What is Metaverse?


The metaverse has become a hot topic in recent years. Metaverse is a coined word that combines “meta,” meaning “transcendence,” and “verse,” meaning “universe. Many people may have an image of a virtual space on the Internet that can be entered using a VR device, but is that all there is to a metaverse? In this article, we will explain the metaverse.

What is Metaverse

The metaverse has yet to be properly defined. According to “Metaverse Evolution: A New World of Liberation and Creation Budding in the Wilderness of Virtual Reality” (Gijutsu Hyoronsha, 2022), written by Nemu Virtual Bishojo, says

An online virtual space that meets the seven requirements of “spatiality,” “self-identity,” “massively simultaneous connectivity,” “creativity,” “economy,” “accessibility,” and “immersion”.

This is not the only definition of the metaverse, but only one of those that have been proposed as a definition. It is important to keep in mind that the metaverse is in the midst of social and economic growth, and its definition is in flux.

Diversity of platforms called metaverse

What exactly is the Metaverse, whose definition has varied so widely? Here are some of the platforms that are said to be part of the Metaverse.

・Second Life
・Horizon Worlds
・The Sandbox

Animal Crossing

These and many other metaverse platforms exist. You may be surprised to see a list of familiar game names, but nowadays the term “metaverse” is generally used to refer to “virtual reality in general, where many unspecified people can communicate with each other”. There is also a suggestion that games like “Animal Crossing” should be treated as a metaverse. In addition, although the term “metaverse” tends to make people think that it is a concept that has only emerged in the last few years, Second Life, which was used as an example as one of the platforms, began service in 2003, which means that the platform itself has been around for about 20 years, although it was not called a metaverse at the time.

Why is the Metaverse attracting attention?

One factor is that technology has made it relatively easy to enter VR spaces to do things, but a major turning point was the former Facebook Inc.’s name change to Meta. Meta announced a trillion yen investment in development to realize the Metaverse, in response to predictions of deteriorating business performance. The company’s Oculus line of VR devices will also be integrated with the Meta brand. This event started a trend of many companies allocating large budgets to Metaverse development. In Japan, GREE, Inc. has announced that it will invest 10 billion yen over the next few years, mainly through its subsidiary REALITY, Inc. Other than that, it is currently attracting attention as a tool to compensate for the loss of real-world communication capabilities due to the Corona disaster, and as a technology that could be the recipient of Web 3.0.

Metaverse and Web 3.0

Blockchain is a technology that is at the top of the Web 3.0 list. This technology is also used for virtual currency and NFT, which have become hot topics in recent years. The idea of creating an economic zone using NFT and virtual currency in the metaverse has led some to believe that Web 3.0 is essential to the metaverse, but this is not necessarily the case. The use of blockchain technology on platforms like VRChat is prohibited by the terms of the agreement. On the other hand, Decentraland and The Sandbox allow the use of virtual currency and commercial activities. It is important to recognize that different platforms have different attitudes toward the Web 3.0 marketplace. It is also true that some have criticized the idea of Web 3.0 as a prerequisite for defining a metaverse, and this is something to keep in mind when understanding the relationship between the metaverse and Web 3.0.

Examples of Metaverse Applications

It is the largest event in the Metaverse, organized by HIKKY Inc. The event has been certified as a Guinness World Record, and more than 1 million people from all over the world have visited the event. The event is used not only for corporate branding and product recognition but also for the sale of 3D items.

Virtual Shibuya
Virtual Shibuya, realized through a partnership between au and Shibuya Ward, is an attempt to transmit new culture by recreating the streets of Shibuya on the cluster and creating another Shibuya in a virtual space. This space can also be accessed through a smartphone, and the ease of going to a virtual city in the metaverse with a single application is very appealing. As of December 2021, 73 companies have participated in this concept, and the Halloween festival included a virtual live performance by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, with approximately 400,000 people attending the entire event.

③BOOTH’s VRChat partnership
BOOTH, a marketplace powered by Pixiv Inc., has partnered with VRChat to promote sales of 3D avatars, clothing, and accessories by displaying icons on items that can be used within VRChat.

Virtual Real Estate Investment
The metaverse platform Decentraland has a very high-profile real estate investment in metaverse platform Decentraland, where commercial activities are conducted using a virtual currency called MANA. Buying and selling are done with virtual currency and ownership is guaranteed by NFTs. This is an example of the use of Web 3.0 as described in the previous chapter.

The Future of the Metaverse

So the metaverse takes many forms today, and what it can do varies from platform to platform. At the moment, it is very difficult to define the term “metaverse”.

As the field matures, various platforms and services will emerge and disappear before the definition of the metaverse becomes clear. There is no right answer at this point, as marketing and business models evolve with technological advances. It is also undeniable that the legal framework for the metaverse in Japan has yet to catch up and is fraught with risk. On the other hand, many companies are investing in research and development of the metaverse, and new mechanisms are being developed every day. This is an area that is expected to grow in the future, and there is no doubt that it is a technology that should be closely monitored from various perspectives.