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Metaverse 101: An introduction to the Metaverse

Today we return to our Metaverse 101 series of posts, themetabite’s evolving guide to the Metaverse. If you're new to the Metaverse, this is the place for you. We explain the fundamental building blocks of the Metaverse, how they interact with one another, and where they might take us.

So, when are we likely to see the Metaverse in all its glory? Here at themetabite we define the Metaverse as: ‘the ‘hyperconvergence of the physical and digital worlds’, that is, the merging of the real world and virtual worlds to the point at which they become indistinguishable from one another. The Metaverse is unlikely to emerge as a fully realised, fully functional virtual world from day one, but rather a series of Web 3.0, Web 3.1, and Web 3.2 updates, culminating in a persistent, hyper-realistic, immersive, virtual world, that allows planetwide interactions, in real-time.

As we discuss in our Barriers to the Metaverse series of posts there are some significant hurdles to be overcome, specifically obstacles related to the underlying network infrastructure, the open standards and interoperability, and the privacy and security required to deliver a hyperconverged physical/digital world. Let’s take these in order.

The underlying network infrastructure required to deliver a persistent, hyper-realistic, immersive, virtual world, that allows planetwide interactions, in real-time, shouldn’t be underestimated. In a December 2021 opinion piece titled “Powering the Metaverse”, senior vice president and head of Intel's Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics, Raja Koduri posited that “Truly persistent and immersive computing, at scale and accessible by billions of humans in real time” will require “a 1,000-times increase in computational efficiency from today’s state of the art.” And Meta used day one of this years’ Mobile World Conference to point out that home and cellular networks aren’t yet ready for the Metaverse and that it won’t be possible without improvements.

So, when will the connectivity be ready? Well, arguably, it’s already here. Gigabit connectivity is starting to become available in many regions, and we are already able to explore virtual worlds using Meta’s Quest 2 virtual reality (VR) goggles. This is however a far cry from the Metaverse as we imagine it to be. The issue is the ubiquity of that connectivity. Here at themetabite we believe the Metaverse to be a force for good, a physical-digital, or phygital, world that everyone is invited to participate in. Unfortunately, no everyone will be able to participate. Take the UK Government’s Project Gigabit, which aims to deliver gigabit-capable internet connectivity to 85% of the country by 2025. While this appears to be a step toward ubiquitous connectivity, documents published by the Government department DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) in 2021, show Project Gigabit completion in February 2029. On this basis, let’s assume ubiquitous gigabit broadband by 2030-2035 at the earliest.

Next we have open standards and interoperability. Here at themetabite we assume that within the ten to fifteen years required to build the underlying infrastructure we will need to deliver the Metaverse as we imagine it, the powers that be, the future titans of the Metaverse, will have established the economic incentives required to participate together in an interoperable ecosystem. Last we have privacy and security. The issue here is that it requires government-level policy decision to be made in order to protect the denizens of the Metaverse. If history is anything to go by, then this will be a major laggard behind technological advancement and may even be a blocker to the Metaverse as we imagine it. Let’s assume that this will add another five years to Metaverse realisation, which puts us around 2035-2040. Unfortunately, there’s a major technological leap that needs to be overcome before we can realise a persistent, hyper-realistic, immersive, virtual world, that allows planetwide interactions, in real-time. Brain-Computer Interface.

VR goggle s are great, but to really experience the Metaverse in terms of taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight, then we will need to trick the brain into thinking that it’s experiencing a wealth of sensations that are actually the result of software. Brain-Computer Interface, or BCI, measures central nervous system activity and converts it into artificial output. To realise a fully-immersive Metaverse, this process simply needs to be reversed. So, the question is: “will BCI technology have matured to Metaverse-ready levels by 2035 to 2040?”

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