The Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet.
The word "metaverse" is made up of the prefix "meta" (meaning beyond) and the stem "verse" (a backformation from "universe"); the term is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.
We will see a shift in the way people play, work, learn or simply hang out in 2021. Some of this connection will move into the Metaverse, a digital place where people seamlessly get together and interact in millions of 3D virtual experiences. Early iterations of the Metaverse emerged in the 1980s with VPL Research’s DataSuit and Linden Lab’s Second Life in 2003. However, it started to feel very real in 2020 as several platforms have been envisioning – and building – their own versions of the Metaverse.
The pandemic, with its requirements of physical distancing, has brought people into online digital environments for a growing range of shared human experiences. Gaming platforms are being used to host meetings ranging from online birthday parties to job interviews. We’re already seeing more events with millions of avatars enjoying a collective virtual and social presence in the Metaverse, from concerts to movie premieres. While gaming has initially been the province of such digital co-experiences, it is rapidly expanding. This shift has created urgency for entertainment brands and artists to generate innovative formats and ways to reach their audiences in a world where social consumption with physical co-presence has suddenly become almost impossible.
Over the course of 2021, the Metaverse will experience widespread use, and start to become a human co-experience utility. People will meet in virtual worlds not just to play a game, but also to check out a new movie trailer or laugh at user-generated videos. Education will move from learning to code online to learning core sciences with physics or biology simulations and ultimately becoming an immersive environment where classrooms are organised within it. Some might have fun recreating familiar physical locations, such as their university campus or their company’s HQ, where they can meet with colleagues working remotely.
We will see an increase in the creation of these massive, immersive virtual events in 2021. As the technical capabilities of the Metaverse expands, it will become possible for thousands of people to witness these events at the same time. These will push the boundaries of interactivity, where artists and fans converge to create new kinds of live experiences. Out of this, novel forms of entertainment will emerge, creating new Metaverse stars and launching careers similar to the rise of social-media influencers.
The Metaverse will also enable remote work with 3D virtual meetings that support large companies and industry events, where one can watch presentations or network at a cocktail party. Creating together will also vastly expand in the Metaverse, from digital experiences, such as game design, to fashion and architecture.
The Metaverse is arguably as big a shift in online communication as the telephone or the internet. Within the next few decades its applications will exceed our wildest imaginations. Perhaps the greatest opportunity it presents is to bring together people from all walks of life and foster a civil digital society. In 2021, that new society will begin to emerge for real.
David Baszucki is an inventor and the CEO and Founder of Roblox