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The word "Metaverse" is made up of the prefix "meta" (meaning beyond) and the stem "verse" (a back-formation from "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. The metaverse in a broader sense may not only refer to virtual worlds, but Internet as a whole, including the entire spectrum of augmented reality.
The term was coined in Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world. Stephenson used the term to describe a virtual reality-based successor to the Internet. Concepts similar to the Metaverse have appeared under a variety of names in the cyberpunk genre of fiction as far back as 1981 in the novella True Names. Stephenson stated in the afterword to Snow Crash that after finishing the novel he learned about Habitat, an early MMORPG which resembled the Metaverse.
The concept cyberspace, which first appeared in the short story 'Burning Chrome' by William Gibson (Omni, July 1982), was a central theme in his 1984 groundbreaking novel, Neuromancer. The Metaverse is distinct from "the more inclusive concept of cyberspace that reflects the totality of shared online space across all dimensions of representation" Unlike, for instance, in the fictional concept introduced in Neuromancer, which was typified by a Cartesian separation of body and mind, the Metaverse allows its users to access its environs while still aware of their world. This is demonstrated in a technology called invisible to visible (I2V) that Nissan is developing, which overlays a car's windshield with virtual information as well as features that include an ability to summon an in-car 3D avatar.
Since many massively multiplayer online games share features with the Metaverse but provide access only to non-persistent instances, that are shared by up to several dozen players, the concept of multiverse virtual games has been used to distinguish them from the Metaverse.
Developing technical standardsEdit
Common standards, interfaces, and communication protocols among virtual environments are in development. Collaborations and working groups are attempting to create standards and protocols to support interoperability between virtual environments, including:
- Virtual Worlds—Standard for Systems Virtual Components Working Group (P1828), IEEE (2010–Present)
- Information technology—Media context and control—Part 4: Virtual world object characteristics (ISO/IEC 23005-4:2011), ISO (2008–Present)
- Immersive Education Technology Group (IETG), Media Grid (2008–Present)
- Virtual World Region Agent Protocol (VWRAP), IETF (2009–2011)
- The Metaverse Roadmap, Acceleration Studies Foundation (2006–2007)
- The Open Source Metaverse Project, (2004–2008)
Timeline of virtual environmentsEdit
Timeline of notable platforms and developments:
- 1993 – The Metaverse was a MOO (a text-based, low-bandwidth virtual reality system) operated by Steve Jackson Games as part of their BBS, Illuminati Online.
- 1995 – Active Worlds, based entirely on Snow Crash, distributed virtual-reality worlds implementing at least the concept of the Metaverse.
- 1998 – There was created, wherein users appear as avatars and could socialize and purchase objects and services using the virtual currency therebucks, which were purchasable with real world money. There.com closed on March 2, 2010, but reappeared in 2011 as an invite-only world to users age 18 or older.
- 1998 – blaxxun created 3D virtual communities that used vrml technology. CyberTown was one example.
- 2003 – Second Life was launched by Linden Lab. The stated goal of the project was to create a user-defined world like the Metaverse in which people can interact, play, do business, and otherwise communicate.
- 2004 – X3D was approved by ISO as the successor to the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) as the open standard for interactive real-time 3D (web3D). Today X3D is the standard defining the 3D web and mixed reality Open Metaverse by combining virtual, mirror, and augmented realities with the web.
- 2004 – IMVU, Inc. was founded by Will Harvey, Matt Danzig and Eric Ries. It started out as an instant messenger with 3D avatars.
- 2005 – University of Michigan launched Vmerse in response to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on the landmark case on affirmative action (Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger), to make their campus more accessible to underprivileged minority prospective applicants. Vmerse was described as a revolutionary innovation to increase diversity on campus. This metaverse was delivered on computers over the internet as a combination of video, forms, embedded within a mirror world through virtual reality and was additionally used for alumni relations, donor campaigns, as well as for emergency response training. Vmerse technology was also used by Louisiana State University, Iowa State University, Columbia University, Stanford University, Western Illinois University and others. The United States Department of State deployed Vmerse as 'Your 5 Steps to US Study' to assist international students in applying to US Universities, which has been used by over 1 Billion users around the world. Vmerse was founded and invented by Bhargav Sri Prakash in 2004, which has now become the proprietary underlying platform adapted by FriendsLearn for use in medicine.
- 2005 – Solipsis launched, a free open source system aiming to provide the infrastructure for a Metaverse-like public virtual territory.
- 2005 – The Croquet Project began as an open-source software development environment for "creating and deploying deeply collaborative multi-user online applications on multiple operating systems and devices", with the aim of being less proprietary than Second Life. After the release of the Croquet SDK in 2007, the project became the Open Cobalt project.
- 2006 – Entropia Universe, the world's first real cash economy MMORPG.
- 2006 – Roblox was published.
- 2007 – Several social networks provide profiles and networking capabilities for metaverse avatars, including Koinup, Myrl, AvatarsUnited. These projects faced many challenges related to the lack of portability of the Avatar across virtual worlds and attempt to address the possibility of managing multiple accounts on a single dashboard. (AvatarsUnited was later purchased by Linden Lab, and then shut down when some social networking features were added to Second Life.)
- 2007 – OpenSimulator appeared, developing free open-source virtual world software that is protocol-compatible with Second Life, while allowing user movement between otherwise independent installations. It is based on the client viewer of Second Life and serves as a platform for constructing a virtual world.
- 2008 – Google Lively was unveiled by Google through Google Labs on July 8, 2008. The service was discontinued at the end of December.
- 2013 – High Fidelity Inc was founded as an open-source platform for users to create and deploy virtual worlds, and explore and interact together in them.
- 2014 – VRChat launched as a social VR platform (SVRP) that enables users to publish 3D spaces and avatars that are developed with external tools.
- 2015 – AltspaceVR launched as an SVRP that enables users to publish 3D spaces developed with external tools.
- 2016 - Sinespace launched as an SVRP that enables users to publish 3D spaces and content developed with external tools. Rec Room launched as a social VR game, which was extended to support user-generated spaces in 2017. Anyland and Modbox launched as social VR games, which enable uses to publish 3D spaces that are developed with built-in tools.
- 2017 – Sansar launched on July 31, 2017. The platform enables user-created 3D spaces social spaces. Avatars include speech-driven facial animations and motion-driven body animations.
- 2018 – NeosVR Metaverse was launched by Solirax. Cryptovoxels launched in 2018 as a user owned metaverse using the Ethereum blockchain.
- 2019 – Facebook Horizon was announced as a social VR world by Facebook.
- 2020 – Decentraland launched as a decentralized virtual platform owned and operated by its users. The Sandbox, a voxel metaverse was launched by Animoca. Core was launched by Manticore Games. Rival Peak, a cloud-powered reality show starring AI contestants in a virtual environment, debuted on Facebook Watch. Individuals or groups of viewers could directly contribute to an AI contestant's advancement in the show by watching or interacting via Facebook.
- 2021 – Epic Games directs fundraising to build out Fortnite into a metaverse.
- 2021 – Microsoft Mesh, a mixed reality software enabling virtual presence through Microsoft devices such as the HoloLens 2.
- 2021 – Facebook announces its attempt at development of a Metaverse.
- 2021 – South Korea announces the creation of a national metaverse alliance with the goal to build a unified national VR and AR platform.
Stephenson's Metaverse appears to its users as an urban environment, developed along a single hundred-meter-wide road, the Street, that runs the entire 65536 km (216 km) circumference of a featureless, black, perfectly spherical planet. The virtual real estate is owned by the Global Multimedia Protocol Group, a fictional part of the real Association for Computing Machinery, and is available to be bought and buildings developed thereupon.
Users of the Metaverse gain access to it through personal terminals that project a high-quality virtual reality display onto goggles worn by the user, or from grainy black and white public terminals in booths. Stephenson describes a sub-culture of people choosing to remain continuously connected to the Metaverse; they are given the sobriquet "gargoyles" due to their grotesque appearance. The users of the Metaverse experience it from a first person perspective.
Within the Metaverse, individual users appear as avatars of any form, with the sole restriction of height, "to prevent people from walking around a mile high". Transport within the Metaverse is limited to analogs of reality by foot or vehicle, such as the monorail that runs the entire length of the Street, stopping at 256 Express Ports, located evenly at 256 km intervals, and Local Ports, one kilometer apart.
During the events of Doomsday Clock, the existence of the Metaverse was uncovered by Doctor Manhattan (Watchmen), who arrived in the DC Universe and was curious about why history constantly changed around one person: Superman. Realizing that this was a Metaverse and all changes within this universe affected and influenced other versions and alternate timelines (particularly the Multiverse), Manhattan tested what would happen if the Metaverse was changed by an outside source: himself, and by moving the Green Lantern a few inches away from Alan Scott, this resulted in Alan's death and the Justice Society of America never forming, thus creating The New 52 universe after the events of Flashpoint. The Metaverse reacted to these changes in the form of the Pre-Flashpoint Wally West, who briefly escapes the Speed Force and warns Manhattan that he knows what the latter did and the heroes of the DC Universe will stop him, before being dragged back in. In their final confrontation, Superman convinces Manhattan to regain his humanity and the latter restores the timeline, causing the Metaverse to expand itself.
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