Benedict Evans on the Fascinating Metaverse

Exploring the Metaverse: The Future of Technology and Entertainment

As the tech industry continues to evolve and innovate, the question of ‘what’s the next big thing?’ becomes increasingly important. For the past 15 years, smartphones have been the driving force behind the industry, but with 4.5-5bn people now owning smartphones, the market has become mature. So, what could be the next fundamental trend? While many in the tech industry are not completely sold on cryptocurrency, there is one term that has exploded in popularity and has broken out of tech twitter into pitch decks: the Metaverse.

What is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is a term that describes the concept of a collective, virtual shared space that is not tied to a physical location. It is essentially a convergence of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), gaming, and cryptocurrencies. The idea is that users would be able to interact with each other in a fully immersive environment that would allow them to experience a completely new world.

The Potential of VR and AR

As part of the Metaverse, VR and AR technologies have been gaining attention and investment in recent years. Facebook has made a big bet on AR and VR as the next smartphone and a potential way to liberate itself from Apple’s control. However, VR is currently at risk of stalling out as no more than a subset of hardcore games. There are currently very few use cases outside of gaming. AR, on the other hand, is still in the realm of science rather than technology, with serious unsolved optics questions. Despite this, there is hope that AR will become a pair of glasses that can put things into the world that look as though they’re really there.

Games Breaking Out of Games

Another thesis that is being explored in technology today is the idea that games will break out of games. Some believe that some combination of the ideas behind platforms like Roblox and Fortnite, with their open worlds, open creativity and cross-over with other kinds of pop culture, might lead to a fundamental change. In the Metaverse, these games could merge with VR and AR, breaking out into the real world and popular culture more broadly than before.

The Role of NFTs

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are the latest foray of cryptocurrencies into applications. They hold the potential to provide a new economic, incentive and experience layer that ties together games, VR, place, identity and broader popular culture. The question is whether NFTs, money, creators, collectibles, games, tokens and skins can create a new ecosystem in which people buy an NFT of the new Rihanna outfit as a skin for their AR avatar.

What to Expect

It is important to note that the Metaverse is still in the conceptualization stages. While many buzzwords are being thrown around and many people are investing heavily in AR, VR, and blockchain technologies, there is still no known product that encompasses the Metaverse. There are still many challenges to overcome such as unsolved optics questions in AR and the lack of uses for VR outside of gaming.

Nevertheless, the idea of the Metaverse represents an emerging direction that could reshape how we engage with technology, entertainment, and culture. As ubiquitous computing continues to grow, we can expect new forms of entertainment, new kinds of screens, and new ways to break down and recombine ideas of what ‘games’, ‘media’ and ‘software’ mean and how they relate to identity, self-expression and popular culture. While the future is unknown, one thing is for certain – technology will continue to shape our lives in unimaginable ways.

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