The Metaverse Vs Virtual Reality
Updated: Nov 23
Ever since Facebook’s rebranding to Meta in July 2021, Metaverse has been the talk of the town. Intending to move the virtual reality (VR) industry forward long-term, Meta has introduced technologies which brought them huge profits. Branded as a Meta product, the Oculus Quest 2 is a VR headset that allows users to step into the gaming world, and access 360-degree video content and applications covering all genres. Leading the market as the top accessible VR headset currently available, the device has brought in an estimated 617 million USD in revenue for Facebook as of the first quarter of 2021, since its global launch in October 2020 (Statista).
Despite causing a huge hoo-ha in the information technology (IT) sector, the concept of the Metaverse is still unclear. Where many, especially the non-tech savvy group would be confused and deem the terms ‘Metaverse’ and ‘VR’ to be similar. People often assume Metaverse to be a headset that creates simulated experiences or just a virtual platform that can be explored with VR headsets. These demonstrate the public’s lack of awareness of technology trends like the Metaverse and VR.
Moving forward, we will be introducing the concept of the Metaverse and VR, and deciphering their key differences.
Introduction to Metaverse
Despite its recent rise in popularity, the term “Metaverse'' originated in 1992 from the science fiction novel, Snow Crash. Neil Stevenson, a sci-fi writer coined the term to express a 3D virtual space, where characters go on an escape from dreary totalitarian reality. Ever since gaining popularity after the rebranding of Facebook, many companies from different industries have been diving into the Metaverse, which is expected to become a lucrative market worth $993 billion globally by 2023 (Bloomberg). With high potential, the Metaverse has got many anticipating to partake in its interactive experiences.
Metaverse is often associated with an immersive virtual world, but how is immersive defined? In the real world, physical experience engages the 5 human senses to be ‘immersive’. Although the Metaverse is only expected to be much more refined and truly fully immersive by 2040 based on Pew Research Center. The current development of Metaverse involves equipment such as haptic gloves or suits to imitate physical touch. An example is China Baidu’s first Metaverse product, Xi Rang or ‘Land of Hope’. Despite being in its early stage of development, the Metaverse space was able to hold a conference of 100,000 participants. Simply, with the use of smartphones, computers or VR glasses, users will be able to create avatars and simultaneously interact with 100,000 users.
What is Virtual Reality?
As the name implies, VR uses computer technology to create a simulated environment. Users are immersed in a 3D visual or sensory environment that simulates reality through the use of interactive devices like specially designed goggles, headsets, gloves or body suits. Thus far, VR has been mainly focused on the aspects of sights and sounds through the adoption of headsets, headphones and surround sound systems. Touching on both the points of perception and interaction can necessitate deeper experiences and interactions with VR environments.
Although this technology seems futuristic, the term “Virtual Reality” was first coined in the mid-1980s by Jaron Lanier, who began to develop the required gadgets such as goggles and gloves to experience the simulated world. While VR is the necessary technology that provides the foundation base for the operation of the Metaverse, in reality, there are certain restrictions with VR. With VR, users will be able to create nuanced virtual experiences through simulations and virtual excursions. On the other hand, the potential for the Metaverse is bottomless, where Metaverse is more than just VR. Metaverse is a world for social experiences which acts as a 3D immersive virtual extension of our physical reality. It is boundless with no barriers between the physical and virtual worlds.
Metaverse vs Virtual Reality
On the technology aspect, the difference between the VR and Metaverse is substantial. Taking a look at VR, it can only create simulated 3D virtual experiences cultivated with simulations and virtual adventures. On the other spectrum, the Metaverse is limitless. Not only does it draw its strength from VR technologies, but other technologies also drive the functionalities of the Metaverse. For instance, AR, decentralisation, blockchain, crypto and connectivity technologies. Essentially, the Metaverse is a developing virtual world that catalyses the integration of upcoming technologies to offer enhanced functionality.
For instance, in a retail application, AR shopping has been adopted to bring products directly to the user’s home. Sephora was one of the first companies to adopt this technology. Using cosmetic software, face recognition is employed to allow consumers to test cosmetics from home. With the use of Meta’s VR headsets as mentioned above, consumers can conduct cosmetics demonstrations, share their favourite products with friends or even try out the latest product launches without having to leave the comforts of their homes.
In terms of experiences, VR lets you experience the virtual environment through the adoption of a headset or gadget, like the PlayStation VR2. The next-generation VR system PlayStation claims to take VR gaming to a whole new level. In reality, VR does not offer a fully immersive experience. In an example of a game setting with friends, the playing field would be narrowed to a specific amount of people, such as the ones playing the game.
The metaverse on the other hand provides a virtual universe similar to the real world through the combination of AR and VR technologies, where users like you can encircle through the virtual world effortlessly as a digital avatar. Metaverse avatars are the embodiment of Metaverse users, enabling them to experience an assortment of adventures The catch is that the digital avatars are entirely customisable. Users are given a choice of their avatar’s height, weight, skin tone and even clothing. This is where Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) fall in place. Fashion brands such as Gucci, Balenciaga, Prada, Nike and Adidas have released NFT collectables, for users to purchase unique apparel for their digital avatars. The renowned brands, Prada and Adidas have come together to introduce their 3rd collaboration, the ‘adidas for Prada Re-Nylon collection’. Where they have invited their collective audiences across the fashion, design and crypto industries to contribute unique photographs to the open-Metaverse NFT project.
Fundamentally, the fact that players can visit, experience, and connect with other users and other areas in the metaverse is another indication of how the metaverse differs from VR in terms of the quality of experiences.
Potential of Ownership
Essentially when using a VR system, the experiences are based on the brand’s system that the VR operates in, where brands possess the system’s materials. In essence, for VR users, the only property they have owned is the VR equipment they have purchased.
Whereas Metaverse, enables users to own their very own virtual goods and experiences. From digital assets to NFTs, whatever is created will be fully possessed by the creator. Giving them full ownership of rights. Buying virtual lands is even possible in the Metaverse. Owning virtual real estate means you own a piece of unique land in a world in the Metaverse. You will be able to utilise the land and create income-generating properties like constructing leasable buildings or even interactive venues with admission fees. In addition, on blockchain-run Metaverse, each parcel of the metaverse real estate is wholly unique and secured by an NFT which guarantees your ownership and allows you to resell the property to another owner.
The comparison of the Metaverse and VR proves that the Metaverse is simply more than just VR. Essentially, VR is the basic automation and pillar technology for the advancement of the Metaverse. Though there is no clear definition of the Metaverse, its capacity to unleash the next wave of digital impact is clear. Especially with its rapid advancement in the ever-competitive industry, the Metaverse offers endless possibilities for various industries
Interested to know more? Start discovering more about the Metaverse and the business opportunities it offers at SMU Academy x TechFin’s 1 Day Course on the topic of “Diving into the Metaverse” happening on the 10th of February 2023. Taught by Jinnie Lee, a blockchain and Web3 specialist who is now heading as the Director of Global Partnerships at Klaytn Foundation. 90% of Skillsfuture subsidies will be eligible for interested individuals. Sign up here now!