Metaverse and Virtual Reality are not the same things.
Several vital characteristics define the Metaverse. No single corporation or company will own the Metaverse, but they will be a part of it.
Different companies will create numerous universes, but these universes will be interconnected and interoperable. We can consider these virtual worlds as parallel universes, each owned by a different company.
These universes could be entirely virtual, or they could be AR based on our natural world.
Moreover, VR, AR, smartphone devices will be an access point to this Metaverse. If a company prevents someone from accessing their platform in the Metaverse without their proprietary hardware, that platform is not part of the Metaverse.
In short, when all the virtual worlds (VR, AR, or MR) interconnect themselves through some standard protocol and have interoperability between themselves, it’s a Metaverse. There’s no obligation that a universe in Metaverse has to be a virtual world. A Virtual Reality (VR) device is nothing but an access point to that Metaverse.
Let’s clarify this.
VRchat, Second Life, Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, etc., all are 3D virtual worlds.
Even though Microsoft owns Minecraft, they are working on Microsoft Mesh – a virtual world that can be accessed through AR, VR, or smartphone devices.
Meta (formerly known as Facebook), however, created a virtual world known as Horizon Worlds that can be accessed only through its Oculus Quest VR device.
All these virtual worlds are currently isolated. We can’t interchange digital assets between them. It’s disconnected and non-interoperable. Thus it’s not a Metaverse. However, it will be Metaverse when all these virtual worlds connect themselves.
Several vital things are missing from current virtual worlds — except for the Microsoft Mesh — accessibility through any device.
For example, there’s no way we can access Meta’s Horizon Worlds without the Quest VR. We can’t use the Second Life using an AR device. We can’t use VRchat on our phones or play Minecraft on our PC browser. None of these virtual worlds have universal access.
Moreover, Metaverse is not entirely an amalgamation of virtual worlds. Augmented Reality is also part of it, including Mixed Reality.
We don’t need a VR device to access Metaverse. AR or mobile devices are enough to explore it. Furthermore, the universe doesn’t have to be a 3D virtual world; it could be an AR-based world projected into our natural world.
Similar to the internet, nobody owns the Metaverse. If any company tries to corner the market for monopoly, they are not trying to create a Metaverse; they are simply trying to make their walled version of the internet or virtual world.
Therefore, Let’s reiterate.
There can be only one Metaverse. In that Metaverse, there will be countless universes. We can categorize these universes into three categories — VR-based universe, AR-based universe, Mixed Reality-based universe.
To access or traverse the Metaverse, we can use any device we please, such as VR, AR, smartphone, PC, game console, or smart TV. And This is how the Metaverse and Virtual Reality are different.
However, we have some reservations regarding the Metaverse future.
On the internet, users mean revenue. Corporate greed will try to monopolize Metaverse and prevent its growth. Here’s an example
Facebook (currently Meta) tries its best to keep users on its platform. They spend millions of dollars on human psychology research.
It’s a few clicks to sign up for Facebook, but numerous clicks to deactivate your account provided you can find the menu buried deep into the settings.
It’s known that Facebook doesn’t promote any posts containing external links that make a user click away from Facebook. These same people are making Horizon Worlds.
Here’s another example.
Google doesn’t want you to click away from Google.com. It’s why you find all of your answers on the home page in snippet form. The more you stay on Google.com, the more they earn.
So, even if the Metaverse materializes, these companies will try their best to keep us trapped in their little virtual world. They will actively try to make it harder to transfer our digital assets to another virtual or augmented world.
Facebook (Meta) owns the Oculus, Microsoft owns HoloLens. Both of these companies have their vested interest in selling their respective devices. We will not be surprised to see Facebook does everything to force its users to purchase an Oculus device if they want to access Facebook’s universe in the Metaverse.
Therefore, Even though the concept of Metaverse and Virtual Reality is entirely different, we would not be surprised to see Metaverse and Virtual Reality become indistinguishable. It will happen only if competitive companies fail to get a reasonable market share with their AR or MR world.