In the first six months of the year, the word metaverse appeared more than 1,100 times. There were 260 mentions the previous year. Did the preceding two decades happen? There were fewer than a dozen. Every corporate executive feels the need to mention the metaverse in order to fit their company's capabilities better than their competitors. Few seem to know what they are building. The executive class seems to disagree over some aspects of the new platform, including the criticality of virtual reality headsets, whether it's here now, or in the future, and whether it's here now or in the future.

Investment has not been constrained. Facebook has lost more than $10 billion on its metaverse initiatives since it changed its name to "Meta". Six of the largest public companies in the world have been preparing for the metaverse. They are preparing multi-billion dollar product launches and reorganizing internally. The largest acquisition in Big Tech history was made by Microsoft in January, when they paid $75 billion for a gaming company. In the first five months of this year, corporations, private equity companies, and venture capitalists made over 120 billion dollars in metaverse-related investments.

Almost all of the work has remained hidden. The metaverse is rather similar to it. There isn't a metaverse product we can buy or "metaverse revenue" on our income statement. It seems like the metaverse has already come and gone. There has been a crash of the coin. When the company changed its name to Meta, it had a market cap of $900 billion. The end of the Pandemic caused the video gaming sales to fall by nearly 10%.

The metaverse seems to be sputtering to many people. Technology and business models of the modern economy have been established by the largest tech platforms. It is clear that there are many problems with the internet, so why not fix them?

There is an answer in that question. The idea of the metaverse is almost a century old. From mainframes to PCs and the internet, platform shifts occur every few decades. It is hard to alter who leads a new era and how. Between eras, those very things usually don't stay the same. If we want to build a better future, we need to be as aggressive about shaping it as those who are investing in it.

That's it.

This is what the future will look like. The metaverse is a parallel virtual plane of existence that spans all digital technologies and will be able to control a lot of the physical world. This construct helps explain why it is difficult to establish a 3D internet in the metaverse.

Almost 2 billion websites and tens of billions of devices are part of the internet as we know it today. Each of these technologies can be used to find one another on the net, share online account systems and files, and even connect. Roughly 20% of the world's economy is considered to be digital.

The Internet isn't built for live and interactive experiences involving a lot of people. The internet was designed to allow for one static file to be copied and sent from one device to another so that it could be independently reviewed and modified. Simple two-person video calls can be unreliable in the age of the streaming wars. It's a miracle that online games work at all. There is no standard system for exchanging data in virtual worlds. The metaverse is not pulled off by the computing power we have. We want many new devices to realize it, not just virtual reality goggles, but things like holograms, ultra-sonic force-field generators, and more.

We don't know how important a 3D internet is to our global economy, just as we don't know how valuable the internet is. We have an idea of the answer. As internet connections have improved, we have moved from text to images on websites, online profiles, and video-based social networks, as well as using filters. From a few message board posts to a constant stream of multimedia content, the volume of online content has grown. The next evolution to this trend is likely to be a virtual world that is not a window into our life, but one in which we exist, and in 3D.

More than 100 million people a day log onto the platforms that operate tens of millions of connected worlds, which support a consistent virtual identity, virtual goods, communications suites, and can be accessed from most devices. People spend most of their time in these platforms playing games and going to concerts.

We have long expected education to be changed by the digital era, but have yet to see it happen. Medical care and services have increased half as much as the cost of higher education in the US over the last 30 years. The challenge is that the real thing requires more resources than it did a long time ago. Contact the eye. People who are close to one another. There are hands-on experiments. There is equipment Digital choices are not replacements for the real thing.

The magic school bus is possible in the metaverse. Students learned about gravity by watching their teacher drop a feather and a hammer and then seeing a tape of Apollo 15 commander David Scott on the moon. At the same time, they fall. The creation of elaborate virtual Rube Goldberg machines, which can be used to test under Earth-like gravity on Mars, can be used to supplement the demonstrations. We can travel the circulatory systems of a frog instead of cutting it up. All of this is available regardless of where the board is located.

The first live patient surgery using an augmented-reality headset was performed by surgeons at the hospital. The doctor who performed the surgery likened it to having a navigation device. The frame of reference is crucial. We don't use a phone or watch TV in the metaverse, but we do drive a car with gps.

Project Starline uses machine learning, computer vision, a dozen depth sensors and cameras and fabric-based multi-layer light field displays to create 3D "holographic video" without using mixed reality goggles. In comparison to traditional video calling, Starline technology leads to 15% increases in eye contact, 25% increases in non-verbal forms of communication, and 30% better memory recall. Some of our displeasure can be alleviated if we add another aspect to our lives.

Infrastructure is one of the best examples. The Hong Kong International Airport can now use a live 3D simulation to decide where passengers and planes should go. Multi-billion-dollar, multi-decade city projects are using these technologies to determine how a given building might affect traffic flows and emergency response times, or how its design will affect the temperature and sunlight of a local park. Most of the simulations are disconnected. The next step is to bring them online and turn the world into a digital development platform.

That's it.

The meaning of the metaverse is not clear for society. Billions of dollars are invested in a game that feels like a game. Think of the metaverse as a fourth era of computing and networking, which included mainframes, personal computers, and the Internet of the 1980s to 2000s. Computing and networking resources were accessed in different eras. These changes were profound. They were difficult to predict.

It was difficult for the biggest believers in the mobile internet to predict more people online. It was not possible to illuminate the future or deploy billions in R&D with a detailed technical understanding. Disruption is a result of confusion, conflation, and uncertainty.

There are certain issues that can be solved. The most famous example of which to date is the Glass, the metaverse is often mis described as a virtual reality headset or augmented reality glasses. The metaverse is not accessible by virtual reality and augmented reality devices. The metaverse is not the same as the mobile internet because it is virtual worlds or platforms that are likely to be part of the internet. Just as we say "the internet" not "an internet", think of the metaverse that way. Most of the time, this reflects regional regulatory differences. There are a lot of conflations between the metaverse and the Web. They are just principles and technologies and may become an important part of realizing the metaverse. Many metaverse leaders don't think there's a future forcryptocurrencies.

The metaverse doesn't need to be seen as an update to the Internet or a replacement for all mobile models, devices, or software. New technologies will be produced. We don't leave what we like behind. The best way to write long-form text is probably on a PC. Almost all of the internet traffic that leaves and arrives on a mobile device is transmitted on fixed-line cables and the internet protocol suite was designed in the 1980s.

You can sign up for the newsletter on the Metaverse.

Even if some executives claim that the metaverse is imminent, it's still not here. Transformations don't experience "switch flips" The first cellular network call was in 1973, the first wireless data network was in 1991, and the first phone was in 1992. It is not possible to say when the development of the metaverse started. In mid 2021, only weeks before Facebook unveiled its metaverse intentions, Tim Sweeney, CEO and founder of Epic Games, posted prerelease code from the company's 1998 game Unreal. There were a lot of reasons why these experiences didn't take off at the time. We have had metaverse ambitions for a long time, but only recently have a critical mass of working pieces started coming together quickly.

The metaverse is not always related to something. It is a common misconception that the word "Metaverse" comes from a book. Philip K. Dick's The Trouble With Bubbles is one of the forebears of Snow Crash. utopias are not usually the setting for popular stories. Proto-metaverses have emerged that have not been centered on subjugation or profiteering but on collaboration and creativity. The usefulness, value, and cultural impact of these worlds have improved over time.

That's it.

Government research labs, universities, and independent technologists built the foundation of the internet. In order to make it easier to collaborate on future technologies, these mostly not-for-profit collectives typically focused on establishing open standards that would help them share information from one server to another. There were many benefits to this approach. Anyone could use the internet from any device, on any network, for free.

Businesses were able to make a profit on the internet and build closed experiences through paywalls. More companies were built, more users were reached, and more profits were achieved because of the openness of the internet. Most of the most valuable public companies in the world were founded in the internet era because of openness.

Imagine how different the internet would be if it had been created by media conglomerates in order to make money.

The metaverse currently expects a corporate internet. Government labs and universities were the only institutions with the computational talent, resources, and ambitions to build a network of networks when the internet was born. This is not true in the metaverse. Private businesses are building it instead.

According to Sweeney, if a central company gained control of the metaverse, they would become more powerful than any government and be a god on Earth. It is easy to see how such a claim could be hyperbolic. The metaverse could bring in as much as $13 trillion in revenue by 2030. Morgan Stanley estimates $8 trillion in the U.S. and China, similar to McKinsey's estimate of $5 trillion.

Fears of a dystopia seem to be fair. The metaverse means an ever-growing share of our lives, labor, leisure, time, wealth, happiness, and relationships will be spent inside virtual worlds instead of just aided through digital devices. Our digital and physical economies will come together in a parallel plane of existence. The companies that control these virtual worlds and their virtual atoms will be more dominant than those who lead in the digital economy.

Many of the hard problems of digital existence today, such as data rights, data security, misinformation, and platform power, will be rendered more acute by the metaverse. The philosophy, culture, and priorities of the companies that lead in the metaverse era will help determine whether the future is better or worse than the present.

As the world's largest corporations and most ambitious start-ups pursue the metaverse, it's important that we understand we still have agency over our future and the ability to reset the status quo, but only if we act now. This moment of change is our chance to bring people together, to transform industries that have resisted disruption, and to build a more equal global economy.

The internet was in the 1990s and 2000s. We can understand how the metaverse is likely to work and why, as well as which experiences might be available when, why, and to whom. Billions of dollars are at stake as executives will remind us.

Matthew Ball wrote The Metaverse: And How It will Revolutionize everything. Matthew Ball has the rights to this work. Permission is granted by the publisher, W. W.Norton & Company, Inc.

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