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What is the Metaverse?

The metaverse is an immersive, interactive environment generated by a computer. Although there is no unified agreement on a single metaverse definition or what it will look like – or how individuals will interact with it – Star Trek’s holodeck is often used as an example to explain the concept.


After verifying their identity, metaverse visitors use an avatar (that may or may not resemble their real-life counterpart) to explore their new virtual environment.

Technologies that support this type of immersive computing include:

Techopedia Explains the Metaverse Meaning

In October 2021, Facebook announced its rebranding as Meta to focus on building the metaverse. Mark Zuckerberg referred to the metaverse as an embodied Internet where the user is part of the experience. Zuckerberg has said that the metaverse will be the successor of the mobile Internet and dramatically change the way people work and communicate. He is not alone in his thinking. Goldman Sachs’ analyst Eric Sheridan called the metaverse an $8 trillion market opportunity.

The metaverse is expected to create new revenue streams because it will provide companies with a new way to promote goods and services, while also allowing them to collect new types of data generated by user interactions. Before companies can expect a high return on investment  (ROI) for this type of business initiative, however, there are still many technological challenges and social concerns that need to be addressed.

Microsoft, Meta, Nvidia, and Roblox are often pointed out as pioneers in the metaverse. These vendors are known for their research and development in mixed reality technologies and are currently exploring ways to monetize head-tracking and other types of user-generated data in the metaverse.

However, much of the initial hype surrounding the initial burst of activity on the metaverse has waned.

Future research is expected to focus on overcoming the current bandwidth, headset, and haptic considerations that put limits on today’s metaverse applications.

How Does the Metaverse Work?

How Does the Metaverse Work?

The metaverse operates through a combination of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and other immersive technologies. Users access the metaverse through specialized platforms or applications that allow them to create avatars, interact with others, and navigate digital spaces seamlessly.

Several elements come together to make metaverse applications possible:

  • Virtual Environments and Platforms: These interconnected platforms leverage advanced technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality (MR) to create immersive, three-dimensional digital spaces that simulate physical presence within virtual environments. These devices track users’ movements and gestures, enabling them to explore virtual spaces, interact with objects, and engage with other users through their avatars.
  • Spatialized Audio: Spatialized audio technologies enhance the sense of immersion by providing realistic soundscapes that reflect the spatial positioning of objects and users within the virtual environment.
  • Avatars and Identity: Digital representations of users that allow them to navigate, interact, and express themselves within virtual environments are central to the metaverse concept. Users can personalize their avatars with customizable features such as appearance, clothing, accessories, and animations, enabling self-expression and identity creation.
  • Social Interaction: Avatars serve as the primary means of communication and social interaction within the metaverse, allowing users to engage in real-time conversations, gestures, and expressions with others.
  • Networking and Interoperability: Interconnectivity is essential to the functioning of the metaverse, enabling seamless communication, collaboration, and commerce across different virtual environments and platforms.
  • Interoperable Standards: Standardized protocols and formats, such as the Metaverse API (MVAS) and interoperable NFT standards like ERC-721 and ERC-1155, facilitate interoperability between different metaverse platforms, ecosystems, and virtual assets. This allows users to transfer digital assets, avatars, and identities across multiple platforms, enhancing the fluidity of the experience.
  • Cross-Platform Integration: Some metaverse platforms enable users to access virtual experiences and content from different devices and environments. This allows for a seamless transition between VR, AR, desktop, and mobile interfaces.
  • Content Creation Tools:  Metaverse platforms provide intuitive tools and interfaces for content creation, including 3D modeling software, animation tools, and scripting languages. These tools enable users to design and build virtual objects, environments, and experiences within the metaverse.
  • Monetization and Ownership: Users can monetize their content through various mechanisms, such as selling virtual goods, hosting events, or offering virtual services.

The History of The Metaverse

The term “metaverse” was first used by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash. The novel describes a 3D virtual world that the main character accesses via a personal terminal that projects images to his goggles. His avatar interacts with other people’s avatars.

Gaming has been one of the first industries to embrace the concept of the metaverse. Pokémon Go, which launched in 2016, incorporates augmented reality into mobile gaming, and since then, games such as Decentraland, Minecraft, and Roblox, have developed virtual environments where players can adopt avatars to interact with each other.

Many industry experts predict the metaverse will be the next evolution of social media, giving students, consumers, and employees new ways to connect and spend time together.

The concept of the metaverse has evolved over the years, with early virtual worlds like Second Life laying the groundwork for more immersive experiences. Recent advancements in technology, such as virtual reality headsets and blockchain, have accelerated the development of the metaverse.

How is The Metaverse Different From the Internet?

The distinction between the metaverse and the traditional Internet lies in their functionality and the depth of user engagement they support.

The metaverse transcends the two-dimensional nature of the Internet by providing users with immersive, three-dimensional virtual environments. The Internet typically operates on a model of static consumption of two-dimensional content, where users passively consume information or engage in limited interactions.

In contrast, the metaverse fosters a dynamic and participatory environment where users actively shape and contribute to the virtual world through user-generated content, virtual economies, and collaborative activities. This participatory experience fosters a sense of ownership and agency.

The metaverse emphasizes social interaction and community-building as core components of the experience. While the Internet enables communication through text, images, and video, there is no metaverse website in the sense of the traditional Internet – the metaverse facilitates more immersive and lifelike interactions through avatars and spatialized audio. Users can engage in real-time conversations, collaborate on projects, attend virtual events, and form meaningful relationships within the virtual world. This emphasis on social presence and interaction fosters a sense of connectedness, elevating the metaverse beyond the Internet’s primarily informational and transactional nature.

Technologies Behind the Metaverse

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), blockchain, and artificial intelligence (AI) are some of the key technologies powering the metaverse. VR headsets, equipped with high-resolution displays, motion tracking sensors, and spatial audio systems, transport users into virtual worlds with a heightened sense of presence to create immersive experiences.

AR devices, such as smart glasses and mobile devices, use cameras and sensors to detect the user’s environment and overlay virtual objects, information, or experiences in real time. This integration of digital content into the physical world enables new forms of interaction, exploration, and storytelling within the Metaverse, bridging the gap between the virtual and physical realms.

Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies enable secure transactions and ownership of virtual assets in virtual worlds.

What Does the Metaverse Consist of?

The metaverse consists of virtual environments, digital assets, avatars, social interactions, and economic systems. Users can engage in a wide range of activities, including gaming, socializing, attending virtual events, shopping, and creating content.

NFT and Cryptocurrency Role in the Metaverse

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies are key to the functioning of the metaverse economy. Since digital items can be copied easily, there needs to be a way to identify authentic items.

NFTs are cryptographic tokens that represent ownership or proof of authenticity of unique digital assets, such as virtual land, artwork, or collectibles, and as they are stored on an immutable distributed ledger that records each transaction, they can track and verify that ownership. This enables creators to monetize their digital content directly and users to trade, collect, and showcase unique digital items with confidence. They can bypass traditional intermediaries and establish direct relationships with their audience, retain ownership rights, and receive royalties from secondary sales.

NFT standards such as ERC-721 and ERC-1155 allow for interoperability across different metaverse platforms and ecosystems, enabling seamless transfer and interoperability of digital assets. Users can own NFTs across multiple virtual worlds, enhancing the liquidity and utility of their digital holdings.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies provide a means of exchange to facilitate transactions and enable virtual commerce within the metaverse.

Cryptocurrencies enable decentralized financial services, applications, and virtual economies within the metaverse where users can buy, sell, and trade digital goods, services, and assets using native tokens or stablecoins.

They also facilitate governance mechanisms such as decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and token-based voting systems so that users can participate in decision-making processes, community governance, and protocol development for virtual worlds and platforms.

How Do You Get Into the Metaverse?

To enter the metaverse, individuals need access to compatible hardware, such as VR headsets, and software platforms that support virtual experiences. They can then create an avatar, explore virtual spaces, and interact with others through dedicated Metaverse platforms and applications.

Is It Safe to Be in the Metaverse?

Safety in the metaverse depends on various factors, including platform policies, user behavior, and security measures. While there are risks such as identity theft, harassment, and scams, platforms implement safeguards to protect users and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

How Will People Experience the Metaverse?

People will experience the metaverse through immersive virtual environments, where they can engage in activities ranging from entertainment and socializing to education and work. The metaverse will offer opportunities for creativity, collaboration, and exploration, blurring the lines between physical and digital reality.

The Bottom Line

The idea of the metaverse represents a paradigm shift in how we interact with the digital world, offering immersive and interconnected experiences that transcend traditional Internet usage. As the third generation of the Internet (Web3) advances, the metaverse has the potential to become an integral part of everyday life for many people, shaping how they work, play, and connect with others in the digital age.


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Nicole Willing
Technology Journalist
Nicole Willing
Technology Journalist

Nicole is a professional journalist with 20 years of experience in writing and editing. Her expertise spans both the tech and financial industries. She has developed expertise in covering commodity, equity, and cryptocurrency markets, as well as the latest trends across the technology sector, from semiconductors to electric vehicles. She holds a degree in Journalism from City University, London. Having embraced the digital nomad lifestyle, she can usually be found on the beach brushing sand out of her keyboard in between snorkeling trips.