The evolution of the Internet is coming, with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg calling it the “next chapter”. Here’s what you need to know.

The internet has come a long way since its birth on January 1, 1983.

Depending on who you believe, however, he is about to be reborn.

Some of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies claim that the “metaverse” is coming and that it will change all of our lives.

Founder of the company formerly known as Facebook, now Meta, Mark Zuckerberg says this “next chapter” will be “even more immersive; an embodied Internet where you are in the experience, not just by looking at it ”.

But will the metaverse really be about virtual ping-pong games and concerts? Will it fuel digital currency, virtual art, more ads, and eye strain? Or will it just give you more ways to keep your camera off during work calls?

Facebook claimed much of the metaverse with its company’s rebranding, which came with a lengthy demonstration of Mr. Zuckerberg meeting friends there for virtual table tennis.

The company has also drawn criticism, given its timing amid the scandal, but Australian chief executive Will Easton said the company is seriously considering investing in the Metaverse and has no plans to monopolize it.

“Facebook is not going to create, own or manage the metaverse on its own – we will be collaborating with policymakers, experts and industry partners every step of the way,” he said.

And other big tech companies are also claiming the new frontier.

Days after Facebook’s launch, Microsoft announced its plans for the new, mostly business-focused landscape.

Microsoft’s Director of Mixed Reality Greg Sullivan said his new Mesh for Microsoft Teams would transform 2D into 3D spaces with “a sense of presence” and allow users to create their own avatars that show live reactions.

Research from the company’s Human Factors Lab found that over 80% of people felt comfortable speaking out in meetings when represented by an avatar and didn’t have to ‘worry about of their appearance ”.

“One of the sticking points in virtual meetings is the current binary choice between turning the camera on or off during meetings,” says Sullivan.

“Being in front of the camera tends to improve people’s sense of presence and engagement during meetings, but sometimes it can be impractical to turn on the camera, and there are times when people just prefer not to be. seen in front of the camera. “

Other companies joining the virtual future include Atari which plans to launch metaverse games, Balenciaga which has created outfits for Fortnite, and Hyundai which has created a world for Roblox. Coca-Cola and Dolce & Gabbana have launched a line of NFTs to appeal to join the metaverse.

But while the metaverse spotlight may be new, the Swinburne University social media lecturer Dr Belinda Barnet says the technology has been moving towards it for some time.

Pokemon Go and head-up displays in cars have introduced many Australians to the concept of augmented reality, she says, making it easier to accept a global internet experience in the future.

“The concept of moving forward into a future where we don’t look at four-inch screens and where technology reaches us outside of mobile devices is definitely happening,” she says.

But Dr Barnet calls Facebook’s view of the metaverse awkward and “a little weird” and warns that the social media giant will need to reassure users about the use of their data inside.

Digital media strategist Meg Coffey says she is also reluctant to trust Facebook’s involvement in her foundation.

And she says that while the metaverse has great promise – like teaching doctors remotely how to perform surgeries – it has also raised questions about the nature of human beings.

“The idea of ​​the metaverse is interesting and there are a lot of very interesting things that will come out of it,” she says.

“We’re only scratching the surface of working from home and teleporting through Zoom, we know technology is going to change the way we do things. I’m just worried we might lose that human touch. Humans are capable of more than just sitting in a dark room. “

WHAT IS METAVERS?

The concept behind the new evolution of the Internet has been ripped from the pages of a science fiction novel.

The book, Snow Crash, opens with a harassed concert worker who travels through a dystopian, decentralized world to deliver pizza to the Mafia.

Somewhere between its release in 1992 and Facebook’s massive rebranding in 2021, elements of the tech industry latched onto its concept of the “metaverse” as the ever-connected virtual environment in which we. let’s go to work, go out, play games, talk, buy stuff, see ads, and refine our avatars (a term also coined in the book).

And with the backing of the biggest of the big tech companies, the metaverse is a term that seems destined to enter every conversation about future technology for the next decade.

Simply put, the Metaverse is a virtual world in which humans can visit 3D environments, attend online events, and interact with colleagues, friends, family, and acquaintances.

This can be done via virtual reality (using a VR headset), augmented reality (using a device with a camera, such as a phone, or with a head-up display), with a holographic image projected in front of you, or some other type of digital simulation.

Second Life was set in a metaverse, for example, but the next iteration promises to be more sophisticated than this 2003 creation.

Experts are now wondering if the Metaverse will have its own cryptocurrency-based economy, increase sales of non-fungible tokens, or even be the best venue for concerts in the future (Ariana Grande recently performed at the inside Fortnite).

And then there are predictions for digitally organized distance education, virtual reality on-the-job training, and connected conferencing to avoid travel to the real world.

We could even order this pizza (although we would have to log out to eat it).

WILL WE SEE THE METAVERSE SOON?

Work from home? You bet.

Online trivia? Sign me up.

Buy gods online? Ninja level expertise.

Spend the whole day in a virtual world? Ah, I think I’ll actually pass on that one.

A lot of people talk about the metaverse, and elements of it already exist in our daily lives, but bringing them all together in a virtual, 3D, and connected environment is still a bit conceptual.

Yes, many of us stare at pixels all day and night, and we communicate through Zoom, Teams, WebEx, and Meet rather than bumping our elbows in person.

Paying for items with a phone rather than physical currency is now common, and we store our music collections in the cloud, stream movies rather than pick up DVDs, and ask artificially smart speakers to tell us if it’s going to rain rather than looking out a window.

All of these new habits bring us closer to a digital existence.

However, the shift from increasing our reality with technological convenience to living in a world made of binary code is a very big step for mankind.

That’s not to say it won’t happen, but there are even more questions and downsides to a fully immersive metaverse than there are answers.

Who will run it, for example, and does it necessarily have to be Facebook?

What will happen to the biometric and location data collected in this new world?

And how will the different platforms come together when we can’t even charge all the phones with just one cable yet?

Just as the metaverse offers an infinite number of possibilities, there are a corresponding number of questions. And it will probably take years before many answers are found.