"But it's the way my kids use the internet compared to how I use it where things get interesting."
So I’m sitting in a campground in France on our family holiday in our self-built camper van. When we were building the van, our 3 kids had one big requirement: power. They wanted to be able to charge their devices.
Their second family vacation requirement has to do with the place we park. It has to be a place where we -as parents- have 4G reception, which leads to WiFi hotspots and the all-important thing called the internet.
Then comes things like the swimming pool/lake/river, the campsite, shade, the quality of the bread, and the vibe the place gives. But that stuff is all secondary.
But it’s the way they use the internet compared to how I use it where things get interesting. I use my internet to post on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. That’s part of my identity. And these are the platforms I use.
My kids use their internet to play Minecraft, Roblox, and Animal Crossing. That’s part of their identity. And the difference is it’s not platforms which they are active in. It’s vast near boundaryless digital environments. It’s … worlds.
- Minecraft has 140 million monthly active users
- Roblox has 200 million monthly active users
- Animal Crossing sold 31 million copies becoming the second-best-selling switch title of all time.
These are just three of the many online worlds that exist.
Another big online world is Fortnite which has 350 million users (85 million monthly active users). And you might think “oh that’s an online shooter game”, but Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert drew 27.7M unique views. That’s the capacity of Wembley Stadium 307 times over. THREE HUNDRED AND SEVEN TIMES WEMBLEY! And Ariana Grande is up to perform in the online world next.
Now to zoom in a little more on the difference between my platforms and their worlds, it’s good to look at the form for each platform/world. My platforms are 2D. Their worlds are 3D, but experienced on 2D devices. Now imagine this shifting to 3D. If you have ever experienced the latest version of virtual reality goggles it’s just incredible how immersive they are. 3D worlds are simply not meant to be experienced in 2D. 3D worlds are meant to be experienced in a 3D environment.
I believe that for full version of a metaverse to exist you need 3 things:
- Demand; clearly there as seen in the amount of users these worlds have.
- Software; already there, but experienced on 2D devices.
- Hardware; augmented reality and virtual reality hardware.
Now mind you a true full metaverse would be able to support millions of real time users. If we look at software and protocols needed we are far from it. But we are already able to let 27.7M users have a shared experience.
I see the biggest barrier right now being the hardware part. The hardware part is tricky, but we are making advancements at a rapid pace. What you need is game PC performance on devices that can be worn. Qualcomm’s 888 chip and Apple’s M1 and mobile chips are already there.
You then need connectivity. 5G does not just bring very rapid speeds to the table. The main game changer is it’s latency goal. Latency is the time delay in the network and if you want to fool your brain into thinking something is real, this needs to be milliseconds. The goal of 5G is to achieve latencies of around 1 ms, making it more than capable of supporting real time environments at the scale needed for a full metaverse.
Fast internet connections also enable moving a big part of the game performance needs to the cloud, something Google Stadia and GeForce Now have already enabled.
With hardware being a big puzzle, it’s easy to understand why Google wanted Google glasses or why Facebook bought Oculus and made a Facebook account mandatory if you want to use their latest generation of devices. They also bought several virtual reality game studios. Microsoft is working on HoloLens and Playstation is working on Playstation VR.
And in case you missed it, Amazon has Echo Frames, Facebook and Ray-ban are launching their first generation smart glasses, and Apple is soon launching Apple Glasses.
The amount of possibilities you as a user would have in this metaverse would be nearly limitless. So it isn’t hard to imagine my kids, this next generation, not just meeting, working, or gaming … but rather living in this metaverse.
This full metaverse will not just end the internet as we know it, it will end the world as we know it.
This metaverse would mean: not using Google to search, but rather virtual assistants, no banks for payment, no keyboard for input, no phone for communication, no plane or car to travel. What virtual house would they live in, or create? And what kind of real house would they actually want to live in. What will it mean for markets, economies and even countries?
To get a glimpse of what might be, look at the latest video from Discord.
Now don’t expect this change to a full metaverse to occur overnight. We always overestimate what will happen in a year and underestimate what happens in 10. But do keep an eye on this and imagine what it could be like. I’m excited and scared, but mostly excited. My kids? They don’t care. They don’t see this as change, but rather the expansion of how their mateverse and life already exist. They asked if they could download an extra book on their ereader and some new episodes of their Dungeons and Dragons podcasts. And they asked if I wanted to stop typing so we could play together in the swimming pool, which I am going to do right now. There is still a place for the real universe.
Thanks to Rutger and Ashley for their help.