The etymology of the word is derived from the Greek term ‘Meta’, meaning after or beyond, and the English word universe. While the word was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”, the concept of Metaverse is one that surfaced into our daily lives in the past year, following the deployment -or intention of deployment- of various virtual worlds by numerous organisations, such as Meta (ex-facebook) and The Sandbox, acting as another dimension of the blockchain ecosystem.
Following the recent rise of blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) that started with Bitcoin in 2008, followed by other cryptocurrencies in the years to follow and other biproducts of the DLT such as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and Decentralised Finance (DeFi), it has given individuals and businesses the opportunity to explore new technological infrastructures and innovations that allow them to navigate in a new type of economy that is decentralised, without any intermediaries.
Being an extension and augmentation of the physical world, Metaverse is an immersive reality network of synchronous 3D virtual spaces where one can connect and simulate experiences with other users. It is a digital universe that incorporates elements of augmented and virtual reality (AR & VR) enabling users to wander around virtual worlds that include cities, nature landscapes and shopping malls and allowing them to meet, purchase, communicate, shop and learn through an avatar.
What does the future hold
Some of the largest companies in the world such as Microsoft, IKEA, Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola, Gucci and Nike, have already started investing time and money in the metaverse with numerous initiatives to amplify existing products and services or develop new ones.
Metaverse comes only as the natural progression of this technological evolution in the era of what is considered to be the 4th industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). Despite the first seeds of the technology have been more evident in the gaming industry, with virtual worlds such as Second Life (2003), Minecraft (2011) and Fortnite (2017), the concept of Metaverse is one that will undoubtedly have a significant impact in all businesses and industries, having the ability to enhance the overall customer experience, acting as a bridge between the digital and physical world, and allowing organisations to identify opportunities for new or enhanced existing products or services.
The convergence of emerging technologies, such as IoT, machine learning, virtual and augmented reality on a distributed ledger create new opportunities for the business world. Through those capabilities, companies can see beyond the traditional way of contacting their business by reimagining their branding and promotional activities, by establishing new selling and distribution channels and by creating virtual economies around their products and services.