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The Role Of Blockchain In The Metaverse

Interest in virtual and augmented reality technologies makes an upswing as quarantine measures persist and businesses increasingly go online.  The metaverse has become the collective image of these technologies and is described as a shared virtual world where people can play, communicate and do business. So, how does the metaverse work and what blockchain has to do with it? 

The metaverse is a new black in the tech industry

Metaverse has been mentioned in dozens of fantasy novels and featured in movies and TV-series. The word itself is a compound of the words “meta” (a transition to something) and “verse” (abbreviated from the “universe”), that is, a new universe that goes beyond the conventional physical world. Metaverse is now understood as a common virtual space where people can interact through their avatars.

In the last few years, metaverse technology has caught the eye of  Big Tech, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and hundreds of other smaller companies. In July 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced that his social media platform would become a metaverse in five years. 

So, why are these giants so keen to launch it? Zuckerberg believes that the metaverse provides an organic development of the company within the existing concept, but there are also specific reasons that feed into the hype:

  • Increased engagement — virtual reality is supposed to increase the time users spend online and consequently spur content consumption
  • The new content market — the metaverse offers huge opportunities for creating and selling virtual content, far greater than those of Instagram or Tik Tok
  • A new branch of the economy — according to Zuckerberg, Metaverse must have its own comprehensive economic system
  • A new level of communication — metaverse will allow people thousands of kilometers away from each other to communicate as if they were sitting in the same room

But the accelerated pace of metaverse development is largely due to the coronavirus crisis, as it has forced thousands of businesses to relocate staff to remote workplaces. Maintaining social connections and working standards requires not just a new channel of communication, but a new space for people to interact in real-time. And this is where the metaverse comes in.  

How does the metaverse work?

In fact, there is no concept of metaverse that could help to understand what the virtual world would look like. Some fragmented examples of metaverse are presented in Infinite Office, Facebook Horizon, Blocks by Google and Snapchat.

But so far, they are only prototypes that use VR and AR technologies. These projects can  transform into metaverse only after they have been combined in a common virtual or AR space.

Nevertheless, there are general principles of metaverse functioning based on a classic “hard-soft” scheme, where:

  • Hardware — devices that allow a person to move and interact in virtual worlds. Those include VR glasses and modern controllers. 
  • Software — digital environment, represented as VR or AR (or a combined) space in which a person can work, play and consume metaverse-adapted content.

For example, in Infinite Office, Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality glasses represent hardware, for which software is developed — virtual and AR working windows, toolbars, and other elements needed to work in the metaverse. The actual Infinite Office is the Windows desktop, but with a full immersive experience and ability to manage all elements with more flexibility and efficiency. 

Place of blockchain and crypto in the metaverse

So, how cryptocurrency and blockchain can help Google or Facebook develop metaverse? There is every reason to believe that these technologies will be the pillars on which the Metaverse will stand:

  • Blockchain is a secure and decentralized database that allows thousands of nodes to interact in a common, dynamically updated network. Metaverses are thousands of tera- and exabyte data that need to be stored, transmitted and synchronized between nodes, so that all participants could see the same virtual world. 
  • Smart contracts — using a smart contract, it’s possible to regulate economic, legal, and even social relationships between metaverse users. The smart contract will allow for the establishment of basic virtual world rules, such as “if avatar A says the words 1,2, and 3 to avatar B, then it will be banned for 24 hours”.
  • Tokens   are protected data carriers that can transmit virtual content (as it’s done through NFT), personal information, authorization keys, and other encrypted data.
  • Сryptocurrency is the money of metaverse economics. Cryptocurrencies have already been adapted for blockchain and are perceived as the counterpart of traditional money, so in the virtual world, they can perform the same functions more efficiently.

And it’s not just a theory. Examples of the crossing 0f blockchain and metaverse can already be seen in projects such as SandBox (a platform for creating game worlds),  Mark. Space., VR space for business and commerce, and its analog — Viarium. 

Centralized online services carry too many risks to be used to build complex virtual worlds: hacking, viruses, and dependence on individual decisions. To sustain and operate efficiently,  metaverse should be built on a stronger and safer foundation – blockchain and related technologies. 

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