Everyone’s Talking About the Metaverse, But What is It?

by | Nov 6, 2021

Metaverse, Technology Trends, Future tech

Long before Mark Zuckerberg decided to rename Facebook to Metaverse, his company already had plans for the metaverse. In 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus, an AR/VR headgear maker, for $2bn. Oculus VR headsets are likely to be the user interface for Facebook’s metaverse. Facebook also purchased VR game developers such as BigBox VR, Downpour Interactive, Ready at Dawn, etc. Yet, it is not only Facebook that is investing in the metaverse. Microsoft just unveiled its plans for its work-related metaverse at the Ignite 2021 conference. Others like Nvidia and Epic Games are working on metaverse platforms too. But what exactly is the Metaverse? Have you experienced it already? How will the metaverse revolution change our lives?

It’s very likely that you have already experienced the metaverse in some form. While we were locked in at home during the past 18 months, we attended countless virtual meetings or participated in virtual conferences and expos. For entertainment, we indulged in immersive 3D games such as World of Warcraft, Minecraft VR, Fortnite, Pokémon Go, Roblox, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Glyph, Flight Simulator, etc. Some attended virtual conferences within gaming ecosystems. These are examples of the metaverse, though we think it will eventually evolve into something much bigger than this.

You may remember Second Life, a 3D, immersive, digital equivalent of the physical world. It’s still around today and has about 600,000 active users. In 2007, roughly a million people were drawn to Second Life and created their own digital avatars in this VR game. They meet and interact with other people via their avatars and handles. They listen to live talks or dance at popular nightclubs. And they buy real estate, visit virtualized landmarks and monuments, travel to places, and even own and trade in Second Life’s virtual currency (Linden $).

Second Life was regarded as the VR version of the internet, but it also gave us a first glimpse of the metaverse.

We also got a sense of the metaverse in movies such as the Oscar-winning Avatar, the Matrix series, Ralph and the Internet, Wreck it Ralph, Ready Player One, Free Guy, Summer Wars, and Gamer.

What is the Metaverse?

If you put all these experiences and glimpses together, the Metaverse begins to take shape in your mind. Essentially, the 3D version of the internet will offer us realistically immersive experiences to share and collaborate with others. It is a digital space with digital representations of people and real-world objects. It has digital twins for everything you see in the real world. It is a virtual space that you can go into and communicate, share and work with others.

The term was first used in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, Snow Crash. And it refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space.

In an interview with The Verge, Mark Zuckerberg said the critical difference between the internet as we know it today and the metaverse is embodiment. Instead of just viewing content, you are going to be in it.

Technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, 5G, and artificial intelligence will give us that “being in the moment” experience. You (or your digital avatar) will be there – participating in a virtual meeting, a virtual conference, or some other virtual event.

Speaking at the company’s recent Ignite conference, Satya Nadella, Chief Executive, Microsoft, said, “I can’t overstate how much of a breakthrough this is. It’s no longer just looking at a camera view of a factory floor; you can be on the floor. It’s no longer just video conferencing with colleagues; you can be with them in the same room. It’s no longer just playing games with friends; you can be in the game with them.”

Today’s Applications

The pandemic forced us to stay away from physical events, so the metaverse is very relevant today. However, those developing their metaverses have plans for new experiences and applications, for work or entertainment. We’ll examine strategies from Facebook, Microsoft, and others further in this post.

It’s possible to experience a virtual concert with other people from within a video game today. In August 2021, pop diva Ariana Grande collaborated with video game maker Fortnite for an in-game music event, her “Rift Tour.”

With virtualization, cloud, and AI at the core, the possibilities are limitless.

But long before these technologies came along, we had 3D holograms.


The 1970s pop group ABBA is conducting its Voyage concert in London next year. Nostalgic ABBA fans will get to see 3D holograms of the four main band members: Benny, Björn, Agnetha, and Anni-Frid. The four once belted out chart-topping and memorable music in the 1970s and 80s, and have since aged gracefully. Getting to see them in their younger selves (albeit with virtual avatars) on stage will be like going back in time.

Expect to see similar concerts with virtualized versions of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Jimmy Henricks, Prince, and other legends. Movies like Blade Runner 2049 and Star Wars showed us what is possible with 3D holograms. But the metaverse takes this to a whole new dimension.

Digital Twin

Apart from entertainment, there are applications for the business and industrial worlds too.

The term “Digital Twin” (a dynamic 3D model of an actual object) was first used in the industrial world. Today an engineer at home can repair a faulty gas turbine thousands of miles away by looking at its digital model and instructing on-site engineers to make the repairs. The same is applicable for maintaining machinery on ships or at remote or hazardous locations that are difficult to access. Imagine going into the core of a nuclear reactor to fix a radiation leak.

So, you can walk a factory floor, without leaving your home. Or be in a meeting room or operation theatre to collaborate with co-workers, without the need to be physically present. It’s almost like being teleported into a meeting or factory floor, miles away from your home.

Within health care, surgeons and doctors can do virtual surgeries to study parts of the human anatomy to diagnose ailments – or zap tumors or cancerous cells.

In genetics, scientists can examine virtualized models of DNA structures and make changes. Think human gene editing.

These are all examples of metaverses, and they are all possible today. Metaverse enables us to overcome the limitations of the physical world. It’s a boon for us in a socially distanced world, where travel is restricted.

Now let’s see what’s in store for us in the future.

Facebook’s Metaverse

Facebook is betting its future on the metaverse and is investing billions of dollars into the project. Changing the company’s name to “Metaverse” or “Meta” shows a deep commitment to the vision. Last month, Facebook announced it was hiring 10,000 people in Europe to develop its metaverse. Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge that Facebook would transition from a social media company that makes apps to being a metaverse company over the next five years. Of course, this will involve a lot of work to make it simple for people to “jump in” to a metaverse using either their phones, PCs, or AR devices – for 2D and 3D experiences.

In a conference call with Wall Street analyst, Zuckerberg said, “Our goal is to help the metaverse reach a billion people and billions of dollars in commerce in the next decade.”

We mentioned the Facebook acquisitions at the beginning of this post. Facebook has been thinking about the metaverse for many years. It will use the acquired technology from these companies to build its VR apps for social hangouts and the workplace.

Facebook is also experimenting with a VR meetings app called Workplace and a social space called Horizons. Both use virtual avatars.

Microsoft’s Metaverse

When it comes to the workplace and the enterprise, Microsoft may be a step ahead of Facebook. It recently revealed its plans for using its core enterprise apps such as Teams, Dynamics, Mesh, Azure — even PowerPoint and Excel — for its metaverse.

Microsoft’s cloud platforms (Azure) will enable digital twins of physical objects in the metaverse. And Microsoft Mesh will allow a shared sense of presence as people collaborate and communicate in the cloud.

To quote from a Microsoft blog post: “As enterprises accelerate their digital transformation, the metaverse can help people meet up in a digital environment, make meetings more comfortable with the use of avatars and facilitate creative collaboration from all around the world.”

Microsoft announced two new products at the Ignite conference – Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces and Mesh for Microsoft Teams.

Quoting from the Microsoft blog post: “This product (Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces) provides a new perspective on the way people move and interact with nearly any space, from the retail store to the factory floor, and how they manage health and safety in a hybrid work environment.

Mesh for Microsoft Teams … bridging of communication methods makes human presence the ultimate connection. Now, everyone in a meeting can be present without being physically present using personalized avatars and immersive spaces that can be accessed from any device, with no special equipment needed.”

Who else is Investing in Metaverse?

Apart from Microsoft and Facebook, others are investing in the metaverse too.

Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, has expanded its product to include rich virtual experiences such as hosting concerts and brand events. We mentioned Ariana Grande’s in-game music event and her “Rift Tour” earlier.

Another noteworthy contender is Roblox, which provides a platform and an ecosystem for connecting thousands of games.

GPU maker NVIDIA is working on its Omniverse. According to an NVIDIA blog post, “Omniverse is in use across a growing number of industries for projects such as design collaboration and creating ‘digital twins,’ simulations of real-world buildings and factories.”

Omniverse is cloud-native, scales across multiple GPUs, runs on any RTX platform, and streams remotely to any device.

Omniverse will enable real-time creation among designers, engineers, and creative professionals. For instance, designers doing modeling, layout, shading, animation, lighting, special effects, or rendering can collaborate to create a scene. And they can be located in different places.

And apart from these examples, we are sure to read about many others next year.


While the metaverse sounds truly exciting, some lessons learned from the current internet need to be implemented.

Regulation: Who will be the central regulator of the metaverse? Without regulation, there will be monopolistic practices, walled gardens, and unfair competition.

Security: The bad guys will surely think about ways to gain, commercially, from the metaverse. Will there be a “dark metaverse” too? Will imposters be using “deep fake” avatars to fool others? What kind of frameworks and technology will check this?

Integration: How will all these metaverses be integrated as more players throw their hats into the ring? For instance, if Mark Zuckerberg, Satya Nadella, Tim Cook, and Sunder Pichai want to have a virtual meeting, and each decides to use their own platform for this (Teams, Facetime, Hangouts, Workplace) – will these platforms integrate to make the conference possible?

Economic regulation: The metaverse will also have an economy with a virtual currency. This will need to be linked up to the economic structures of various countries to promote free trade in the metaverse. How will countries formulate a system and plan for this? We do not want to see rogue individuals and rogue nations trading drugs, weapons and indulging in illegal money laundering transactions in the metaverse.

These are enormous challenges that need to be addressed. Technology is not the only challenge.

But if all these challenges can be sorted out, the metaverse will be a welcome and refined version of today’s internet.

The big tech companies and governments have a role to play in making that possible.

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Brian Pereira
Brian Pereira
Brian Pereira is an Indian journalist and editor based in Mumbai. He founded Digital Creed in 2015. A technology buff, former computer instructor, and software developer, Brian has 29 years of journalism experience (since 1994). Brian is the former Editor of CHIP India, InformationWeek India and CISO Mag. He has served India's leading newspaper groups: The Times of India and The Indian Express. Presently, he serves the Information Security Media Group, as Sr. Director, Editorial. You'll find his most current work on CIO Inc. During his career he wrote (and continues to write) 5000+ technology articles. He conducted more than 450 industry interviews. Brian writes on aviation, drones, cybersecurity, tech startups, cloud, data center, AI/ML/Gen AI, IoT, Blockchain etc. He achieved certifications from the EC-Council (Certified Secure Computer User) and from IBM (Basics of Cloud Computing). Apart from those, he has successfully completed many courses on Content Marketing and Business Writing. He recently achieved a Certificate in Cybersecurity (CC) from the international certification body ISC2. Follow Brian on Twitter (@creed_digital) and LinkedIn. Email Brian at: [email protected]
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