A metaverse is a network of 3-D virtual worlds focused on social communication. In science fiction and fantasy, the term is frequently used to describe a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal virtual world made possible by the use of virtual and augmented reality headsets.
The term “metaverse” has its origins in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash as a portmanteau of “meta” and “universe.” Various metaverses have been developed for popular use such as virtual world platforms like Second Life.
Some metaverse iterations involve integration between virtual and physical spaces and virtual economies, often including a significant interest in advancing virtual reality technology.
The term has seen considerable use as a buzzword for public relations purposes to exaggerate development progress for various related technologies and projects. Information privacy and user addiction are concerns within metaverses, stemming from challenges facing the social media and video game industries as a whole.
Facebook Horizon, a social VR world, was launched in 2019 by the social network company Facebook. Facebook was renamed “Meta Platforms” in 2021, and its chairman, Mark Zuckerberg, declared the company’s commitment to developing a metaverse. Many of the virtual reality technologies promoted by Meta Platforms are still in the works.
Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, slammed the move, saying Meta Platforms’ continued focus on growth-oriented projects is largely done at the expense of ensuring safety on their platforms. Due to the occurrence of sexual harassment on the platform, Meta Platforms has also faced user safety criticism regarding Horizon Worlds. Microsoft acquired the virtual reality company AltspaceVR in 2017 and has since integrated metaverse features such as virtual avatars and virtual reality meetings into Microsoft Teams.
Improved work productivity, interactive learning environments, e-commerce, real estate, and fashion are some of the proposed applications for metaverse technology. Metaverses can be accessed via general-purpose computers and smartphones, as well as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality, virtual reality (VR), and virtual world technologies. The reliance on VR technology has hampered metaverse development and widespread adoption.
Because of portable hardware limitations and the need to balance cost and design, there is a lack of high-quality graphics and mobility. Lightweight wireless headsets have struggled to achieve the retina display pixel density required for visual immersion, whereas higher-performance models are typically wired and bulky.
Another barrier to widespread adoption of the technology is the high cost of consumer VR headsets, which range in price from $300 to $1,100 as of 2021. Current hardware development is centered on overcoming the limitations of VR headsets and sensors, as well as increasing immersion through haptic technology.