverse marketing blitz.  Image: Facebook
Meta was on a metaverse marketing blitz. Image: Facebook

For example there is Fourteen days by Epic Games. It’s no longer just a place where 100 players can parachute onto an island and kill each other, but also allows them to create their own games and even attend concerts – among those that have performed are real ones Megastars like Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, who takes to the stage in a feverish dream of brand synergy where millions of fans are able to play as anyone from Princess Leia to Neymar.

Speaking of brands, here are some of the metaverse’s biggest advocates. Last December, sportswear giant Nike bought a company called RTFKT, which was founded to make digital goods like virtual clothing, collectibles, and NFTs. The first product after the acquisition was the Nike Cryptokicks, a pair of digital sneakers that can be customized and showcased online.

And then there are virtual spaces like Decentraland, one of the biggest slices of the Metaverse pie yet that probably comes closest to living a completely different life from your real life. As Sky News found out earlier this yearpeople in Decentraland are spending thousands of pounds on land to call their own.

It’s, in a way, the ultimate utopian vision of a decentralized metaverse where people own what’s theirs and can monetize everything themselves, taking it with them wherever they go – with no strings attached or corporate overlords. It’s a vision that would not allow any single corporation – not even one named after the metaverse itself – to dominate the entire court.

In fact, for Immersive Wire’s Tom Ffiske, the idea of ​​”interoperability” between Metaverse platforms is absolutely critical to their viability – there can’t be one Metaverse that dominates them all.

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Would you buy virtual land?

“The Race for the Future of the Internet”

Well, all of this probably sounds absolutely insane to a lot of people born before the turn of the millennium. What makes Horizon different from Second Life (an online virtual chat room inhabited by avatars) of 20 years ago? Why would Ariana Grande want to appear in a video game? You may be wondering why people are so excited to queue up for sneakers in real life, let alone buy pairs they can’t even put on on their actual feet.

You might be right if you think it’s completely insane – the truth is we just don’t know yet. All that is certain is that these potentially brilliant, potentially confusing ideas are here to stay.

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Big ideas live in 2022

“The race for the metaverse is about the race for 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 virtual/augmented reality, artificial intelligence and blockchain all require a skill maturation process that takes a lot of time. Currently, the metaverse is struggling with battery limitations, slow internet connections, and the demise of the unstable blockchain.

“However, 10 years from now, once we achieve battery breakthroughs, use 6G for data transmission, and blockchain matures, I have absolutely no doubt that the Metaverse will be the future. As such, these companies must understand that their billion-dollar investments will have little to no returns up to that point.”

That last comment is a sharp stab at Meta, whose Metaverse strategy was gutted by financial analysts as it attempted to brute force its way to the forefront of what would spell a long-term sea change in how we interact with the deal with the internet, should be.

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Is this the end of Big Tech?

Gen Z is key to all of this

Even metaverse advocates agree that with Zuckerberg’s “Go Big or Go Home” approach, trying to run before you can walk is an extremely risky case. He seemed to view the pandemic as an accelerator – a time warp that would have us embracing a decade’s technological shift in the blink of an eye, and expanded Meta’s ambitions accordingly. Our willingness to return to pre-COVID comforts surprised him.

“They’ve accumulated faster and spent more than any other metaverse and probably haven’t caught on more,” is Cudo founder Matt Hawkins’ blunt assessment, yet he believes the metaverse is “the natural next stage” of a transition see younger generations growing into an increasingly digital world.

“Growing into a purely digital world, Gen Zs often value digital assets more than physical assets. The idea is that you can take them with you and show the world, so if you spend £1,000 on a picture and put it on your bedroom wall, nobody will see it. If you buy a digital version, you can show it to the world.”

Again, this is not a particularly new phenomenon. In online games like World of Warcraft back in 2004, players showed off each other’s exotic pets and epic armor. One of Fortnite’s trump cards is that people love being able to dress up as Star Wars characters, Marvel superheroes, and global sports stars, and then meet up with their friends to compare their looks.

Twenty million people watched The Device on Fortnite
Fortnite has become a hub for 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 we might be more proud of the former. The same generation that fears never having enough money to climb the apartment ladder might decide money is better spent on a digital home to call their own.

After all, £5,000 on Decentraland’s housing market is going to go a damn farther than it does on Rightmove (although, ironically, Spitfire Homes just became the first British homebuilder to build a show home in the Metaverse).

Image: Spitfire Homes
Image: Spitfire Homes

John Needham is the president of esports at gaming giant Riot Games and previously ran a Microsoft augmented reality project called Hololens, which blends the meta and physical worlds through a headset that overlays digital effects and objects into a real-world space .

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

“Gaming scratched something [the metaverse] will look like this for a long time, with MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) with games like The Sims. I think on a human scale this will require much better technology than we have now.

“But you see all the signs that your digital personality is becoming more important, it’s going to become the most important thing. I don’t know if it’s this generation or the next generation, but I think it’s inevitable.”

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

Whether it’s education, industry, or just dancing with friends at an online gig, it’s clear that we’re increasingly digging our common toe into the possibilities the metaverse could offer.

Only one aha moment is missing for Cudo’s Matt Hawkins. Just as access to information and e-commerce drove people to the internet and connections us to social media, what brings us to the metaverse en masse?

Zuckerberg seems determined to make it his and seems willing to make or break meta to find out.

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