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The Metaverse – Are we there yet?

February 8, 2022 - Julia Hogarty

Finding its genesis in science fiction, the aim to create a digitally realised experience ecosystem has been around for 30 years.

What exactly are people talking about when they refer to the ‘Metaverse’? Those who haven’t been following this concept since its inception may be scratching their heads, but many of those who have are equally uncertain. Is this just a buzzword bubble that will live in spin and come to nothing?

The ‘Metaverse’ is a north star objective of Big Tech. The aim is to create a digitally realised experience ecosystem, a woven tapestry of virtual worlds stitched together to generate a seamless digital dimension. Some might be surprised to hear that the idea of the Metaverse has been around for 30 years, finding its genesis in science fiction. Over the years, there have been admirable attempts at realising its vision by tech innovators with captured imaginations. However, the technology simply wasn’t there. IBM most notably were one of the first companies to take the concept seriously with their investment in Second Life. Launched in 2003, Second Life looked to provide a virtual collaboration space for businesses and even had its own virtual currency.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and the Metaverse is back on the radar again. However, this time it’s being taken more seriously. Arguably, the Metaverse is the ultimate manifestation of what SA 5G can theoretically make possible through ultra-low latency and guaranteed QoS. So, the underlying network technology, many believe, is almost there. Of course, it will take some time before the VR/AR device creators finesse the headsets that will provide the doorway and developing these at an accessible price-point may be a way off yet. That said, we are seeing some breakthrough glimmers of what this world would look like with ancillary experiences in the world of gaming. Musicians, such as Travis Scott and Ariana Grande, are performing in virtual concert tours accessible to players of the game Fortnite.

In theory, we could be looking at a digital oasis that makes every virtual experience you can imagine possible. Beyond the user benefits, the Metaverse proposes an infinite commercial space for big brands to push digital product with very little overhead, stoking buying frenzies for the latest pair of digital shoes for your avatar. Some are worried it will exploit our worst impulses and only lend to harden our digital dependency. The moral dilemma aside, the achievement of actualising the Metaverse would be an incredible demonstration of how far technology has come. And let’s not kid ourselves, we have been working and connecting virtually in some form or another for the last 2 years because of the challenges of the pandemic so you could say the train has already left the station.

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