Social interaction with the metaverse refers primarily to people using computer hardware and software to engage with digital platforms powered by the internet, which serve as virtual spaces where users congregate, exchange information and play games.
This interaction can take various forms, including direct communication, exploring the digital spaces and forums, playing games, attending events like virtual concerts or collaborating on work projects.
Some experts have argued that existing gaming platforms which often simultaneously serve as social networking hubs, like Fortnite and Roblox, are strong examples of a working metaverse, even though these two digital worlds are not connected.
Many metaverse advocates and developers imagine a new and advanced paradigm where virtual spaces offer a more immersive and engaging social experience. To achieve this, companies are busily developing emerging technologies like virtual reality (VR), which is fully immersive and accessible through goggles, and augmented reality (AR), a technology which aims to combine what is real and what is computer generated by superimposing digital images over the physical world.
As these technologies improve how users access and interact with the metaverse is expected to evolve.
Avatars will gain importance
For one, as the metaverse matures, users will likely become more invested and interested in the appearance and qualities of the digital avatars they choose to use to represent their virtual selves. These avatars will likely be what other users see and respond to when people participate in social activities in the metaverse like attending virtual concerts or attending virtual work functions.
What virtual space users are in and what avatars they choose to use could profoundly impact interactions in digital spaces as people are able to easily move from one space to another while changing their appearance. In recent years many companies have formed hoping to lead the charge in creating avatars that people will be able to not only easily customize but also use across different platforms.
Making an interoperable metaverse
Many proponents of the metaverse advocate for a future where this vast digital space is open and fully interconnected; making interoperability paramount in their eyes. In an interoperable metaverse users would be able to move from one platform to the next seamlessly. In this version of the metaverse users could change virtual spaces without having to log out and log in again or having to change their avatar. With standards of interoperability, theoretically, avatars and other digital assets would function in every corner of a vast metaverse.
If this vision is to become reality, it will require the builders of these different digital worlds to agree to rules that govern interoperability and the seamless sharing of data. Achieving this level of interoperability and collaboration presents a significant technical challenge and is a key area of focus for many developers in the field.
Interaction now and in the future
Interaction in the Metaverse can take on a variety of forms, all underpinned by the immersive nature of this digital universe. As mentioned, currently the interactions most akin to what most experts consider the metaverse, include logging into gaming platforms like Fortnite and Roblox. Meta, formerly Facebook, has also build a metaverse-esque VR experience called Horizon Worlds although it has failed to attract the numbers of users seen logging into more traditional gaming platforms.
In the future, many expect that interactions in the metaverse will increasingly rely on VR and AR. Metaverse advocates believe users will be able to participated in virtual versions of most basic social interactions like talking to friends, family and colleagues, attending events or playing games and exercising. Although neither of these technologies have achieved critical mass or mainstream adoption. Currently Meta and Apple are engaged in an arms race to see what company may be the first to win over a large number of consumers. For now, very few people actually own and operate devices capable of accessing VR and AR.
Beyond individual interactions or the promise of large-scale virtual gatherings, businesses have their eye on the metaverse. Companies see ways they might, in the future, offer an array of virtual products or services while engaging with their customers in a new and innovative way. For instance, fashion brands could market and sell digital clothing and accessories for avatars. Popular brands could sell digital collectibles consumers use to access exclusive content that only exists in the metaverse.
The metaverse is seen as possibly presenting a whole new frontier for commerce involving immersive business-to-consumer interactions.
What role could blockchain play?
Blockchain technology could play a crucial role in not only facilitating functional social interactions in the metaverse, but also the reliable sharing of data. The technology could provide a secure and transparent means for transactions, enabling users to buy, sell, and trade virtual goods and services. Blockchain also supports the creation of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a way of authenticating digital assets like virtual real estate, artworks, and other items in the metaverse that might possess value and therefore warrant protection.
Some people believe the promise of an open and decentralized metaverse is directly linked to the deployment of blockchain technology. The belief is that blockchain can unlock the dream of creating a self-regulating metaverse that is both functional and reliable.
Disclaimer: This article was produced with the assistance of OpenAI’s ChatGPT 3.5/4 and reviewed and edited by our editorial team.
© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.