Let us begin with some time travel
Assume you stand in the year 1922, and you have to inform your friend 25000 miles away of an exigency. How would you have done it? Not 100 years ago, urgent communication seemed impossible.
Now imagine 2050, a physically challenged student virtually present in a physical music class enjoying and learning with other students. Seems possible? Affirmative, right? Or assume a cognitively challenged individual performing higher-order mathematical calculations just by thinking of the solution. Doesn’t it seem we are almost there?
This is the pace at which digitization has evolved and redefined the impossible as practical.
Above is the description of the amalgamation of virtual into real. Even though not by 2050, is sure to take place within the next 100 years. This write-up elucidates how the current state of technology may pave the way for the same.
Neal Stephenson coined the term Metaverse for Snow Crash, one of his science fiction novels predicting what transcending distances in future might look like. In simple terms, Metaverse is a digitally simulated world where individuals exist through their digital representations known as avatars and interact with virtual objects using various real controls and tools. The technologies prevalent today include AI, IoT, Blockchain, Quantum computing, Augmented reality, and Virtual reality. In unison, these are shaping the next iteration of the Internet known as Web 3.0. This is the iteration where the demarcation of the real and virtual is about to get blurred, and the Internet of Value is going to house the global network of users.
At present, we are heading towards a better augmentation of reality through 3D modeled objects with functionalities and properties similar to what we experience in the real world. The creation of platforms like Decentraland, Sandbox, Axie Infinity, and Krystopia was a consequence of a desire to provide users with an immersive experience. Their popularity has led to the sprouting of a ton of players in the virtual reality space. The goal is to provide a unique experience as close to reality as possible.
The expansion experienced by the virtual realms has a major credit to attribute to the pandemic. While virtual tours and conferences have been happening for quite some time. Lately, virtual conferences, job fairs, and classrooms have taken over the globe. Salesforces’s world tour, Adobe’s summit, and Google’s sheet con are a few among the multiple global-scale virtual events held during that period. Live concerts in games like Fortnite by the musical sensations have caused a lot of stir in the entertainment industry as well as have demonstrated the massivity of the fan influx a digital concert can drive. Alongside, millions of dollars have been pouring into the art industry through NFT sales and purchases. Thus reassuring a promising future for the Metaverse as imagined by the technical aristocracy. The challenge remains to make the experience a replication of reality.
The Metaverse Today
At present, Decentraland, The Sandbox, Bloktopia, Star atlas, and about 500 more “metaverses” are providing users with opportunities to transact virtual estate, play virtual games and visit virtual exhibits. If truth be told, these are all independent virtual platforms like independent gaming houses, you buy a ticket to one and play till it expires, and to visit another you do the same again. The single indispensable need to have a true metaverse is to have a mechanism to make it possible for digital identities to exist across these individual “multiverses” without having to exit one to enter the other. Enabling a cohesive existence of all the metaverses where an individual’s single identity created through any platform can commute across the virtual space. This is where NFTs prove instrumental.
Not a novel term anymore non-fungible means unique. So NFTs are unique digital tokens or assets. Blockchain technology has enabled the real assets to have unique, distinct, and un-interchangeable representations in the digital form. These are not similar to cryptocurrency tokens like Bitcoin, as each token in a currency has the same value because it is not unique and is interchangeable.
All real-world entities can be represented through a unique identity on the blockchain, and their transactions are tracked through decentralized ledgers ensuring unique identification and true ownership across the relevant community. Uniqueness and indisputable ownership make NFTs quintessential for propelling the Metaverse.
What do NFTs bring to the table?
In 2019 individuals attended an event called NFT.NYC. All participants attended the event virtually in the form of a digital avatar and could enter using NFT-based tickets. This is what opened infinite avenues for NFTs to pivot the Metaverse.
NFTs are crypto-tokens independent in form and value from the underlying blockchain. An NFT is unique irrespective of what platform it is minted on. The transactions are ledgerized decentrally. Today art, music, health, insurance, and almost all industries are leveraging these characteristics to enhance their operation. NFTs can be shared in a trustless manner without the owner having to risk the ownership. That is exactly what an individual has in the real world. An identity that he owns, wherever he goes without boundaries of time or distance. These identities may get augmented by their experiences and they may become improved versions of themselves yet they own them till the end of their existence across the realms of personal, social, and professional spaces.
Metaverse needs to be an open virtual space where individuals can take part in a digital form without any restriction across the space. Tokenized digital avatars of individuals are sure to provide a unique digital identity. What is needed is the independence of this avatar. Not only the digital identities of the individuals but every asset in the 3-dimensional digital world has to be tokenized uniquely. Enthusiasts are pouring millions to own assets that belong to these “fantasy worlds”, the worth though is highly volatile and speculative of what happens with that particular world eventually.
As at present all these independent multiverses are owned by a central organization that exercises control on what can belong to the space and what can’t. Participating users are at the mercy of the owner as to how long the digital world may exist. If by any means the company owning it goes down, within seconds millions would vanish into nothing and users will have to bear the losses. Additionally, a user cannot at his/her free will bring in assets or qualities that their avatar might have in the Digi-verse which poses a huge gap between the real and the virtual.
NFTs do present favorable scenarios for individuals to have a fully controllable identity across virtual spaces. But these are not enough for actualizing the Metaverse of our dreams.
Other ingredients to cook up the Metaverse
To participate in a virtual event today, all that is needed is an internet connection and a headset to simulate the space that one intends to experience. An experience in today’s form of multiverses is not fully immersive.
To create real-like experiences, the simulation of sound, smell, touch, and vision is required. Although sound and vision have reached quite an acceptable stage, touch and smell remain highly correctable.
A few requirements which are known today to attain the Metaverse as imagined are listed below:
To have NFTs with cross-platform compatibility, resilient open standards and open programming languages need to be implemented globally. This is the foremost requirement to eliminate the dependency of a token on the underlying framework.
A single global metaverse is possible only when each digital space is connected, and has tunnels to other spaces. As an example, a person attending a virtual conference for work may want to play golf in the evening and go to a nice restaurant for dinner. Three different kinds of places, three different facets of personality, and three different avatars with their capabilities need to be achievable without having to disconnect from one to enter the other.
Individuals need to have complete control over their identities and the assets they acquire in the metaverse they participate in. There needs to be an indispensable asset bank for them to take (not literally) their assets in whichever digital verse they go.
Accessible XR Hardware
The extended reality headsets available today are very costly and bulky. There is a need to create convenient headsets and sleek instruments that help users operate the meta-objects with ease. Along with that, these devices need capabilities to stimulate auditory, olfactory, and tactile senses.
Distributed smart contract platforms
Smart contracts enable transactions and consensus mechanisms ensure blockchain security. For the metaverse to take its desired shape, purely decentralized blockchains with complete ownership distributed across users and validators uncontrolled by any authority are indispensable.
The Road Ahead
NFTs have certainly presented the scope to have uniquely identifiable and truly ownable assets in the digital space. Web3.0 is already in its nascent phase with independent multiverses operational across the globe with their unique set of assets and experiences. NFTs allow these assets to have unique identities across digital space enabling asset transactions among multi-versus indexable and trackable by the owner without the interference of any controlling party. Beyond asset management, the Metaverse needs to evolve a technical framework to leverage what NFTs have to offer.
Keeping our Hopes High!
The metaverse is going to be a huge part of our lives. Specifically for the generations to come, who are going to grow into more digital and less physical individuals. Digital presence, which is optional today, will eventually become inevitable.
Our lives are becoming more and more digital and as the digital space evolves into one that can offer more realistic experiences and immersive operational capability, a time where we live without the boundaries of real and virtual is not far. More importantly, we are at the periphery of a world where reality is going to extend into the virtual. Trying on dresses or makeup and holding concerts and meetings in digitized spaces are already common.
The metaverse has infinite possibilities. One of which is forming a world digitally connected in its entirety, and accessible without having to move from one place to another. Traveling long distances might become obsolete with the ability to immerse in the experience from wherever one is. It may seem like a distant dream right now, but we are at the setting up of a world where experiencing anything will be possible at will.
Looking for help here?