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Into the Metaverse?

In a move that caught the attention of the entire internet, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made this video announcement about Meta last October. Since then, speculation abounded about what this could mean for Facebook users and the social media scene more broadly. Meta calls itself “the next evolution of social connection”—so what, exactly, is changing?

The stated goal of the metaverse is to let users share immersive experiences online in real time, creating as close a digital approximation as possible of sharing time and space with another person in real life. Meta’s designers hope that users will come to feel fully present in completely online spaces, and have suggested that business as well as social meetings could take place in these virtual realities.

In his hour-long keynote speech introducing the new technologies, Zuckerberg outlined how Meta will affect various aspects of our online lives and internet usage. Aside from meeting friends to chat, Meta opens the possibility for immersive entertainment experiences, changes the playing field for VR game developers, and lets you step into a pilates classroom without leaving home. The CEO also indicated that he sees Meta becoming part of the American education system; entrepreneurs have already started to take advantage of Meta’s commercial potential.

One area where business is already booming in the Metaverse is digital real estate—entirely virtual property sold through platforms like Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Axie Infinity. Digital real estate is paid for with cryptocurrency; each metaverse property platform uses its own approved cryptocurrency. The title for a piece of digital property is owned as a non-fungible token (NFT), and stored alongside cryptocurrency in one’s digital wallet. Last November, 6,000 square feet of virtual space sold for $2.4 million in Decentraland. The buyers, Toronto-based company, intends to use the space for staging fashion shows. As long as metaverse property platforms like Decentraland stay in business, the digital property they’ve sold will exist on their servers. Although much of this metaverse real estate is as-of-yet undeveloped, investors see potential for online casinos, retail showrooms, event spaces, and more.

So how, physically, do you access the metaverse? The technology is a combination of VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and video. If you don’t own space in the metaverse yourself, you have to access it through a metaverse property platform. Decentraland offers a browser extension that you can use to access the space it owns and has sold to developers on your PC or Mac computer. The Sandbox works similarly. If you’d like a more immersive digital reality experience, you can use apps on VR or AR headsets like the Oculus to access the metaverse. Facebook Meta has premiered the most popular of these apps, which it calls Horizon Worlds. Since all of these technologies are very new, means of entering the metaverse are sure to evolve fast—Meta said it intends to spend $10 billion over the course of 2022 to develop metaverse-based tech.

With so much movement in this virtual space, it’s hard to predict exactly what the future will hold. Tapped in as we are to social media trends, we can’t help but imagine what sort of metaverse influencers we could see emerging on the scene in years to come. Could your favs go live in the metaverse, and tour you around their virtual reality? Could you meet social media celebs in metaverse spaces, and interact with them in real time, with your avatars face-to-face? However the metaverse develops, you can be sure that we’re ready to get in there and get social if the opportunity arises!

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