If you think of the current state of the Internet, it comes to mind as a two-dimensional (2D) digital space. The Metaverse, however, should then be thought of as a three-dimensional (3D) digital world existing within the Internet.
Imagine a Facebook where you get to put on a pair of virtual reality (VR) glasses and instead of simply pressing the “add friend” button, you get to meet and talk to strangers who interest you through your avatar in a virtual reality world before agreeing to be online friends.
You could even host a party in your virtual home and invite friends over. It is definitely an interesting development and many businesses in the West are pouring a lot of money and resources into its development as early as now.
While the COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of suffering to the world, it also sped up technology by several years in an effort to avert its full impact in our lives. As the pandemic subsides, the world continues to improve on the technologies that were developed during its peak. Even though virtual reality was pioneered in the 1980s by a fellow called Jaron Lanier (Smithsonian Magazine, 2013), it has never been as relevant as now. The rebranding of the Facebook company to Meta in 2021 amplified the conversation around the metaverse and VR technology. Existing video games such as Animal Crossing and Minecraft represent how the social media Metaverse will be like.
Simply put, the Metaverse is a world where your digital self can reside. Your digital self is called an avatar and would be able to move around and interact with other avatars as you would in the real world. The application of this technology will not be limited to social media but will spread to many businesses and industries as well, if not all. For example, real estate developers will be able to easily design houses with the help of their clients in real time and show them how their end product will look like simply with the click of a button.
The usual Teams meetings will be held in virtual reality office rooms and the attendees will be able to move around and show the usual human emotions towards each other. From the look of things, most of the investment money is going towards social media companies. A lot of companies are already buying virtual land in different Metaverse worlds and the reasons for this are obvious.
For you to be considered important in society or to have a certain status attached to you, you have to wear certain types of clothes, own a beautiful house and drive a car of a certain brand and/or model. Similarly, in the Metaverse, there will be shops like the ones that we see in real life that will be selling certain clothing brands to our avatars. An example of this is seen in popular videogames in the Battle Royale genre of First Person Shooting games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, Apex Legends and Fortnite where players use real money to buy in-game tokens to customise their characters’ clothes and appearance.
For you to be considered important in the Metaverse, just as in real life, you would have to own a beautiful house and drive a nice car which will also be sold in the Metaverse. The currency in these worlds would be Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) which you have to purchase with real money. An NFT is a digital asset that represents real world objects like art and music. Businesses are buying virtual land and setting up their stores in these worlds because they are going to sell their goods to our avatars and make good money out of it.
But unlike the real world, these worlds will not have borders. Through their avatars, millions of people will be able to navigate through these worlds and buy from these shops. In Botswana, one of the biggest limitations to attracting foreign direct investment is our low population. The Metaverse presents local companies with an opportunity to tap into a worldwide market if they adopt it as early as now and buy land in these digital worlds. The Metaverse presents an opportunity to take Botswana to the world. Our artists could take their paintings, music and other artistic creations and sell them to the world and make good money out of them.