Headline: As the Worlds Turn…

Date: 1/28/2022

Body:  The word “metaverse” is thrown about with abandon in the media these days.   To some people, it means an immersive gaming universe where they can gather with a group of friends and undertake a quest of some type.   To others, metaverse is essentially the end result of a connected world, where your “to do’ list might cause a store to be labeled with a virtual banner, “Drew, get your milk HERE!!  30% off.” Something like that.  Common to both, whether augmented reality or a completely constructed fictional world, the metaverse seems to suggest the immersive coagulation of a world with virtual components.  In most models, the Metaverse is described as an immersive virtual space that seamlessly combines elements that are planned, and spontaneous elements.  In the words of Leslie Shannon, Head of Trend Scouting at Nokia:

The spatial internet is the culmination of everything that AR and VR is developing today. It’s the idea of taking information about things, locations, or historical events and actually locating that information out there in the world where it’s most relevant.

Right now, Fortnite and Minecraft are games, but soon will likely develop to inhabit their own metaverse, allowing the denizens to interact in their own ways.  This trend was substantially accelerated by the pandemic, forcing people to interact only in ways that were safe and socially distanced.   But, don’t think for a moment that these are all fun and games.   In the future, these immersive environments will allow us to virtually try on clothes, test drive cars and go house-hunting.  Inside these game environments, business possibilities also beckon.   Perhaps you will be able to put up ads for a real-world  business within the virtual realms.   Within games like Fortnite and Minecraft, one might come up with an invention that one could sell to other gamers.    The possibilities are endless.

Is this a big deal right now?

Yes.   Good night.   Oh, you want more?   OK.   A few items really caught my eye:

 Epic Games (the company that birthed Fortnite) has garnered hundreds of millions of dollars (USD) as they exchange this real money for virtual currency (V-bucks).

Roblox (another immersive game platform) was just valued by the Wall Street Journal at $4 Billion.

As of April 2020, there are 4.5 Billion people with internet access.  The vast majority of these people access the Internet via a smartphone; So, the smartphone becomes the entry point into any multiverse created.

In December 2019, an Epic Games official, Mr. Sweeney said, “Fortnite is a game,” “But ask that question again in 12 months.”  Because there are so many subscribers and because the environment is so immersive, this game is seen as an entry port into the concept of the Metaverse.  And consider this: Until now, the concept was to merely create a great game.   Now, the concept has morphed into creating a new way for people to interact with their world.

Why is “gaming” the crux of the development of a very serious social paradigm shift?

In the terms of the judicial system, gamers have the means, motive and opportunity to further this revolution.  Others would seem to agree.  “We’re seeing this advancement of technology and Internet interaction and the Metaverse coming from gaming because it tends to be at the forefront of something designed for many, and who have the highest [technological] needs,” Ball told The Washington Post in an interview.  But this misses a valuable portion of the answer: I also think it is a societal source of risk management.   If this revolutionary technology applies to “gaming” then regular folk can just ascribe it to a small corps of hardcore hackers.   This allows the industry to develop naturally.     Said one official of Epic Games:

“This organic evolution can’t be overemphasized,” Ball writes in his essay. “If you ‘declared’ your intent to start a Metaverse, these parties would never embrace interoperability or entrust their IP. But Fortnite has become so popular and so unique that most counterparties have no choice but to participate. … Fortnite is too valuable a platform.”

Further, I suspect that the gaming context will be important because it allows people to feel the freedom to work hard, together.  CEO of Manticore Games Frederic Descamps made a similar point about broad-based creativity when he opined that people talk about the outflow of the multiverse, but don’t speak of its origin story.   If it is within the realm of gaming, it will likely be seen as non-threatening enough to allow it to come to fruition.

But wait, there’s more!!

Augmented reality is exciting in its own right and virtual reality, even in its current form, is pretty exciting too.   But mixed reality is where things get REALLY tantalizing.  Mixed reality is when the physical person interacts physically with the data.  (Think of the Penseive in Harry Potter.)   When this record is recorded and shared with others, it is called life-blogging. But one might ask, “why is this all-fired important?” 

I am thinking of an example that happened to me.   I used to work in Philadelphia, and I would walk from 30th Street Station to my condo in South Philly, when the weather was agreeable.  I had a problem with one of the outlets in my unit that had a short-circuit, but I was new to the city and didn’t know who to call.   On my walk home, I passed a van belonging to a General Contractor, who could certainly solve my problem.    But, I didn’t write down their number or name.  If I was lifeblogging, I could simply use this available mixed reality, “pull” the right piece, virtually “see” the van pass me again and call the number painted on the side of that van.  This is but one humble example of what might happen if life-blogging and other related paradigms become widespread. 

The World Gone Slightly Mad, Perhaps.

I can understand this sentiment, and empathize with the person who might give voice to this concern.   But, in the future, it seems inevitable, as said by the Borg in Star Trek, “Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.”  But, think of the advantages too.  Fire crews can virtually “walk” through a building before they get there, so that they can be more effective when they arrive.   Diplomats can practice with realistic situations when the stakes are less dire than peace or war.    At one of the many conferences and summits convened to discuss related topics there was a report issued.    In the introduction, there was a quote that quite struck me:

To the generation brought up in an augmented-reality world,” the report says, “the metaverse–this ubiquitous cloud of information–is like electricity to children of the 20th century: essentially universal, expected and conspicuous only in its absence.

I think this was very well put.   So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go to bed where I can put on my goggles, watch simulated golf, and fall asleep (for real) virtually immediately.

The Verdict

This is a part of the world that we are perhaps unfamiliar with.  But, it appears that we would be well-advised to expect this in the future.  As it stands right now, the metaverses that exist are not exactly immersive, especially when considering mobile communications.  But, bet your bottom dollar that in the not-so-distant future, they will be.  Maybe there will be globally-interactive concerts we would like to attend.   Perhaps your employer might have a training session that involves employees from many different areas of the globe, and this requires your participation in a metaverse.  Maybe you just like to hang out there with your friends.   Whatever you like seems possible in the future.  It seems clear though, from our experience with Linden dollars, mana and Ethereum amongst others, each world is likely to have its own currency and we will likely do much better if we understand how that currency works.


The Metaverse Is Coming And It’s A Very Big Deal (forbes.com)

Fortnite and the Metaverse: Why Epic Games may build the next version of the Internet – The Washington Post

The Technology of the Metaverse, It’s Not Just VR | by Doug Antin | The Startup | Medium

Meet the metaverse, your new digital home – CNET

Editor’s Note: Please note that the information contained herein is meant only for general education: This should not be construed as Tax Advice.   Personal attributes could make a material difference in the advice given, so, before taking action, please consult your tax advisor or CPA.

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