Welcome to the Metaverse

Facebook has a brand-new corporate name, Meta, which is short for “metaverse.” But what on earth (or any other planet ...) IS a metaverse and why is it being called “the next digital frontier”? 

And most important of all: what does it portend for the future of our digital kids?

Facebook’s re-brand made headlines around the world last week. After nearly two decades of extraordinary growth, and then dominance, of the online world - and mounting controversy around privacy, hate speech and fake news - the social network titan is throwing everything it has in the direction of a digital dream known as the “metaverse.” 

The company’s new name - Meta - is a direct reference to that dream, and its new logo, a slightly squashed infinity symbol, alludes to a no-limits vision for the future of the online world. Not to mention its profitability.

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So what exactly is the metaverse?  Experts define it as a unification of disparate digital worlds, “a composite universe melding online, virtual and augmented worlds that people can seamlessly traverse.” 

Oh, is that all?

But seriously, for those of us who remain grounded in offline reality,  it can be really hard to get a handle on this concept. Not least of the difficulties is that, at this point, the metaverse is only a theoretical construct. It’s an idea - not a reality. Yet entrepreneurs, futurists and venture capitalists are increasingly confident about its emergence as the successor to the age of the mobile internet. 

The term was coined by novelist Neal Stephenson. The concept itself has been attributed to  Ernest Cline, whose novel Ready Player One features a parallel digital world that exists alongside the non-digital, offline one sometimes referred to as RL, for “real life.” 

If your child plays Roblox or Fortnite they are already on the path to the metaverse. These games are not simply places to play - they are digital sandboxes where players can construct their own worlds. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin - whose value isn’t directly tied to anything “real” in the offline world - are also metaverse material. 

Roblox is widely regarded as the closest approximation to a true metaverse in existence today.

If you’ve attended a work meeting using a digital avatar - instead of getting out of your trackies and brushing your hair - you’ve had a taste of life in the metaverse. 

The metaverse is envisioned as a social space with no boundaries (remember that infinity symbol). In the words of Tim Sweeney, the chief executive of Fortnite’s developer, Epic Games, “The metaverse is not an App Store with a catalog of titles.

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“In the metaverse, you and your friends and your appearance and cosmetics can go from place to place and have different experiences while remaining connected to each other socially.”

Roblox is widely regarded as the closest approximation to a true metaverse in existence today. Chief executive David Baszucki says his goal is to reach billions on Roblox - it currently claims 42 million daily users - not just kids. 

“Just as the mail, the telegraph, the telephone, text and video are utilities for collaborative work, we believe Roblox and the metaverse will join these as essential tools for business communication,” he said. “Ultimately, someday we may even shop within Roblox.”

If you have a child on Roblox who loves spending the in-game currency, Robux, consider this: Only a few months back, a digital Gucci bag sold on Roblox for over four thousand actual (US) dollars. And yes - that was more than the price of the physical bag.

Does that do your head in? Welcome to the metaverse.

With just a few clicks from your smartphone, Family Zone lets you manage your child's access to streaming services, games and social media - and so much more. 

Create a home where children thrive, and start your free trial today.

 

 

 

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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, online safety, facebook, roblox, metaverse, meta

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