- What is the metaverse?
- Characteristics of the metaverse
- Choosing the right metaverse platform
- What do I need to join the metaverse?
- How to get into the metaverse
- What are the risks of the metaverse?
- How to protect yourself in the metaverse?
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is a hypothetical future version of the internet, which is more immersive, interactive, and interconnected than the internet today. It is a shared virtual space where users can create, interact, and transact with each other in real-time using advanced technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.
Characteristics of the metaverse
Because the metaverse concept is relatively new and constantly evolving, defining it isn’t easy. However, according to the current state and discussions on the metaverse, these six characteristics define its nature:
Advanced technologies like virtual reality (VR), spatial audio, and AR allow users to experience an interactive environment that responds to their movements and actions. A user feels engaged, present, and connected in virtual environments through customized avatars, sensory stimuli, haptic feedback, and social presence, creating a sense of being in the virtual world.
The virtual world is a continuous and persistent space that is not dependent on any single user or device, making it a seamless, coherent, ever-changing, and adapting universe. Persistence is achieved through cloud computing, blockchain, and decentralized networks. These tools provide storage and ensure the processing and sharing of data across multiple devices and platforms at any time.
Metaverse participants use seamlessly connected virtual worlds and applications, allowing them to interact with each other. Users can also move their avatars, items, and currency between platforms without interruptions. The interoperability of the metaverse is still a topic of discussion as it is still very limited. But the goal is to make the digital world more open and inclusive for users to move freely and bring their digital identity.
User-generated content (UGC)
Digital content, such as assets and environments, is created by the users rather than the developers. People’s contribution is what makes the metaverse unique. UGC is a powerful tool allowing participants to create and customize their own metaverse and contribute to the overall ecosystem. As the technology behind the virtual environment constantly evolves, user engagement will lead to an even more dynamic metaverse where they can enjoy a wide range of user-generated content.
All of the metaverse participants can interact and communicate with each other in real-time. It is one of the most critical aspects of the digital ecosystem because it lets users connect with people worldwide and make virtual connections. People use different forms of communication in virtual reality, such as voice and text chat, social gatherings, group activities, and collaborative gameplay, creating a sense of belonging and social cohesion.
Participants in the metaverse can contribute to creating a decentralized virtual economy. Cryptocurrency is the main currency here, while blockchain technology ensures secure and seamless transactions. Users can create virtual commerce by buying, selling, trading at the virtual marketplace, donating, or even leaving virtual tips.
The metaverse doesn’t belong to any company, organization, or single user. It is a shared whole, created and customized by the users, enabling greater autonomy and ownership over their digital identities and assets, which are securely stored on the blockchain.
Choosing the right metaverse platform
The metaverse is often talked about as a new thing that we will see sometime in the future. This is not true. Virtual reality (VR) environments are already available to a broad audience. And while they are not yet combined into one metaverse, you can have a glimpse of what’s to come. Here are some of the most popular metaverse platforms that already exist:
- Roblox. A massive multiplayer online game that allows users to create their virtual worlds and games within the game and interact with each other. Launched in September 2006, the platform became a hub for kids, grown-ups, and major brands. For example, Vans, Nike, and Gucci have virtual worlds and invite users to interact with their products.
- Minecraft. This is probably one of the most famous games. It is highly adaptable and allows players to build and explore a 3D digital world made up of blocks. You can build anything, from a shed in your garden to a huge medieval castle, and interact with fellow participants. It creates a sense of community and belonging, is constantly evolving, and welcomes everyone eager to explore the capabilities of the metaverse.
- Second Life. Launched in 2003, Second Life is considered the pioneer platform of the metaverse. It allows users to interact with virtual reality through unique avatars and immersive environments. Second Life is, in essence, a second life online, enabling users to talk to each other and create buildings, objects, and animations. Although it is debatable whether Second Life is a metaverse, it aims to be a seamless environment for users to express themselves.
- Pokémon Go. A game that combines online gaming experience with the physical world using augmented reality. While Pokémon Go is not directly the metaverse, it uses AR technology which is intended to be widely used for virtual experiences and creating a sense of immersion.
- Decentraland. The Decentraland metaverse is a virtual world built on blockchain technology and runs on Ethereum cryptocurrency. It allows users to own virtual real estate and land and create their own metaverse experience.
- Fortnite. A battle royale game that has become a cultural phenomenon over the past years. It has a massive online community and immersive environments turning users’ vision into reality. Fortnite regularly hosts virtual concerts and events, including massive Travis Scott, Grimes, and The Weeknd shows.
What do I need to join the metaverse?
What you will need to join the metaverse depends on what kind of experience you expect in the virtual world. And while the metaverse is still in its early stages, you can already get a glimpse of what it aspires to become by creating your unique avatar and exploring existing platforms. Here are some of the things you may need when connecting to the metaverse:
- Internet connection. You need a reliable internet connection to experience the metaverse at its best. Extensive virtual worlds with many participants may be bandwidth-intensive, so ensure a stable connection.
- A computer, tablet, or mobile device. To fully experience the metaverse, you will need a device connected to the internet. It can be a mobile device or a tablet, but for the complete experience, you may need a PC or a powerful laptop.
- Virtual reality headset. While a VR headset is optional for joining the metaverse, you may want to get one to fully immerse yourself into the virtual space. A VR headset provides a more realistic experience and allows you to interact with virtual reality in 3D.
- Digital currency. Like in the real world, some metaverse platforms use digital currency to purchase digital assets like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), services, or experiences.
How to get into the metaverse
Each metaverse platform has different access conditions. Connecting through a smartphone is enough to wander around some of the virtual environments. However, for the full experience, you will need a Windows PC. Most metaverse platforms are resource-intensive, so it is best to choose a powerful computer.
Although you can browse many metaverse platforms from your smartphone or computer, for an even more immersive adventure, you’ll need a VR headset or smart glasses. Major tech companies are developing augmented reality glasses to make the experience more simple and engaging. These goggles will take participants’ experiences to the next level and allow them to interact with the real and virtual world in real-time.
While VR headsets are optional for most platforms, some may only be joined using one. For example, accessing Meta’s Horizon requires the Meta Quest 2, a VR headset that doesn’t need a separate PC or console to operate.
Join the metaverse with a VR headset
The best way to get to know the metaverse is with a VR headset like Oculus Quest 2, a standalone headset developed by Meta Platforms. It uses inside-out tracking, meaning the headset has built-in sensors to track your movements in a 3D space and includes two hand controllers that allow you to navigate in the virtual environment.
Follow the instructions to join the metaverse with Oculus Quest 2:
- Set up your Oculus Quest 2 first. Download the Oculus app onto your phone and create an account.
- Download the virtual reality applications of your choice.
- Click on “App drawer” in the menu. All of your apps will appear.
- Choose a platform and immerse yourself in the metaverse.
Join the metaverse without a VR headset
The majority of the metaverse platforms are easily accessible without a VR headset. A computer, smartphone, or video game console is enough to wander around the browser-based virtual realities, interact with fellow metaverse participants, and create your virtual world.
Here are some platforms that you can join without a VR headset:
- Pokémon Go
- Horizon for smartphones (Meta plans to launch it this year)
In fact, the only crucial thing for joining the metaverse is a fast and stable internet connection. As the virtual world is still in its infancy and there is no unified metaverse yet, its functions and properties may change over time.
What are the risks of the metaverse?
The metaverse also carries potential risks while promising a new frontier of virtual experience and opportunity. The rise of virtual identities makes users vulnerable to personal data breaches and identity theft, especially when participating in the metaverse involves your crypto wallet. Immersion into the virtual world also heightens cybersecurity threats, exposing users to hacking, phishing, and other malicious activities.
Remember – if you use the metaverse, you must follow a cyber hygiene routine to avoid falling victim to malicious actors.
The metaverse also raises social concerns, such as discrimination and inequality, leading to cyberbullying. Children and teenagers are often victims of cyberbullying and they are the majority of the metaverse users. Therefore, it is essential to know and follow the rules of netiquette, creating a safe and inclusive metaverse that benefits everyone.
How to protect yourself in the metaverse?
Protecting yourself in the metaverse requires a combination of caution, awareness, and good security practices. Follow these tips to enjoy a safe and secure metaverse:
- Don’t overshare. Be wary when you share personal information on the metaverse. Keep your real name, address, or financial information to yourself.
- Use strong passwords. Create complex and unique passwords to add an extra security layer for hackers to break to get to your data.
- Beware of phishing scams. Don’t click on any links in unsolicited emails and never download attachments from unauthorized sources.
- Use a VPN. Cybersecurity tools like NordVPN protect your internet connection and privacy online. It encrypts your incoming and outgoing data, making it harder for hackers to access and compromise your information.
- Use two-factor authentication. 2FA is an extra layer of security for your everyday accounts, designed to ensure that you’re the only one who can access your data.
- Use legitimate software and platforms. Make sure your metaverse has a good reputation and provides strong security measures. And keep your software up to date to avoid the most recent security threats.