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In current media and conversation, the metaverse is unavoidable. To put it simply, it is the idea of a world existing entirely on the internet, in which social interactions can occur facilitated by virtual and augmented reality headsets—where instead of speaking to someone through video chat, you would do so using your own avatar.
Video games such as Fortnite and even the beloved Club Penguin boasted those same features of interaction with others through avatars, so what is the difference between those and the sought-after metaverse? After all, we have those interactive games as well as virtual reality technology.
The main difference, and reason it does not exist just yet, is that at its core, the metaverse must be all-encompassing. Think how the internet was originally built together by different academics and companies to have roads connecting different services and roads to each other; the metaverse will work in a similar fashion.
This time around, the big players are not universities, but rather companies, who hope to dominate the metaverse for financial gain and more importantly, to not have to rely on other companies for their space in the metaverse. Following are the top 5 companies who are building the metaverse:
As a leading presence in the social video game industry, Roblox has gained notoriety in its similarity to how many view the future of the metaverse. The Morning Brew claims that Roblox has already tapped into the metaverse, or more importantly, the social aspects of it. Roblox has not developed significantly on virtual reality aspects, but its founder claims there is still a long way to go in the social aspects of the metaverse before the leap into 3D is taken. In a blog post, Roblox set the vision for how they envision communication in the metaverse to work. They hope for it to encapsulate the full ranges of realistic human communication, including shouts, whispers, and facial expressions, but to go above and beyond and also grant the opportunity for this communication to not have to rely on participants being side by side, even in the virtual space.
Roblox has also tapped into a self-contained economy within a virtual space. Nike has already cashed in on this, partnering up to create Nikeland, an immersive world built to mirror Nike’s own headquarters in which fans are able to dress their avatars in Nike clothing and participate in games.
Fastly, a $6.3 billion market value company, focuses on metaverse infrastructure. Their work is primarily focused on fixing the issue of lagging in the metaverse, with an impressive achievement of having a platform that can move 145 terabytes worth of data per second across 28 countries. Lagging could create a massive issue in the creation of the metaverse, as the concept relies upon the connection in the virtual world, and that engaging experience is lost by delay.
Early in April 2021, Epic Games announced that it completed a $1 billion round of funding to support its long term vision of the metaverse. This investment includes a $200 million strategic investment from Sony Group Corporation, as well as Appaloosa, Baillie Gifford, Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, GIC, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Park West, KKR, AllianceBernstein, Altimeter, Franklin Templeton and Luxor Capital.
Known for the hit video game Fortnite, Epic Games has been thinking about the metaverse for years now. The CEO has stated “I think we can build this open version of the metaverse over the next decade on the foundation of open systems, open standards, and companies being willing to work together on the basis of respecting their mutual customer relationships.” The game has incorporated artists such as Travis Scott and Ariana Grande, providing a virtual concert experience.
Unity is a developer known for its software to design video games. Earlier this year, the company partnered with Insomniac Entertainment, the EDM arm of Live Nation, to create a metaverse world for fans to watch live music performances virtually. Julie Shumaker, Unity’s senior VP of revenue for the company’s ‘Create’ segment, stated in a TechFirst podcast episode that Unity wants to “assure democratization of content access” and “to power the creators to create and help them make money out of the gate.” To build upon its metaverse applications, Unity has reportedly been in talks recently to spin off its China unit in efforts to see its software used more in China in the metaverse.
The metaverse world is all about having immersive experiences in the digital world that once seemed impossible. OnCyber is providing 3D experiences allowing for artists and collectors to show their NFTs in fully immersive experiences. The website offers a variety of virtual galleries for visitors to enter, free of charge, in which they are able to use their mouse and keyboard to navigate through the space. This space is democratizing art from both the artist and the viewer’s experience, showcasing a metaverse of the future, in which there are no barriers to accessing culture and art.
This is a display of a smaller company showcasing the core elements of the metaverse – immersion and connectivity- without the advanced technology of the tech giants. For those concerned with the consolidation of the tech world, the metaverse could drive more opportunities of collaborative necessity.
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ABOUT THE WRITER
Maria is a Tech Innovation Fellow at Identity Review from Columbia University, where she has a background in industrial and financial engineering. She spends her time studying the intersections between finance and technology and integrity and ethics within the space.
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