Mike Snider and Brett Molina, USA TODAY
November 10, 2021·5 min read
The metaverse has been a hot topic of conversation recently, with Facebook and Microsoft both staking claims. But what is the metaverse? And when will it get here?
Author Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term "metaverse" in his 1992 science fiction novel "Snow Crash," in which he envisioned lifelike avatars who met in realistic 3D buildings and other virtual reality environments.
Since then, various developments have made mileposts on the way toward a real metaverse, an online virtual world which incorporates augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D holographic avatars, video and other means of communication. As the metaverse expands, it will offer a hyper-real alternative world for you to coexist in.
Inklings of the metaverse already exist in online game universes such as Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox. And the companies behind those games have ambitions to be part of the evolution of the metaverse.
►Are we ready? From Facebook to Fortnite, the metaverse is calling
►Call of Duty: Vanguard: Game provides bloody, exciting video game fun
What is the metaverse?
It's a combination of multiple elements of technology, including virtual reality, augmented reality and video where users "live" within a digital universe. Supporters of the metaverse envision its users working, playing and staying connected with friends through everything from concerts and conferences to virtual trips around to the world.
"Right now, we are on the cusp of the next internet," said Matthew Ball, managing partner of venture capital firm Epyllion Industries, in a February 2021 essay on his website.
When can we expect to see it?
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the newly named Meta (formerly Facebook), estimates it could take five to 10 years before the key features of the metaverse become mainstream. But aspects of the metaverse currently exist. Ultra-fast broadband speeds, virtual reality headsets and persistent always-on online worlds are already up and running, even though they may not be accessible to all.