There is no universal definition of the Metaverse. Most people can think of it as a network of virtual worlds and mixed reality applications. A 3D internet. A world wide web you can walk around in and explore. A virtual place to play, shop, study, socialize, explore, work, and more.
Companies like Niantic picture something closer to a “Mixed Reality” (MR) Metaverse, where you interact and participate in the real world but virtual elements appear in it. So Google Maps might have an arrow appear in the air if you’re trying to get somewhere, or Yelp ratings could appear beside restaurants you pass by. This would be done by wearing smart glasses instead of holding a phone.
Other companies like Meta (formally Facebook) picture a Metaverse closer to what we see in movies like Ready Player One, where you’re fully immersed in a virtual world with different areas to explore.
With those two areas in mind, there is significant consensus that the concept of the Metaverse is an embodied internet.
We already have elements of the Metaverse, like how we had elements of the internet decades before it fully commercialized. There are already virtual worlds like VRchat, or Second Life, and there are mixed reality applications on hardware like Hololens. But a fully realized Metaverse that’s widely available, interoperable with different virtual worlds, and used daily by the masses is still science fiction at the moment.
Essentially, it’s a digital life outside of or intertwined with your physical life. A spectrum of digital extended reality.
In the virtual version of the Metaverse you’d have an Avatar that you’d bring with you to different virtual worlds, somewhat similar to how you currently can log into different websites and accounts with the same Google sign-in. This avatar could hold various digital assets you own and information about you as you travel from place to place.
The mixed reality version of the Metaverse would likely be more for daily use, as it has many more practical physical world applications. Then when you’re settled in for the night, you might put on a VR headset and join a virtual concert.
The word Metaverse might not stick. Back in the 90s the internet had many names such as “information superhighway” that aren’t often used today. The Metaverse might simply be called the “internet” in the future as it will have been a gradual evolution of the existing internet. We’ll see in the coming years.