But what exactly is the metaverse? Scenes from “The Matrix” or “Ready Player One” might be floating around in your head. The metaverse can be a virtual space where you can do just about anything. And if that sounds scary—and exciting—then you’re not alone. The answer to this article’s title question is “the metaverse is not 100% up and spinning yet.”
Don't rush to pick out your new virtual “Outfit of The Day” (OOTD). The metaverse is still in the early stages of development. While it’s not fully here, there is at least one way you may experience it—cryptocurrency.
- Video games: Games like Fortnite include metaverse elements like avatars that interact with other players. Players can also get virtual currency (hi, crypto) to dress up their avatars. And gaming company Roblox already allows users to create their own worlds (more on Roblox in a bit).
- Second Life: It’s a virtual world that was launched in 2003. And allows users to create an avatar that can hang out with other users and shop. It’s been described as a metaverse. And while its popularity peaked in the late 2000s, the company’s now trying to make a name for itself in the next digital frontier.
- At work: The collaboration between Microsoft Teams and Meta’s Workplace is giving people a taste of how platforms can integrate and work together in the metaverse. Both companies allow users to access content from Teams (think: streaming video) and Workplace (think: comment features) without having to switch between apps.
- NFTs: Aka Non-fungible tokens. Which are digital collectibles. They represent ownership of digital art, images, and video games. And NFTs are expected to do the same when it comes to representing assets in the metaverse.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding the metaverse, especially as people throw real-life money at creating immersive 3D environments. Case in point: Real estate sales on four major metaverse platforms topped $500 million last year, according to one analysis. And that number’s expected to double this year.
Those with deep pockets have already started investing. See: Paris Hilton’s virtual island. And Snoop Dogg’s Snoopverse, which apparently already has people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars just to be his neighbor. Then, there’s Big Tech.
“[Meta has] spent $10 billion so far on the effort and has said it’s going to spend much more to try to pivot the business to this area. It's a big push by Mark Zuckerberg,” Kara Swisher, tech columnist for The New York Times, said on a recent podcast.
But while people are making top-dollar investments, experts say ‘proceed with caution.’ Janine Yorio, CEO of Everyrealm (a metaverse and NFT investor and developer), said real estate in this new virtual ecosystem is perilous.
“You must pay in cryptocurrency. The value of the asset is largely correlated to the value of the underlying cryptocurrency, which is very volatile,” Yorio said. “There is a low likelihood of generating income from a metaverse real estate investment.”
But for those who can shell out, there are some potential big profits in other areas. The market for virtual goods and services in the metaverse will reportedly be worth $1 trillion. And companies will be right there to advertise it.
This brings us to the next big question: what will people do in the Metaverse?
Real self, meet virtual self. In the metaverse, you can merge (or blur) even more of your life together. What you see and post on Instagram and TikTok are all part of the 2D internet—So 2021. “In the metaverse, we'll see each other. We can wave to each other. I can show you what I'm buying. You can show me what you're buying, and it becomes an immersive and social experience,” Yorio explained.
Users will do things like shop, have work meetings, and go to concerts. And they’ll be able to do it with their friends and strangers who live anywhere in the physical world.
“Whether it’s finding love and making friends, or it’s connecting with people from different parts of the world, or it's flying or shooting people and blowing them up, or being a spy,” she said. “Those are the kinds of things that are going to draw people into the metaverse.”
In other words, the metaverse will be the Wild West. Hopefully without the violence. Here’s a look at some of the current platforms that are already shaping the metaverse:
- Decentraland: This is a fully decentralized virtual reality platform. Meaning no single person owns it. Users can buy land or make money from their content using the platform’s cryptocurrency, which can be bought with Ethereum. (Yes, it’s crypto on crypto.) Users can access Decentraland with a digital wallet— aka a personal account that keeps all your digital assets (NFTs and Decentraland purchases).
- Horizon Workrooms: This is a VR space for teams to connect. Think: WFH, but in a digital space and with avatars. Horizon Workrooms requires the Quest 2— a VR headset created by Meta. It lets users access Workrooms and other virtual events. Bonus: It’s free to use.
- Roblox: It’s a platform where users can play games developed by other users. And can buy accessories and products from real brands like Burberry and Nike, using the platform’s in-game currency Robux. Game developers can earn Robux and convert it to real money. (That’s one way to have a side hustle.) You can download Roblox for free online and play it via Xbox One, Xbox Series S, or Xbox Series X. And also access it via certain Apple iOS, Android, and Amazon products.
- The Sandbox: The company describes itself as a “virtual metaverse” that’s built on the Ethereum blockchain. "Players can build, own, and monetize their gaming experience." They also have a crypto wallet (think: a digital wallet) to store SAND — the currency used in the ecosystem. It also gives people the power to govern the space...aka make the rules.