Recently, on a global level, a lot of content and information is read, heard, and watched about a one new technology and new technological field. These new multi-purpose platform is able to raise our online experience to a new level. But, the metaverse concept isn’t new and is considered like a next evolution of the Internet with some new building blocks in place. The metaverse doesn’t compete with the internet — it builds on it. While the basic idea of being able to engage in a virtual online world has been around for many years, a true metaverse where lifelike interactions are possible is still years away. So it is true that the Metaverse is a promise of something new, something that brings the digital experience into the real world and vice versa. New Interest in the metaverse is rapidly rising during the pandemic in the new era of virtual learning around the world. To rise the metaverse the new concept is necessary. The concept called Explore-Discover-Create is a big transition from the physical world to virtual world, which enable each one in many forms to interact, shop and work with others from the comfort of the home. This is known as the metaverse where people use avatars to represent themselves or digital fascimile, communicate with each other and virtually build out the community.
Past, Present, and Future of the Metaverse
The metaverse was first described in the 1992 novel Snow Crash by the author Neal Stephenson. He coined the term metaverse as a kind of next-generation virtual reality-based Internet. “Metaverse” is an acronym formed from the word “goal”, which means “transcendent”, and the last 2 syllables from the word “space”, that is, “verse”. Therefore, its meaning applied to this technology tends to show its potential. One way to achieve status in metaverse was by technical skill (avatar), and another indication of status was the ability to access certain restricted environments (registrations and paywalls) in the sense that users experience a new reality. Unfortunately Snow Crash didn’t put the metaverse in a positive light because it was more of a dystopian view of the future. Another novel that helped popularize the idea of the metaverse is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Directed by Steven Spielberg it was later made into a movie where the novel is set in the year 2045. Users access the world using a virtual reality visor, touch and grab objects in the digital environment with haptic gloves. The definition from Matthew Ball, venture capitalist is mostly used to explain the term metaverse. The definition has seven main elements: First, is always present and has no ending. Second, can be experienced synchronously by multiple people. Third, does not have a population cap and can be shared by everyone, while each individual retains their agency. Fourth, can offer a fully functioning economy. The fifth can span both the digital and physical worlds, as well as open and closed platforms. Sixth is interoperable, so digital tools and assets from one app can be used in others. The seventh contains content and experiences created by a range of contributors.
Influence of Technologies on the Metaverse
Many technologies have a big influence on metaverse creation. The dominant technology trends for 2021: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Computer clouding, Virtual Reality (VR) Augmented Reality (AR), and others have a lot with “metaverse”. They are very closely connected with many data in real time and online, which is essential for the work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the years to come.
The Metaverse is basically the Internet, only three-dimensional. The key characteristic of the metaverse is the interoperability or connectivity of everything – which will enable a seamless, more natural experience of moving from one space to another. The development of such an interoperable environment requires a special, open standard that enables the exchange of information between one platform or system to another.
Although a unique and interoperable metaverse does not currently exist. The purpose of virtual worlds will vary, some will be game worlds, while others will bring people together for meetups and educations or to do work.
But technology does not yet follow all metaverse visions. Given that the metaverse is virtual, it is important and necessary to consider the existing internet infrastructure as well as hardware limitations in order to understand the potential obstacles we must overcome to bring the metaverse to life. A complete fiber optic cable infrastructure or successor to 5G is needed for the metaverse to be realized in its full potential.
Benefits of the metaverse
A late 2021 survey of global internet users found that overcoming obstacles that prevented them from doing something in real life was perceived as the biggest benefit of the metaverse. Enhancing creativity and imagination and Travelling the world without money have the same percentage. On third place is increasing technological literacy and skills. It is important to understand the concept Explore-Discover-Create, the fundamentals of technology. But the open question is will metaverse come as a single platform.
Figure 1. Leading benefits of the metaverse worldwide in 2021
Source: Statista, December 2021.
Enhancing creativity and imagination was ranked second with 37 percent of respondents claiming this as a benefit. The metaverse also holds promise for upskilling, education, and exploring new career opportunities.
The metaverse offers many different attractions for different types of users. A late 2021 survey of internet users indicates that over half of the respondents would join the metaverse for work possibilities such as virtual workspaces and networking. 48 percent stated art and live entertainment as the main reason to join the metaverse, and 44 percent stated investment into cryptocurrency and non fungible tokens.
Figure 2. Main reasons for joining the metaverse according to internet users worldwide in 2021
Source: Statista, December 2021.
Many companies today have their own metaverse visions. Facebook “bring the metaverse to life“ and in the forms of Meta and launched Horizon Worlds, a VR space. After Facebook’s transition to Meta, Google searches for “metaverse” increased by roughly 20 times and the term was mentioned in 12,000 English-language news articles. The year before, it had been mentioned just 400 times. Microsoft is coming with Mesh for Microsoft Teams in 2022 wich will bring users to join in different physical locations join collaborative and shared holographic experiences during virtual meetings.
The New Concept of Education
Like all technologies educators accepted the metaverse too. According to the Digital Learning Collaborative, in the 2018/2019 school year, 375,000 students were enrolled in full-time, statewide virtual schools. By the 2020/2021 school year, the number had nearly doubled to 656,000 students. In education three things appear true. First, innovation theory suggests that the early successful instances that apply elements of the metaverse will be proprietary in nature. That means that the metaverse will be a safe and healthy place for children. Second, the metaverse seems more of a sustaining than a disruptive innovation for full-time virtual schools. Finally, metaverse applications can create educational experiences that are otherwise impossible in a traditional environment. Virtual reality can bring real people and knowledge from other parts of the world into classrooms everywhere.
First metaverse event in Croatia
Virtual space can significantly help and added value in many areas. Croatia Telecom-Hrvatski Telekom (HT) is by far the largest investor in the optical network in Croatia. HT due to the high technological requirements adds the evolution of the metaverse from the early to the mature stage. The basic basis for the realization of ideas is the infrastructure of 5G, WiFi 6, 6G networks and the cloud. HT, has already tested 5G+ in a live network at 26GHz, a technology that enables multi-gigabit speeds of up to 4 Gbit/s and a response time of less than 10 milliseconds, which are extremely important for the development of the metaverse and the creation of a whole new ecosystem.
It already has an infrastructure that covers the distance from the Earth to the Moon and back because the total length of the fiber optic cables is 768,000 kilometers. The optical network developed by the company is capable of supporting much higher speeds than today’s, which was confirmed by the recent test of HT 25G PON technology, in which the measured speed was even higher than 20 Gbit/s.
Metaverse is a 3D digital disruptive technological concept that will play a significant role in the coming years in the transformation of education, work, entertainment and socialization. The use of new digital and digitally enhanced environments becomes possible through the use of optical networks with high symmetrical transmission speeds and low latencies
It is, namely, an evolved version of the Internet, that is, a huge interoperable network of virtualized 3D worlds, which a large number of simultaneously connected people can experience in real-time. At the same time, one of its key characteristics is an optimized personal experience.
So, we will not live in virtual, but we will in augmented reality. The future that virtual reality brings us is incredible and we will only feel its full potential in the coming years. Metaverse will be available to us through thousands of applications that we modify and use. So, we need to follow the concept Explore-Discover-Create, the fundamentals of technology in the future.
Prof. Nada Ratkovic
(Assistant Professor, Faculty of Economics & Business and Tourism. Professor, IIU Board Member, President of Research Centre IIU, Educator, Trainer, Writer, Reviewer, Social Activist)