A metaverse is an immersive digital world that allows users to interact with each other and with virtual objects in real time. It’s like the internet on steroids, allowing people to walk around and touch things in a fully interactive virtual environment. The technology is already being used by companies to host events, conduct training and collaboration, or to create their own virtual worlds for use by employees or customers.
There are many different visions of what the metaverse will eventually look like, but most see social human interaction as the core of it. The current popularity of multiplayer video games such as Fortnite, where players build their own digital worlds and battle each other, is a clear precursor to the metaverse, as are services like Zoom, which lets you meet with other people virtually. Other gaming platforms such as Roblox and Unity are also moving closer to the metaverse idea, while graphics companies such as Nvidia have their own “Omniverse” initiatives.
Some experts believe that the metaverse could eventually be the main way that people communicate, and that virtual worlds will replace websites and apps as the primary means of accessing online content. Others are more cautious, predicting that the metaverse will have more of a niche role as a platform for specific activities, such as training and education.
The metaverse has some serious challenges to overcome before it can become mainstream, such as ensuring that users have high-quality experiences and the computing power to allow large numbers of users to connect and collaborate simultaneously. It will be necessary to develop better haptic sensors, improved VR headsets (lighter weight and higher resolution), faster processors, and the overall infrastructure to support the growth of these new worlds.
One thing that makes the metaverse interesting is the fact that it is open to anyone with an Internet connection and a smartphone or a VR headset. This could open up the metaverse to people who would not otherwise be able to participate, including those with disabilities or geographic limitations. This could be very important for communities that have traditionally struggled with inequitable access to educational and work opportunities.
Another potential benefit of the metaverse is its ability to connect people to historic and cultural experiences that they might not be able to access in real life, such as attending concerts or learning about historical events. For example, Black-led organizations like the Route History museum have used the metaverse to bring students on virtual trips aboard a slave ship and to Civil War and World War I battlefields. These kinds of experiences could help to promote a more holistic understanding of African-American history among young people. They might even help to bridge the chasm between black and white perspectives on issues such as racism.