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Metaverse: Overhyped Or Underrated?

Microsoft on Tuesday cited the so-called “metaverse” as one of the primary motivations behind the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a game developer, for $68.7 billion. The Redmond giant tagged the deal as a building block of Metaverse. Facebook realised the real potential of metaverse before any of its arch-rivals and has reportedly been working on it for years. Not long ago, being in the final stage of unveiling its metaverse, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg renamed his social networking company Meta Platforms, Inc. But Facebook is not the only one focused on it which is believed to provide an ocean of opportunities worth trillions of dollars in the future. Google has been working on metaverse technology too for many years while Apple is silently working on related devices.

While the word “metaverse” is buzzing in every tech gallery, it’s beyond the simple understanding and knowledge of a common man. So, what does the metaverse actually mean?

Metaverse: Mystery, Illusion Or Real?

The metaverse is a perfect blend of two ideas that have existed for many years: virtual reality, and a digital second-life.

Technologists have long envisioned a time when virtual lives will be as important – if doesn’t eclipse – as physical lives. The idea is that tech-savvy people would spend a lot of time in virtual space interacting with friends and colleagues. This will open the floodgates of new business opportunities like establishing shops, businesses as we would spend a lot more on our virtual avatars.

Imagine these avatars similar to Hollywood blockbuster Avatar. The only difference would be our digital avatars are meant to be in the digital world only, unlike the movie.

Virtual Reality is a computing platform that allows you to live a second life online, termed as metaverse, coined by techies like Zuckerberg. A combination of futuristic devices helps you to enter into the metaverse. A Virtual Reality (VR) headset that allows you to immerse yourself in a 3-D environment. To interact with virtual objects, you use motion-sensing controllers and a microphone to communicate.

Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist, has written extensively on the Metaverse. He explained that the metaverse was the fourth wave of computers after mainframe computing, personal and mobile computing.

He also said that the metaverse is moving into “ambient computing”. It’s about being inside the computer, not just accessing it. It’s more about ‘living in internet‘ than having access to the internet all the time.

In a nutshell, it’s you and your digital avatar interacting with each other in a digital environment!

Metaverse And Gaming Goes Hand In Hand

There is a metaverse, to some degree, in games already. It’s, however, rudimentary.

Video games already contain some social elements from the metaverse. let’s understand it with a simple example of a popular video game Fortnite which is an online shooter game that can be played on both mobile, desktop computers, or on gaming consoles. Every Fortnite player has its own avatar and spends hundreds of hours playing the game. Every avatar, controlled by their respective player, interact with other avatars and fight with them. Virtual currency is also available to players that allows them to unlock outfits and other accessories to personalize and equip their avatars with advanced features.

SecondLife is another good example that closely resembles metaverse. It is an online social network that was created by Linden Lab almost two decades ago. It allows users to create digital representations of themselves and share them with others. Users could also shop for and create a property in the virtual space to enhance their virtual lives.

Virtual reality has made video games more advanced. The $400 PlayStationVR, released by Sony in 2016, is a virtual reality headset that plugs into the PlayStation 4 to allow users to have an immersive experience of virtual reality games. Sony announced this month that a second-generation headset would be coming to the PlayStation 5, but it didn’t disclose a release date.

These were only stepping stones to the entire metaverse, which is in a nascent stage now. Technologists believe that due to the advancement and availability of high-speed internet connectivity along with powerful virtual reality headsets it is now possible to live in richly animated, lifelike 3D simulations.

The Role Of Activision Blizzard In Metaverse

Truth is, it’s not too much.

Activision Blizzard is known for creating online games with a metaverse component. This allowed players to spend hundreds of hours creating communities within the game. The 2004 release of World of Warcraft saw gamers work together online to complete quests to improve their avatars’ strength and collect items such as weapons and armors.

However, the company hasn’t ventured into virtual reality. The company has not yet released a virtual reality title, but it has made games for consoles and personal computers.

And that’s what Microsoft sense as a gap and opportunity! The software giant has a view that the perfect combination of virtual reality and games could lead the company to the doors of opportunity that is being dubbed as “the next big thing” in the technology space. And, Satya Nadella is, apparently, in no mood to miss the bus like the last time with social media & smartphones.

Microsoft: Placing Bets To Dominate Metaverse

Microsoft’s metaverse work is still in its infancy.

The HoloLens headset, which costs $3,500, has been developed by the software giant. It shows digital holograms and is geared towards businesses and government agencies. Some technologists believe that the device is connected to augmented reality and would play an important role in the success of a metaverse.

Microsoft has also another interesting offering in the gaming space. Xbox, which is the second-most-popular game console after the Sony PlayStation, is earned popularity among gamers. The gaming console, however, has been absent from virtual reality gaming, unlike PlayStation for reason best known to Satya Nadella & his team.

It is a little too early to say what would be the final shape, features, and offerings in the metaverse, and whether Facebook, Google, Apple, or Microsoft would dominate the space. But it is certain now that the battleground for the trillion-dollar opportunity has been identified, and all the leading tech giants are busy strengthening their offerings to win the battle and rule the metaverse! Who would have the last laugh, only time will tell. Until then keep following us!

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