Defining The Metaverse Today
How would you define the metaverse? Is it one metaverse? Is it multiple metaverses? Is the term metaverse the term we should use? Is the metaverse here, or is it being created? So many questions arise when one is asked to define the term metaverse. Defining the term in 2021 is not a simple task.
Google the term metaverse and you’ll find several definitions. Wikipedia defines it as a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet. The word “metaverse” is a portmanteau of the prefix “meta” (meaning beyond) and “universe”; the term is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe. But do those definitions really reflect what many in the technology and business world refer to when they use the word metaverse?
Roblox, Epic, Genies, and Zepeto use the term metaverse, while Facebook uses Live Maps, and Magic Leap prefers the Magicverse. Kevin Kelley called it the Mirrorworld in Wired, and Nvidia uses the term Omniverse. Others prefer the term AR Cloud, Spatial Internet, or Spatial Web.
While defining the term is not easy, one thing is probably true. The term will not be defined by one single person or company, it will be defined by many, and it will evolve. The language we use to describe the future today is ever-changing. That is why we asked 20 professionals to share their definitions and perspectives on the metaverse with us to delve deeper into what the metaverse is, what it means, and what it might become.
Here’s How 20 Professionals Define The Metaverse Today:
Jason Warnke (Senior Managing Director, Global Digital Experiences Lead at Accenture)
“We coined the term “the Nth Floor” at Accenture where we are building our global, virtual world for our more than 530,000 people and rapidly growing, can engage in whole new ways… As we have never really had a single corporate campus HQ, we believe we now have the opportunity to bring our people together in ways never before possible in the physical world.”
Claire Kimber (Group Innovation Director at Posterscope)
“I think the Metaverse is the all-encompassing space in which all digital experience sits; the observable digital universe made up of millions of digital galaxies”
Eric Redmond (Global Director, Technology Innovation, Nike)
“My general description: The Metaverse crosses the physical/digital divide between actual and virtual realities.”
Esther O’Callaghan OBE (Co-Founder Hundo.careers)
“I hope it will be like the Oasis from ReadyPlayerOne where in the end; it’s owned by young people who care more about community than profit and use it for the good of the real and virtual world. And if that sounds ludicrously naive and optimistic about it – I am and I’m not sorry!”
Luke Shabro (Futurist & Deputy Director of the Mad Scientist Initiative – Army Futures Command)
“A nebulous, digitally mixed reality with both non-fungible and infinite items and personas not bound by conventional physics and limitations.”
Emma-Jane MacKinnon-Lee (CEO & Founder of Digitalax)
“Well, the ideal definition is “full interactive reality” layered across every segment of our lives. It is the connective tissue between humanity that we have always literally lucid dreamed of but until recently haven’t had the infrastructure to make it real.”
Piers Kicks (Investment Team at BITKRAFT Ventures)
“The Metaverse: a persistent, live digital universe that affords individuals a sense of agency, social presence, and shared spatial awareness, along with the ability to participate in an extensive virtual economy with profound societal impact.”
Karinna Nobbs (Co-CEO of The Dematerialised)
“My definition is more around its purpose and driver of adoption than its tech composition. The Metaverse is the next significant third space (coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg) as not home (1st), not work or study (2nd) but where you will spend your leisure time. It is the anchor of community life and where you meet with old and new friends.”
Tom Allen (Founder of The AI Journal)
“An exponentially growing virtual universe where people can create their own world how they see fit adapting experiences and knowledge from the physical world”
Elena Piech ( Experiential Producer at AMP Creative )
“First coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 Sci-Fi novel Snowcrash, I see the Metaverse as the gradual convergence of the digital world with the physical world. A world where we no longer notice a distinction between our digital avatars and our physical selves. A world where smart lenses and BCI devices enable us to be surrounded by information – interactive information for work, entertainment, education, and more. This is the next iteration of the internet. And as dystopian it may sound, this is the next iteration of life.”
Ryan Gill (Co-Founder & CEO of Crucible)
“I think it’s less about who’s right with their definition and more about us aligning on the values of what’s most important. To me, decentralization is the key. If the metaverse will become a large part of our lives, which it will, like the internet, then the closer to reality it becomes the more it will be abstracted in defining through all of our own relative experiences of it and with it.”
Richard Ward (Global lead Enterprise VR at McKinsey)
“We are already in the MetaVerse, it’s just mostly 1D (text apps, clubhouse), 2D (Zoom, shared productivity apps like Google Sheets), 2.5D (games like Fortnite, Virbela) – 3D (VR/AR) is just in the development stages.”
Kenneth Mayfield (CEO of Xyris Interactive Design)
“My definition, from an autistic adult’s view, of the metaverse is that it’s actually a reconfiguring of our assumptions regarding sensory input, definitions of space, and points of access to information. The sensory leap is from our adaptations recognizing physical points of interest, meridians and borders, and navigation, to a much more elaborate concept of what we’ll recognize unconsciously as ‘place’, motion and presence. The oncoming metaverse is enabled by software and hardware but the most critical leap is our belief in that shared illusion as a space. So much more closely aligned with stereoscopic perception, balance, and orientation the metaverse more closely resembles how we make sense of it compared to simple web pages. We interact now via computers and phones with a metaverse but this lacks the useful cognitive dissonance of accessing the real in the digital and vice versa compared to immersion in VR and persistence of the digital in the real world via AR. The sum of these elements and our essential participation is greater than the parts giving the metaverse a unique presence in our experience of it.”
Samuel Jordan ( CEO of ICONIQ)
“The metaverse is a digital space where you can create memories that rival physical experiences in scope, meaning, and value. It’s not about the best tech or creating the best simulation. It’s about enabling humanity to experience the things that make us human. Hyper social co-experiences where we can connect with each other in authentic ways.”
Neil Redding (Founder and CEO, Redding Futures)
“I’ve heard people using the term to include cryptocurrency and voice interaction and all kinds of things that are not immersive 3D. Neal Stephenson had a reasonably clear idea of it when he wrote Snow Crash in the early 90s. However, since Snow Crash was 30 years ago and the term virtual reality is even older, I’m very supportive of creating a new definition. To me the metaverse is an effectively infinite space in which humans can do everything we do in physical space but in a multisensory stimulation. Current technology (early 2021) is capable of fulfilling a fraction of this vision of the metaverse — including 3D photoreal immersive visuals, spatialized audio, primitive tactile feedback and voice interaction, early forms of location-independent presence, etc. It feels like a start.”
Bosco Bellinghausen (Founder of Alissia Spaces)
“The Metaverse for me is an actual bridge, which for now is a gateway between the real and the virtual reality. But in 50 years, it will be the gateway for us to space and beyond! Right now we just see virtual reality as another playground for innovators, nerds, and gamers. But soon we will have understood that everything is just ONE reality. The Metaverse stands, like Blockchain, for equality for each one of us human beings, living beings, and machines. A true technological democracy that will make every real and artificial life equal. Everyone will have a true digital twin, which they will own 100%. That way we can travel between the real and the virtual reality and always remain us.”
Michael Robbins (Co-Founder, Learning Pathmakers)
“There are many words in technology that work against us. We need new words and lexicon for the future. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are neither. Blockchain sounds like a child’s toy. Metaverse is even worse. As long as we have technologists naming things based on science fiction, they’ll remain inaccessible and foreign to most of society. When we mysticize concepts they are seen as magic. The word metaverse is particularly harmful for other reasons. At a time when technology is pulling us apart, this word literally says that in the future we will live in separate universes. This is dystopian far beyond our current digital society. We need a better word to describe our future where we will come together in all the ways imaginable with technology. With augmented reality and virtual reality. Synchronously, asynchronously, with digital twins, and even after our biological lives.”
JB Grasset, (Founder of Monochrome)
“We are speaking to many brands who are right now very interested by the Metaverse. If the question “have you seen Ready Player One?” is negative we say imagine a social network based on gaming. The real challenge is to answer “what do you mean by gaming?”
Lucas Rizotto (CEO of Where Thoughts Go)
“A mass delusion that assumes that the future should look like Ready Player One for some reason.”
Rafael Brown (CEO at Symbol Zero)
“I think the important thing to remember is that the metaverse is a notion that comes initially out of science-fiction, and then was adopted by academia and game developers, it was a notion that we talked about for a thing we could eventually build when the processing and data transfer was fast enough. It is expressly a future-facing term to describe a thing we can grow and build towards. While it is tricky to make an exact definition of an aspirational thing that we want to build towards, it is very easy to talk about what it is not. The meta-verse is not here. Existing technologies are not the meta-verse. The meta-verse is not passive it is not streaming video, it is not chat, it is an immersive experience with presence that we have yet to build, and as such it has to be interactive, it has to be real-time rendered, it has to make use of technologies that do not yet exist. But we cannot dilute ourselves into thinking that existing technologies or backwards-facing comfortable technologies are or can ever be the meta-verse. It has to be about a future-facing notion of what we will create that goes beyond what currently exists.”
In the next decade, technology will accelerate at an exponential rate and our physical and digital lives will converge even further. As professionals across industries and as brands and companies seek to be part of the future, they too might need to ask themselves what the metaverse is.
How do you define the metaverse today?