What is the Metaverse?

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Metaverse - the new buzzword in the tech scene. But what exactly does the term mean? A digital parallel world for gamers? An area that can only be accessed with VR glasses? Or something completely different? Here are some explanations.

Metaverse - What sounds like material for a science fiction novel is the new buzzword in the tech scene. But what exactly is the term "metaverse" supposed to mean? Actually, the term is quite self-explanatory: "meta" stands for beyond and "verse" is short for universe. So, when translated directly, we are talking about a universe beyond our universe.

With the metaverse, we are leaving the Internet as we know it. Content will no longer be found on flat websites in 2D, but all around us. All areas of life can flow seamlessly together in the metaverse - work, leisure and education. We will no longer move in silos.

Hans Elstner, CEO & Founder | rooom

This is how Hans Elstner, CEO of rooom AG, puts his vision of the metaverse into words. Wikipedia speaks of a "collective virtual space created by the convergence of virtually augmented physical reality and physically persistent virtual space - including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality and the Internet." The term is first mentioned in the 1992 novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, in which the main character repeatedly escapes into a kind of virtual role-playing game to escape harsh reality. Today, there is much more behind the concept than just a pure gaming universe, as the following infographic shows.

Explanation of VR and AR

What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual Reality is characterized by the fact that users can immerse themselves in a digital 3D world with the help of VR headsets and move and look around in it with the help of controllers.

What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality merges the actual environment in which the user is located with a digital supplement. Required for this is a mobile device with a camera. The camera captures the actual environment and an application superimposes a 3D object over it. It then looks as if, for example, a product from an online store is standing next to the user in the room.

How does the metaverse work?

The metaverse works basically the same way as the Internet as we know it. Anyone can create content and make it publicly accessible if they have the necessary technology and know-how. The difference between the two lies primarily in the way users enter the digital space. To use the good old Internet, we open the browser and call up a website. In contrast, we jump directly into the three-dimensional metaverse with the help of a smartphone, smart glasses or VR headsets. We project additional content into our environment with our smartphone or put on wearable devices.

On one hand, you can use a VR headset and so you have virtual reality right on your headset. [...] On the other hand, you can use 3D right in the browser also, quite easy, no installation necessary with a little bandwidth.

Hans Elstner in Forbes¹

The metaverse is supposed to be something that we don't just look into from the outside, but in which we find ourselves in the middle of at all times. In many articles on the subject, the idea arises that the metaverse is primarily about online games in which one can move freely in order to escape reality. A bit like the games Second Life or Roblox, where everyone can create worlds and implement ideas themselves to share with others. This approach underestimates the incredible potential that a metaverse offers for education and business. Startups like rooom AG are already working at full speed to make the metaverse more tangible in a business context.

When will the metaverse come?

Commonly, special equipment is required to use 3D technologies, such as VR glasses or smart glasses. These currently still have the disadvantage that they are not particularly suitable for everyday use.

For one thing, the hardware is not exactly inexpensive, and for another, the size and complexity of the devices are far from suitable for everyday use. With a VR headset on the head, it is difficult for reality to merge with the digital world - after all, the user completely seals himself off from the outside world. So the question at the moment is not when the metaverse will revolutionize the Internet into a Web 3.0, but when the general population will have low-threshold access.

Futuristic as an ATM

The metaverse represents the next stage of digitization. And as always when something is new, users need some time to adopt the innovation. The experienced businessman cites ATMs as an example. When they were introduced around 50 years ago, ATMs were initially viewed critically, while bank customers continued to go to the counter. Only bit by bit did people get used to the new devices. Today, ATMs are a natural part of our everyday lives.

rooom and the metaverse

Just like the Internet, the metaverse is a borderless space that is evolving every day. Many companies are participating in it and working on individual components. What really makes the metaverse, however, is its versatility. Everyone should be able to create and receive content. Just as the Internet is now filled with company websites, blogs and social media content. The metaverse platform from rooom starts exactly at this point. Everyone should be able to participate and exchange ideas. Real interactions in virtual space are intended to create lively communities. The vision of rooom is to make 3D content creation accessible to as wide an audience as possible in a low-threshold way. The platform offers the ability to create engaging digital experiences yourself - no app, no download, no headset.

Through a user-friendly interface, the digital experience platform gives every user the opportunity to create and manage 3D models and spaces themselves. Proven templates make it really easy for every user to quickly make their content available in 3D format - for example for product presentations, learning environments or even cultural content. Those who want it to be more individual can also request special designs at any time. VR headsets are not a must-have. However, those who own VR or even Mixed Reality glasses can use them at any time to dive even deeper into the world between reality and virtuality. This can create a colorful world of experience in which everyone can participate.

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The metaverse in practice

Shopping in AR

One area where the metaverse has already cautiously crept in is online shopping. In the e-commerce sector, the use of augmented reality is already well established - with fashion stores and furniture stores in particular using the technology to give customers a better sense of whether the product will then fit - with their own clothing style or in their home. Spatial commerce is the buzzword here.

But for a real metaverse feel, the use of AR and VR technology in on-site shopping is also interesting. Here, products can be provided with additional information through mixed reality. It is also possible to reduce the quantity of items in the display and make variants and other sizes available only virtually. This would allow stores to display a huge range of products in a small space. Another option is an AR portal that can be used to impressively invite customers into the company metaverse. 

Learning with Mixed Reality

In education, the metaverse offers endless opportunities to seamlessly incorporate lifelong learning into everyday life. Imagine the following situation: A child asks his mother where the rain actually comes from. The answer is now offered not just by a Wikipedia entry or a YouTube video, but by a vivid AR simulation directly into the sky via smartphone. Or an apprentice has a question about a machine currently running on the production line. Using a 3D model, the foreman can show him exactly what the process is like without stopping production. The education and training sector can therefore benefit significantly from new metaverse solutions. Likewise, HR departments can discover exciting new paths for themselves in terms of recruiting and onboarding.

The metaverse after the hype

"The Internet is just a passing fad." Back in 2000 a lot of newspaper were running headlines like this. And you know where the Internet is now. It is omnipresent, everyone is using it. Business models and applications have emerged that nobody could have imagined before. Now, the era of Web3(D) has begun – a new iteration of the Internet. We have read similar headlines about the metaverse. Because history repeats itself. Just as the Internet has changed the way people interact and do business, the metaverse will fundamentally change our reality and open up entirely new possibilities. The network expansion to the 5G standard and innovative technologies are helping to make the vision of the tech world available to everyone.

With the help of platforms like rooom, we can also be part of the metaverse. Whether for leisure, education or business - the metaverse has long been part of our lives. This phenomenon is called the "hype cycle" and happens again and again:

  1. Innovation Trigger: Nobody knows what it is.
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations: Everyone wants to know about the metaverse because it's the hot stuff. No one understood it, but everyone wanted to do something with it – the hype. 
  3. Trough of Disillusionment: Damn, what do I do with it? (We are currently in this phase, after the hype.)
  4. Slope of Enlightenment: The hype is now over, it normalizes over time.
  5. Plateau of Productivity: More and more valuable applications are developed.

We see that the use cases are becoming more valid and meaningful. Customer service, training, events, sales, shopping, ... - Our customers are doing great things with 3D technology. And the same is happening in the field of AI. ChatGPT & Co. haven't been around for just yesterday. Here, too, we are going through the hype cycle.


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