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The sudden explosion of interest in the metaverse at the end of last year was music to the ears of the 3D industry. And a massive opportunity for 3D creators and designers. But the impact, of course, goes much further.  

Companies looking to the future are already betting big on the metaverse. Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, announced a $1 billion funding round to fuel metaverse growth opportunities. Which, incredibly, is nothing compared to Facebook’s $10 billion metaverse initiative following its rebrand to Meta, or Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Activision Blizzard for a whopping $68.7 billion. 

These figures go beyond hype. This is the start of something historic. And we suspect you have a couple of questions. So let’s begin. 

What is the metaverse, exactly?

That’s a good question because there isn’t a straightforward answer. According to various dictionaries, each explains it slightly differently. What they have in common is the idea of an immersive virtual environment where users will be able to interact, but there are still questions that remain unanswered.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the metaverse is defined as: 

[Computing] a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.

The Collins Dictionary offers three definitions:

1. A proposed version of the internet that incorporates three-dimensional virtual environments

2. A three-dimensional virtual world, especially in an online role-playing game

3. The universe as portrayed in a given work of fiction

And Merriam-Webster gives the following explanation:

In its current meaning, metaverse generally refers to the concept of a highly immersive virtual world where people gather to socialize, play, and work. Awareness of this term surged on October 29, 2021, when Facebook rebranded itself “Meta” and released a video in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, “I believe the metaverse is the next chapter for the internet.”

Does the metaverse already exist?

The short answer is, yes. But it’s important to distinguish between what is considered a rudimentary metaverse today, and what it could be sometime in the future. 

Today, games like Second Life and Fortnite are considered to be early metaverses, even if they don’t require VR gear. Or Decentraland, where users can purchase virtual land to create their own world. Other metaverse-like examples include Accenture’s virtual campus for employees, a space to gather and help onboard new hires. As well as Microsft’s new “Mesh for Teams”, allowing you to substitute your webcam with an avatar. 

But each falls short of the metaverse, the idea of a single, interconnected, fully immersive metaverse, controlled by no one and accessible to all. Where instead of using a computer or smartphone, you would enter as an avatar of yourself to meet people, work, play games, and shop. Using some kind of headset to enter this new virtual world that seamlessly connects all digital environments. 

Why now?

For the first time ever, the technology is almost there. The metaverse is made possible not through a single innovation but through a combination of multiple technologies, including 5G, 3D, AR, VR, blockchain, cryptocurrency, cloud computing, and even social commerce. So what’s missing? Advancements in VR addressing experience and quality, as well as ownership and privacy issues, are some of the remaining pieces to solve.  

Without a doubt, the global health pandemic is another major why-now factor. Not only did it accelerate the shift towards online shopping by as much as five years, but it also exposed a lot of issues with how we were living. For example, commuting to an office for roles that could be done remotely, or flying to attend meetings that are just as effective over Zoom. Even conducting expensive product photoshoots instead of using 3D visualizations. 

Essentially, Covid lockdowns got almost everyone introduced to doing more things online, using QR codes, and even experimenting with new tech like AR. 

The recent advancements in AR are also fueling the recent excitement for VR. Considered a stepping stone or gateway technology for wider VR adoption, AR is already shaping consumer expectations and habits. And gaming has proved to be one of the best ways for getting people accustomed to new tech. Like what Pokemon did for AR, it’s no surprise that gaming companies are leading the charge. 

And that’s why we’re seeing a rush of companies - everyone from Facebook to Epic Games, Unity, Roblox, and Nvidia - battling to become the first - and not the last. If we turn back to 2007 for a moment, you might remember Microsoft’s CEO at the time Steve Ballmer was quoted as saying “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” It’s another case of no one wants to be that guy. 

Is the metaverse the same thing as Web3? 

There’s a common misconception that the metaverse is synonymous with Web3, but that’s not exactly true. The development of Web3 - a completely decentralized version of the web - could be helpful for the metaverse, particularly in solving the control and privacy issues - but they’re not the same thing. 

Web3 is all about readdressing and decentralizing ownership and control over the internet and could be a building block for a more open metaverse. And that’s particularly important given that the key investors in the metaverse include the not-so-private Meta and other Big Tech players. Their involvement has already sparked concern that these companies will dominate and prevent the metaverse from becoming a more open ecosystem.

Why we’re so excited about it! 

The world has never been more ready to embrace a virtual world, and that’s incredibly exciting for everyone involved. For consumers, it’s a whole new world to explore. For retailers and eCommerce, it represents new revenue streams and opportunities. And for 3D companies like CGTrader and our enterprise engine ARsenal, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.   

CGTrader and ARsenal are supporting some of the biggest metaverse players right now, including official support for NVIDIA’s Omniverse. Leveraging its unique advantage of producing USD-based digital assets at scale, CGTrader will equip the NVIDIA Omniverse with a customized catalog of real-time AR and VR assets.

Backed by the world’s largest 3D designer community, CGTrader serves over 500,000 global customers including more than 150 Fortune 500 enterprises. ARsenal, the scalable 3D production engine for enterprise, is uniquely positioned to support any business in achieving its 3D goals. To find out more, get in touch or sign up for a free account to get started today.

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The Metaverse: What It Is, and Why It Matters Now

Lara Oliveira is a Content Manager at ARsenal. With over a decade of experience writing across corporates and startups, she is now focused on helping companies innovate with 3D and AR technology. Reach out to her at pr@cgtrader.com to talk about possible content collaborations!

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