5 myths about the metaverse: how close are we to living in other realities?

If you follow technology news, you have probably heard the term “metaverse”. It’s no secret that tech companies love new terms and often look for ways to define new niches – “metaverse” is no exception. This virtual world has quickly become riddled with so many myths and misconceptions. What is the metaverse actually and what are the myths surrounding it?

Metaverse – still in the distant future

In simple terms, the metaverse can be described as the next stage in the development of the internet, in which virtual or augmented reality devices will connect people to a virtual world where real-life experiences — communication, entertainment, games, and, of course, commerce – will also shift. It should be a much more social and engaging virtual world than the current internet.

Perhaps the most common myth is that the metaverse is still in the distant future. Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson coined the term back in 1992, but today it’s obvious that virtual reality is set to become a big part of our lives, and this will provide us with even more opportunities. The 2009 film Avatar seemed to be based on pure fiction, but tech experts say that the metaverse is a very near future that will affect not only businesses, but every one of us.

Although we will still have to wait for a metaverse that encompasses all areas of our lives, the first attempts to “supplement” our reality are already underway. The consulting firm McKinzey predicts that as early as 2030 more than 50% of live events could take place in the metaverse, and more than 80% of commerce could be determined in one way or another by consumer experiences or behaviours in the metaverse. By 2030, the metaverse economy is estimated to be worth between $8−30 trillion.

Big companies are already actively looking into this new niche. Meta, the company behind Facebook, is one of the most active promoters of the metaverse and estimates that in the second half of this decade, the metaverse will generate most of its revenue. Meanwhile, the investment banks JP Morgan and HSBC have announced that they are actively looking for companies that can profit from the metaverse. Microsoft recently mentioned the metaverse as one of the reasons why they purchased the game developer Activision Blizzard for $69 billion.

In recent years, everyone wants to jump onto the metaverse train − from Google and Ralph Lauren to Walmart, while singer Travis Scott has even hosted a concert in the game Fortnite, which attracted 27 million unique listeners. So, although the virtual reality world is only taking its first steps, it looks like we will see many more exciting applications.

Of course, such popularity also raises concerns about the security and privacy of personal data, which is expected to require significant input from businesses and public authorities. So, it’s not surprising that many aspects of the metaverse are already the subject of more and more debates today − in the public sphere, among internet startups, in our Rockit innovation center, or in other discussion formats. Today we see that technology is no longer limited to one reality and that many innovative businesses are beginning to see the metaverse as another new market, and changes in the lives of each of us are no longer so far off.

Many metaverses

One of the myths is that there will be many metaverses. In fact, it will be another phase of the internet and will differ only in the ways of “accessing” it or its experiences, but there will be only one actual metaverse, just like there is only one internet.

When Meta, the company that owns Facebook, announced that it would focus on the metaverse and its products, also changing its name accordingly, there was the misconception that it would be the sole governor of the metauniverse. In fact, all companies will develop or are already developing their own metaverse experiences. For example, when Facebook promotes the creation of so-called “avatars” and virtual settlements, other companies mention much more practical applications, ranging from surveying architectural solutions to virtual viewing of sports events or health consultations.

Metaverse activists argue that the metaverse, like the internet, should be decentralized, open, and acquired rights to things or intellectual property should remain as in the real world. In contrast to a single “virtual world” created by one company or another, the metaverse should be decentralized and independent of one company, like the internet, just more inclusive, social, and economically advanced.

Consumers won’t spend money on virtual reality

Critics argue that companies operating in the metaverse will not profit and the entire virtual world is just a bubble. Electronic games are probably the best demonstration that users are ready to spend a lot of money on virtual entertainment, and surveys show that 60% of millennials would like to buy real things in virtual reality. Among the older generation, as many as a third would be interested in getting advice in virtual or augmented reality, for example, on health issues.

A survey by NordVPN found that 74% of the population of the US would like to try the metaverse in a variety of ways, such as experiencing things they can’t in real life (41%), communicating (40%), changing their environment (28%), or even becoming a different person (23%).

Losing sight of the real world

Another myth is that virtual reality will make us forget the real world. Such a scenario is unlikely to happen. Back in 1990, the internet seemed like an unrealistic thing that today is a very normal and complementary part of our lives. Everyone probably agrees that the metaverse will complement, not replace, our real lives. Actual shops will still exist, and virtual reality will provide users with new experiences that they can already try today − for example, Amazon or Ikea are already offering the opportunity to use augmented reality devices to create and “see” a room when choosing furniture in their online stores.

To summarise, this is the evolution of the next generation of the internet, one in which we are no longer spectators or observers but immersed, and the boundary between the physical and virtual worlds will blur even more. Likely, Lithuanian tech companies will also find their place in the metaverse (like by allowing you to try clothes virtually).

Virtual reality is an expensive pastime

Expensive virtual reality glasses, virtual art sold at auctions, and famous fashion brands presenting their collections in virtual reality − all of this might create the impression that the metaverse would be an expensive experience. However, the metaverse will be an extension of the real world, and retailers will in every way try to make getting into the virtual world as accessible as possible – in many cases, a simple phone or tablet in a shop will suffice. In addition, as technology becomes cheaper and advances, the same virtual reality devices should only become even more accessible or easily integrated into, say, your eyeglasses.

It should be noted that the metaverse is a new opportunity for people’s careers. For example, NFT technology in art enabled ordinary artists to sell their work directly to buyers (without the often-expensive intermediation of art galleries), and the value of art is determined by the consumers. So, in the metaverse, many new professionals will be needed − from those who create and sell virtual things, art, or services, to those who build virtual communities or cities.

Lina Žemaitytė-Kirkman, Head of the Rockit Centre for Financial Technology and Sustainable Innovation