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Home / Features / What is the metaverse? Next-gen virtual worlds explained

What is the metaverse? Next-gen virtual worlds explained

To be honest, nobody really knows!

If you’ve been following virtual reality news lately, you’ll have likely heard mention of something called ‘the metaverse’. Where has this new word come from, and what is the metaverse?

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is the term for a collection of virtual worlds. Think of the metaverse as the universe for virtual worlds. But what are these virtual worlds? Virtual worlds exist in virtual and augmented reality apps and games, where everything happens virtually.

For example, you could take your metaverse avatar to the pub in a virtual pub simulator and then head to see a virtual live concert. Or you could take a meeting with remote employees. You wouldn’t actually be going anywhere, but rather just moving across the virtual world.

All of the different apps and software made for the metaverse are connected to a network, and you can represent yourself as an avatar. It’s almost like you can go inside the internet.

Companies are only just starting to create games and software for the metaverse because it’s so new. So, lots of the talk about the metaverse is hypothetical rather than what we actually have available now.

It’s also interesting to note that the concept of a metaverse first appeared in a Sci-Fi book published in the nineties, so it’s been spoken about for a while.

How does the metaverse work?

The metaverse works by connecting multiple virtual environments across the metaverse. Each of these environments are from an app that you download for your VR or AR device.

Yes, you read that right. To access the metaverse, you’ll need either a VR or AR headset (or both), to see the virtual content. Naturally, the content you experience will be different, too.

If you’re visiting somewhere in the metaverse with an AR headset, everything will be overlaid on top of real-life. If you’re using a VR headset, the environment will be totally virtual.

Does the metaverse matter?

Meta clearly thinks that the metaverse is the next big thing, as the company changed its name from Facebook and it’s also now changed the name of its Oculus Quest sub-brand to Meta Quest in a quite-frankly bizarre move. But does the metaverse actually matter?

On the one hand, it might sound silly to spend time in such a virtual world. Why not just go outside for real? It’s just a computer game, after all.

But for others, the metaverse can act as an exciting retreat from real life. It can also be a way to simulate real-life meetings when you live far away. So, you can see why some people’s interest might be piqued.

Since the metaverse isn’t really a thing yet, it’s hard to accurately judge whether or not it matters. It definitely poses some questions about how we’ll be spending time in the future, and a lot of that is down to people’s opinions.

Remember, nobody predicted how much we’d use social media platforms in our day-to-day interactions before Facebook was invented.

What’s next?

Nobody particularly knows what’s next for the metaverse. The metaverse wasn’t even a thing a couple of years ago, so we don’t know where the technology might go next.

What we can say, is that the next few years will be the most important time for the metaverse. We’ll either see the technology develop and begin to be adopted, or we’ll see it fall flat on its face.

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Connor is a writer for Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website. He has been writing for around seven years now, with writing across the web and in print too. Connor has experience on most major platforms, though does hold a place in his heart for macOS, iOS/iPadOS, electric vehicles, and smartphone tech. Just like everyone else around here, he’s a fan of gadgets of all sorts! Aside from writing, Connor is involved in the startup scene. This exciting involvement puts him at the front of new and exciting tech, always on the lookout for innovating products.

Areas of expertise

Mobile, macOS, EVs, smart home