Is Metaverse AR or VR?

Metaverse is neither Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR). Metaverse is an interconnected, interoperable 3D virtual world. Different companies can create many virtual worlds, but there can be only one Metaverse. We will use AR or VR devices to access this Metaverse.

Let’s explain.

Have you seen the movie Wreck-it Ralph and Wreck-it Ralph 2? The Metaverse is somewhat similar to it. 

The “game central station” connects all the games in the movie. Even though each game is different, the game characters can go from one game to another (game jump). They also can take objects from one game to another. Here’s an example.

At the movie’s start, we see that all the villains from various games are meeting in the Pac-Man game room. Ralph takes a cherry from the Pac-Man game at the end of the meeting and returns to “game central.” In the “game central,” he donates the cherry. Later in the movie, he goes to another game (Hero’s Duty) to earn a medal.

In the Wreck-it Ralph 2 movie, the store owner connects all the games to the internet. As a result, all the game characters can now move freely throughout the internet, including other online games.

However, as a user, people in the movie use VR, AR, PC, Console, Web browsers, etc., to access and interact with these characters.

Metaverse is similar to it.

As of today, we have various 3D virtual worlds. Second Life, Minecraft, Roblox, Microsoft Mesh, etc. 

But the problem with all these virtual worlds is that they are not interoperable. It means that we can’t send, receive or exchange virtual goods between them. For example, if we have a T-shirt in Second Life, we can’t send it to Minecraft. It’s not possible today. 

Moreover, not only these existing virtual worlds are disconnected; we can’t access them with every device. For example, we can’t use Oculus VR to access Microsoft Mesh. Nor can we use an off-brand AR device to access Second Life. Thus, the Metaverse doesn’t exist today.

For Metaverse to become a reality, the following has to be true:

  • Every virtual world, regardless of its creator, has to be interconnected.
  • Almost every digital asset must be interoperable.
  • It can be accessed by any device such as AR, VR, mobile phone, game console, PC, etc.

We can see that a single VR platform (Oculus) or a single AR platform (Microsoft Mesh) can’t be Metaverse. When this service becomes a reality, we will be able to access it with any existing device, even with our phone. 

In short, Metaverse is not Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR). Instead, AR and VR devices are a way to access the Metaverse.

Let’s clarify further.

Since the invention of the internet, many companies have used this infrastructure to create entirely new businesses. Netflix, Amazon, Google, YouTube, Uber, etc., are all internet companies. We can access every service through the internet with any device. For example, we can watch Netflix shows on our VR, AR, TV, computer, game console. 

Similarly, Metaverse is a service – an interconnected virtual world – that uses the internet. We will use our VR, AR, mobile phone, etc., to access it.

Many people believe that any 3D virtual world is itself a Metaverse. It’s not accurate, and it’s a misleading belief. 

Second Life, Microsoft Mesh, Minecraft are not Metaverse. When every one of these virtual worlds connects to an interoperable virtual system, the Metaverse will come into existence. Until then, Metaverse doesn’t exist.

Origin of Metaverse:

Science-Fiction writer Neal Stephenson first came up with the word “Metaverse.” He wrote the book Snow Crash in 1992, where he coined the term Metaverse from “Meta” and “Universe.”

In the book, he writes:

“So Hiro’s (protagonist) is not actually here at all. He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse. Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse.”

“He is not seeing real people, of course. This is all a part of the moving illustration drawn by his computer according to specifications coming down the fiber-optic cable. The people are pieces of software called avatars. They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other in the Metaverse.”