What's the Metaverse and why should we care?

Mark Zuckerberg renamed Facebook after it, celebrities like Ariana Grande are giving concerts in it, big brands like Nike and Gucci are designing digital fashion for it - the Metaverse seems to be quite a big thing.

Undoubtedly there's currently a major hype around the Metaverse. But at a closer look the concept remains fuzzy and nobody seems to know for sure if it even exists yet. And even if it does exist, why should we care? What can we gain from going into the Metaverse, especially as women? And what skills does it need to do so?

We want to attempt to answer these questions in this blog with the focus on breaking down and breaking open this newly emerging technology for women in particular.

What actually is the Metaverse?

One statement we hear often is that the Metaverse will be or already is the next generation of the internet. While the internet as we know it now mainly consists of 2D content and asynchronous distribution of information, the Metaverse creates a collective virtual interaction-space merging the physical world with digital elements through augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR).

Looking more closely at what defines the Metaverse you can find four distinct qualities:

  • It’s real-time. In the Metaverse all activities and interactions are immediate and live, like interactions in the real-world.

  • It’s mostly made up of 3D objects, environments and avatars that make you feel like you're really there with others and they are really there with you.

  • Being in the Metaverse is all about engaging in activities that are highly interactive social - like shopping, working, playing, and entertaining relationships of all kinds.

  • The Metaverse is mostly persistent. Unlike video calls virtual spaces exist whether or not you’re in them or not and are always open for users to explore.

A constellation of spaces and platforms

Considering the multitude of platforms, projects and companies claiming to build and be the Metaverse it’s very unlikely to assume that it will develop into a unified large space connecting everyone and everything. Rather the Metaverse already is and most likely will be a constellation of numerous platforms and worlds catering to different audiences, needs and use-cases.

The existing platforms can be roughly grouped into the three following categories:

  • Gaming: Worlds like Roblox, Minecraft or Grand Theft Auto entertain millions since many years (fun fact The first so-called MMORPG was released 25 years ago). They have become a place where young Millennials and GenZ do many more things than just gaming. They have become extremely diverse places of connection, entertainment and belonging.

  • Social Worlds: Platforms like Altspace VR, Horizon, Spatial or Engage VR have entered the picture more recently to provide places to socialize, learn and collaborate in a more professional, enterprise-focused context. Most platforms offer the opportunity to experience the environments in virtual reality headset while tools like Gather go for 2D-worlds.

  • Hybrid platforms combining gaming, social interaction and a digital decentralized economy based on blockchain technologies like Sandbox or Decentraland.

Why should we even care?

Even though the Metaverse is still at the very beginning of its development, its enormous potential is evident.

First, it's a new quality of connecting and collaborating remotely. While a zoom meeting does not necessarily make you feel in one place with the other people, coming together in a visually compelling virtual space creates a sense of presence and sensation of togetherness that can be highly beneficial for distributed working teams. Companies like Ebay or Mercedes-Benz are already taking advantage of this opportunity through including digital twins of their real-world office space into their work-culture.  

Second, visualizing ideas, products and data in 3D can lead to a new way of understanding and communicating information and ideas. Collectively working on a product in 3D or seeing and manipulating all components of a complex machine virtually in real time can spark innovation at a new level and enable companies to conduct no-cost experiments.

Third, the Metaverse is proving to be immensely valuable for a vast variety of learning and training applications. Especially where learning is costly, dangerous or emotionally and psychologically challenging (or all combined) training in the virtual helps workers to grow in a safe and lo-cost way and spike engagement through elements of play and gaming. 

As the Metaverse allows people to experience new contexts, environments and situations in seconds growing in soft skills like leadership or communication has proven to be extremely effective. Several enterprise-platforms already take advantage of the possibility to swap into different avatars and characters to create empathy, shift perspectives or help to uncover hidden biases.

Of course, the Metaverse embodied by its associated platforms and technologies is still in its infancy. Hardware like VR or AR headsets feel clunky and work in isolation from the rest of our workplace systems. Additionally, as face-recognition isn't fully developed yet coming together as avatars means removing a good deal of facial expression and body language from our interactions. Lastly, increasingly detailed 3D environments put demands on computing power as well as graphic capacity that mainstream users typically don’t have.

Despite all that, the Metaverse will most likely transform our ways of interacting and working as radically as the development of the internet or mobile phone has done. Finding out how to participate in the Metaverse meaningfully, and how to take advantage of these quickly emerging technologies will be a learning journey that looks different for everyone but is worth being on.

So join us at Taara Quest on a journey of discovery and growth.

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