This extract is from “Decoding the Metaverse” by Chris Duffey is ©2023 and is reproduced and adapted with permission from Kogan Page Ltd
The Elements of the Metaverse
Several elements make up the Metaverse. Without these, the full implementation of the Metaverse simply won’t work and won’t meet the evolving expectations of most of the population. However, by fully defining and implementing each of the following elements, the Metaverse becomes existent and usable. These elements depend on the foundational technologies of the internet and Web 1, 2, and 3:
1 Immersive 3D
2 Real time
5 Shared experience
6 Shared economy
These significant aspects differentiate the Metaverse from anything that’s come before it. With each of these elements implemented in place, a fully functional meta-universe can be created that simulates and expands upon the real world. It evolves into a complete universe with your identity, virtual worlds, experiences, an economy, a system of governing, and full collaborative capabilities.
Let’s briefly review each of the elements of the Metaverse.
1. Immersive 3D
An immersive 3D experience creates a world in which an individual or group perceives being physically present in a virtual world as a digital entity. Users can use their senses to experience the world around them and manipulate (and sense) objects and their environment. They can also interact with other real-world people in addition to digital people (think of non-player characters [NPCs] in video games).
Users can sense the world around them using sight, sound, touch, and even taste and smell. When you’re in the Metaverse in its ultimate configuration, it will appear for all intents and purposes to be a 3D world. You’ll be able to feel objects, pick them up, and put them down; smell flowers, taste food, walk around a city, browse shelves at a library, or wander around a virtual national park.
Richly integrated AR, VR, AI, machine learning, and other advanced technologies will aid you in entering infinite virtual worlds where you can engage with the content of each on a real-time basis.
The dissimilarity between a Web 2.0 ecommerce and a Metaverse version is that the Metaverse store will be more immersive and experiential. In the Metaverse, an ecommerce business could build an entire digital store personalized for you: a store where you can browse the aisles, select the items you want, and add them to your virtual shopping cart. Once you’ve finished shopping, you could then push your cart to the checkout, and your credit or debit card would automatically be charged for your purchases.
This might sound familiar if you’ve ever used an Oculus headset to experience your digital world and/or play a video game. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that the experience described above sounds like playing a game and you’d be right. The concepts developed for such video games directly apply to the Metaverse.
2. Real Time
In the Metaverse, events will happen as they occur in real time, as opposed to a recording being played later. What Users will experience things as they actually happen—as they unfold. Contrast this with chess, where players take turns one at a time, and each waits for the other to take their turn (not real time).
Events in the Metaverse occur in real time, meaning they happen live and simultaneously for all its users. The play in a video game co-occurs (i.e., at the same time) for all players, and the action moves forward without delays. As we’ve discussed, this is where the cloud and distributed infrastructure support real-time immersive experiences at scale.
The concept of self-custody is that individuals own the rights to their digital assets. It’s a similar concept to ownership in the physical world like how a person might own their house and/or car. We live in and use said house and/or car and possess the legal title proving and demonstrating our possession.
Furthermore, people (and digital entities) either own their possessions and assets or they own rights to use them as granted by non-fungible tokens. NFTs (which we’ll discuss shortly). This is a core principle to the Metaverse and Web3 as well.
Ownership is an immensely powerful concept for the digital world (i.e., both Web3 and the Metaverse) because it allows people to own digital assets without needing a bureaucracy or being granted authority of ownership by someone else. For example, you don’t gain ownership with someone else’s permission when you purchase a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. You simply buy your bitcoin and you gain its possession.
Ownership matters in the Metaverse because it permits ownership rights without a central authority. You can own assets and do with them what you will at your discretion. You can keep them, sell them, or transfer them to someone else. It’s up to you because you are their owner.
In other words, self-custody is a decentralized way of owning assets. Self-custody is related to NFTs because NFTs authorize self-custody; it’s all based on blockchain technology. Users control their private keys, giving them entitlement and control over their finances, assets, records, and anything else they own.
One of the core visions of the Metaverse is interoperability, which is the allowance of a range of transportability of assets and avatars between each virtual world. In the Metaverse, people have the option to be represented with a digital version of themselves known as an avatar. Their avatar embodies
the appearance, possessions, and everything else about a digital version of the person to empower them to function in the virtual world.
To be interoperable, avatars and assets must be able to move between the worlds of the Metaverse. In other words, they need to be able to seamlessly move between different platforms (i.e., worlds), similar to how people do in the real world. For instance, an avatar could walk along a digital street from the bank to a shopping mall. They could “teleport” there as well if they desire and, after making some purchases, stroll over to another virtual world for their daily social media interaction. When finished, they could go to see a movie or watch a live soccer game from a real-world game.
Note, avatars are not limited to real-life humans. Avatars can also be created for digital entities (known as AI synths) and, because of artificial intelligence and machine learning, they will be treated in many of the same ways that we relate to real people. A company could hire “digital employees” to perform routine tasks, such as filling out spreadsheets. These digital employees would then work alongside physical employees as assistants.
5. Shared Experience
A shared experience is an experience where people simultaneously see, feel, and hear the same things. A module of shared experiences is the environment. Created 3D renderings of their surroundings (i.e., environment) add reality. A virtual 3D store complete with a cashier is not essential to you doing your shopping, but it makes the experience seem more real and engaging. In addition, it creates chances to build new and interesting worlds that let people become immersed in full-sensory experiences and interrelate with each other in meaningful ways. It also exposes opportunities for collaboration and co-creation for brands and customers to interact through their shared experiences.
Video game players are already aware of their surroundings. including caves, tunnels, roads, lakes, rivers, and so forth, which is the stage where people can intermingle in the virtual world. The environment (i.e., background scenery) makes their shared experiences more realistic because people can see and hear the same things at the same time.
The 2018 movie Ralph Breaks the Internet illustrates this point. Ralph and Vanellope live in video games. One day, they are forced to visit the internet to find a replacement part for one of their game consoles. Together, they share a journey through various virtual worlds of the internet and have some interesting adventures. In addition, the two visit real-life businesses. Vanellope, for starters, interacts with all the Disney princesses in a grand circular room complete with furniture, curtains, a ceiling, and everything else you would expect. This room exists only in the virtual world.
This type of experience is precisely what will happen when you transported into the Metaverse. When you visit a virtual bank, you’ll walk into a bank complete with a teller and a manager. If you enter a library, you’ll see walls of bookshelves filled with books that you can browse. The background, or stage, makes the Metaverse appear real to everyone involved.
6. Shared Economy
The Metaverse requires a functional economic system, known as a shared economy, that is supported everywhere in the virtual world. Without a shared economy, the worlds of the Metaverse simply aren’t as valuable as they could be.
To support this shared economy, Web3 provides an economic system complete with currencies (i.e., cryptocurrencies) and products and services that can be bought, sold, and traded within the Metaverse. You can deposit your digital money into a crypto bank for safekeeping, invest in the stock market (or a digital version of it), and do just about anything you can do with the money in the physical world.
Equally, the money that you earn and save in the digital world, depending on how its defined, may be used in the physical world (and vice versa). These currencies may be valid anywhere, both inside and outside the Metaverse.
A functional economic system is far more than cybercurrency, like the physical world’s economy it’s more than just dollars or other currencies. Some of the aspects of an economy’s currency include:
· Trust that the currency will retain its value, whether it’s a paper dollar or cryptocurrency.
· People must be able to use the currency for trade—buying and selling.
· The currency must be universally (or at least locally) accepted.
· One unit of the currency is the same value as another unit (meaning, a dollar equals a dollar).
· The currency can be saved or spent.
Currency and the economy will be described further in the chapter on Tokenomics, referring to the qualities of a crypto token that makes it attractive to investors.
One of the core concepts of the Metaverse is persistence, which means to extend the existence of the experience beyond the time when it is being experienced, thus giving a lasting or “persistent” place in the world. In other words, experiences in the Metaverse will continue forward in time even when users are not experiencing them. Think of persistence as continuity rather than a reset, a pause, or an end, just as time is experienced in the real world.