Science

Métavers: the fantasy of a parallel virtual world – Sciences et Avenir

This article is taken from Sciences et Avenir – La Recherche n ° 898, December 2021.

The term caught on in the space of one summer, during an interview with Mark Zuckerberg on tech news site The Verge. On July 22, the CEO and founder of Facebook (now Meta) explained that for the social network, the next step was to build a “metaverse”, a digital space of a new kind: in the form of avatars, users will not be alone. Spectators of a dive, but active participants. They could dance there or attend concerts, like doing their fitness exercises … Second shocking statement in mid-October: Facebook announced the creation of 10,000 jobs in Europe to develop this environment. At the same time, the company promised to create a $ 50 million fund over two years to help other players build a “responsible” metaverse and fund research organizations.

Mark Zuckerberg thinks big: “We can imagine the metaverse as an embodied version of the Internet, where you don’t just consult the content: you are in it,” he sums up. The essential characteristic of the metaverse is that it is a space called persistent. That is, an environment that continues to evolve even when you disconnect. Every time the user returns, they take things along the way, discover new items, new virtual activities, etc. The deepest dive involves wearing a head-mounted display (in this case, the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift VR headset), but Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t make that a prerequisite. According to him, the metaverse can be accessed using a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer screen.

An aggregation of several universes

However, the social network would only be part of the metaverse. In reality, this would be an aggregation of several virtual universes (hence the “meta” prefix) that exist and become interoperable. And he is not the only one who shares this vision. Other companies have announced similar initiatives. Starting with video game studio Epic Games, whose CEO, Tim Sweeney, advocates an “open meta-verse” that is not controlled by any particular company. We could play Fortnite (published by Epic Games) in multiplayer mode before watching a series on Netflix. An even more ambitious vision, the development of which has already made it possible to raise funds of… one billion dollars (840 million euros).

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