What Is the Metaverse?

The word “Metaverse” is a mix of the word “meta” which means beyond, and “universe”. The term is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe. 

The Metaverse is a fully functional digital realm that exists beyond our own physical reality. The future culmination and integration of fragmented virtual worlds will converge digitally – enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual or augmented spaces. Essentially, the metaverse is the future sum total of all virtual and augmented realities and the interconnections between those spaces and our physical world via the Internet of Things.

The term was first imagined by Neal Stephenson 30 years ago in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash, where it was used to describe a VR successor to the internet. It offers a glimpse of what many technology companies predict is the Internet’s next big thing. 

Here are some examples of the Metaverse (or something akin to it) in popular culture:

  • Fortnite 

The game, created by Epic Games, is considered by some a metaverse, or rather, a view of what the metaverse may manifest as in the future.

The game is played over the internet by millions of people all over the world. Players battle each other battle royale style in a 3D-animated, highly colorful cartoon world, where they cumulatively spend millions of dollars yearly on the game as they purchase custom clothing for their characters, otherwise known as “skins”. 

Last year’s Fortnite Travis Scott concert allowed over 12 million players across the world to attend the same concert in real-time, though they were limited to interacting with up to only 49 other users in any given “room” of the experience. This successful event sparked a trend in “Fortnite” and, thus, the Metaverse. Music events like these introduce the world of the Metaverse to non-gamers, opening the door of possibility to many more virtual concerts in the near future. Concerts in real life have various constraints like budgets, the chance of accidents, space limitations, etc. In comparison, when it comes to a virtual world, there are none. If you have a crazy idea, you can get it implemented. 


  • Roblox 

Roblox is a digital gaming platform and game creation software made by the Roblox Corporation. It gives users the ability to easily create, program, and share custom video games with other platform users. Like Fortnite, it allows users to create custom digital avatars to represent themselves in a colorful digital world where they can play and socialize with millions of people all over the globe. In many ways, Roblox shows a more dynamic vision of what the metaverse will be in the future. 

If you want to share the same experience with people on the other side of the planet, Roblox gives you the ability to re-create the real-life game in their virtual world and play with people from anywhere on Earth. Roblox shows the infinite possibilities that a full-on metaverse may offer to users in the future.

How will the Metaverse affect our lives in the near future? 


The NFT (Non-Fungible Token) craze has heightened interest in blockchain-based* online environments. The best known are Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space, and The Sandbox, where virtual real estate prices are hitting new highs.

*Blockchain, the record-keeping technology behind the Bitcoin network. 

Decentraland has seen more than $50 million in total sales, including land, avatars, usernames and wearables like virtual outfits. A patch of land measuring 41,216 virtual square metres sold for $572,000 on April 11, which the platform said was a record. Another Decentraland plot sold for $283,567 on March 21, according to NonFungible.com, while Somnium Space said an estate on its platform fetched more than $500,000 on March 16. “The idea of blockchain in the metaverse is to build a new kind of digital asset, to create based on ownership and governance,” said Arthur Madrid, CEO, and co-founder of The Sandbox. 

Additionally, marketing strategies will have to make a shift from online ad buys to existing in a shared, virtual economy. Companies will need to do market research on their new customers in the metaverse. How people act and their preferences in the metaverse could be totally different from how they behave and what they shop for in real life. 


Online shopping is a given in the metaverse – it’s more than digitally trying on clothes before making a purchase in real life. Companies will have to design virtual brands for different people at different stages of wealth. 

Fashion is a big part of creating a character or being represented by an avatar. Virtual fashion houses and designers have a chance to enter a whole new market of digital-first clothing. The metaverse is about identifying potential new customers in ways that haven’t been possible before.

Brands such as Gucci, Nike, Disney, Snap, and Facebook are in the midst of creating virtual communities, content, assets, fashion, art, experiences, and worlds. For example, Gucci recently sold a digital Gucci Dionysus Bag on Roblox during its virtual Gucci Garden experience for $4,115, more than the physical bag is worth. 

In the future, users may not even have to build these avatars themselves. Instead, a physical retail store might have volumetric cameras that can capture the customer and create a very realistic avatar of them. Customers could then use these avatars, which will have their exact measurements, to try on clothes and other items without leaving their homes.

Of course, the ultimate goal for brands will be to build their own metaverses. Earlier this year, the Japanese beauty company SK-II created a virtual city, SK-II CITY, modeled on Tokyo, that allows people to explore the digital environment and enter branded experiences.



Facebook’s Metaverse 

More recently, Mark Zuckerberg laid out his vision to transform Facebook from a social media network into a “metaverse company” in the next five years. He believes the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, and creating this product group is the next step in Facebook’s journey. He describes it as “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content – you are in it.” 

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality, spending $2 billion on acquiring Oculus, which develops its VR products and continues spending billions each year in R&D. You can read more about the interview here

Another great example of how the metaverse is starting to be apparent in entertainment is John Legend’s recent Bigger Love virtual concert that used the Wave XR’s technology to broadcast a virtual John Legend and raise funds for charity. The virtual concert was seen by 500,000 live attendees. 


How about the Metaverse in the Learning Industry?

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the education sector – approximately 1.6 billion students from 192 countries, or 91 percent of the world’s student population, have experienced educational disruptions.

This disruption led to online education hastily emerging as an important new platform. Despite the need to move online, approximately 29 percent of young people worldwide, about 364 million individuals, are still not online. This is due to a variety of reasons e.g. lack of access to technology. 

Developing online tools that can facilitate scientific experiments, engineering prototyping, and other hands-on activities remains a challenge. However, we can begin to address these issues using technologies on hand such as virtual reality, augmented reality, image recognition, and eye-tracking technologies. The barriers to access to these new experiences are both complex and pervasive, yet there are ways we can pull together to disrupt these barriers at a global level in the hope of fostering inclusive growth.

An example is The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. In response to the pandemic, they started to offer virtual science classes for grounded elementary and middle school students. Students can improve learning skills by exploring the interactive virtual world by having hands-on experiences using their own avatars through virtual reality. The virtual science exhibition hall, “Gather Town” will have about 2,100 students participating in various science activities with their avatars. 

Education has rich traditional practices of classrooms, curriculum structures, grading systems, certifications, etc, and that doesn’t always translate well in virtual spaces. This was easily evidenced last year when the classroom format was moved to Zoom, and teachers quickly scrambled to redefine what a classroom may look like on a digital display. 

With that said, the learning industry right now is in the exploration stage of what a metaverse-inspired education model may look like in the near future. Till date, no one has yet to build a successful metaverse learning model that works in the mainstream.  However, it’ll be exciting to see the changes that will arise as a result of rapidly advancing hardware and software.



The Metaverse as a concept was almost inevitable, given the rise of social games and virtual spaces. Cultural changes and technological upgrades will give users the ability to move increasingly freely and create more content on the web. It is anticipated that the Metaverse will occur naturally as people spend more time online and people increasingly tie more of their identities to their digital lives. Just like how there was no formal change marking the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, the change to a Metaverse world will be progressive. 

Are we ready for this whole new digital world? How will this affect learning in the future? We will be keenly watching this space and would love to hear your thoughts, send them through to hello@smartup.io