But what exactly is the metaverse?
According to its etymology, metaverse is the combination of the term “meta” (beyond) and “verse” (derived from “universe”), i.e. it can be defined as the convergence between the physical and digital worlds.
Technology, innovation and the commitment of large platforms are fundamental in this process. In order to be able to enter this parallel reality, an avatar as a digital representation of the physical user and virtual reality (VR) glasses are necessary to obtain a more sensory and realistic experience.
Spain is clear on this concept. A study conducted in 29 countries by Ipsos, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, places it as the European country with the highest awareness of the metaverse – 63% of the population is familiar with the term – eleven points above the world average of 52%.
Among the opportunities it generates, the greatest impact in Spain is expected in the field of virtual education and training (63%), followed by entertainment (61%), video games (57%), business meetings (55%) and health-related resources (54%).
However, the report finds Europe to be the continent with the lowest awareness of the opportunities related to this new ecosystem, which is striking in economic powerhouses such as Germany and France, where only 30% and 28% of the population, respectively, understand the implications that the virtual world can generate.
In order to broaden the understanding of a digital environment that will require, according to expert estimates, between 10 and 15 years to impact our everyday lives, the European Parliament recently published a report on the opportunities, risks and policy implications of the metaverse. A reality in which one in four people on the planet will spend one hour of their time per day in 2026, with a global impact in excess of $1 trillion for that period.
The essential components of the Metaverse
To be precise, the European study lists four basic elements to understand the origin of this digital experience: the decentralised economy, the expansion of digital social life, the rapid evolution of technology and the massive investments of the main players.
The first of these features is key, as the metaverse was born as the first decentralised social network based on blockchain technology, which makes it possible to create new digital values.
Above all these assets, NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) stand out, which, unlike some cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, are not associated with a specific monetary value, but rather constitute a digital asset whose price fluctuates in the metaverse according to the law of supply and demand. Entertainment aside, the monetisation of this immersive space brings with it endless possibilities for industries and users who want to diversify their activities in this reality.
From Facebook to Meta
If there is one guru who can give clues about the technological innovations that will shape the future, it is undoubtedly Mark Zuckerberg. After changing the way we interact with people with the advent of Facebook, the American entrepreneur has been trying for some time to bring this interaction to other aspects of everyday life, such as payment methods or the environment in which we move.
In 2019, Facebook brought about a revolution in the means of payment with the development of “Libra”, a virtual currency that challenged money regulation and led major banks to consider launching a digital currency as an effective alternative to cash.
Despite the fact that this currency will ultimately never reach the market, Zuckerberg has not given up on exploring the technological future with the social network’s entry into the metaverse. Thus, “Facebook” was transformed in 2021 into “Meta“, a statement of intent to invite the public to be part of this 3D journey into the future of the internet.
But the metaverse is a long-term business that needs a structure and technology that is currently under development. Immersed in this task, the company invested more than ten billion dollars in the design of the metaverse in 2021 and plans to hire 10,000 professionals in the European Union to make this mega-project a reality.
Possibilities opened up by the Metaverse
Imagine being the sole owner of an exclusive garment in virtual format; connecting to a meeting where the digital world simulates the real work environment; participating in a video game where you can monetise your achievements; or verifying a product launch in the digital universe before it is transferred to real life?
At the end of the 20th century, activities such as these seemed pure science fiction, but nowadays it seems that they may be becoming part of the way we relate to the world. It is true that, although issues about security, privacy or the very viability of the metaverse to become the successor of the internet are being raised these days, many sectors have become interested in the time and money-saving potential of this platform.
Video games: According to the Spanish Video Games Association (AEVI), the industry had a turnover of €1,795 million in Spain in 2021. The sector that has explored the metaverse experience the most offers players more immersive, interactive and realistic on-screen realities. In addition to the new dimension of entertainment, there is also the concept of play to earn, whereby the user can make a financial return on his or her games, based on the blockchain environment and the use of cryptocurrencies.
Created in 2003 by Linden Lab, Second Life is one of the pioneering virtual games in which the player interacts with his or her avatars in a 3D environment. And in whose virtual shop window you can also trade property and services through a fictitious currency created by the game itself – Linden Dollar – which can later be exchanged for real money.
Events: The Covid-19 health crisis brought the planet to a standstill and forced the introduction of teleworking, faced with the impossibility of sharing the same face-to-face space in the workplace. While physical meetings were moved to the computer screen, the metaverse provides a step further in this experience.
Virtual reality makes it possible to establish professional relationships through virtual environments based on VR technology: congresses, sector fairs, product presentations and training courses can be held at the same time from different parts of the world, thus avoiding travel and eliminating geographical barriers.
Art: The art world is no stranger either to the windows opened by the metaverse. Visitors can discover the most representative paintings and sculptures of the great art galleries without having to leave home thanks to the 3D recreation of these exhibition centres.
For example, the Valencian start-up E-Place Heritage is working on the virtual recovery of more than thirty marble sculptures affected in the fire that damaged the heritage of the National Museum of Brazil in 2018. Works that will be preserved in the digital world after having disappeared physically.
At the same time, the commodification of art has reached the digital world, making it possible for users to obtain works in digital version. Many of them at the price of gold. Digital artist Mike Winkelmann, popularly known as Beeple, managed to sell an NFT – a unique and authentic work – for $69 million at Christie’s auction house.
- Fashion: Always linked to the latest trends, the digital catwalk of the fashion industry is already a showcase in which luxury brands can develop their collections with no limits. On 24 March 2022, the virtual reality platform Decentraland organised Metaverse Fashion Week, the first fully digital Fashion Week that turns 2D product images into 3D experiences without losing the glamour that characterises the sector.
- Performances: Attending a live concert from the comfort of your own home, having a party in your favourite stadium or playing your favourite sport with your idol… as many experiences can happen in the future as those that are already taking place today. American singer Ariana Grande, or rather her avatar, gave a concert in Fortnite that surprised players of the popular video game.
From the dance floor to the football pitch: video game developer Virtway will turn the Camp Nou into a virtual event space, with replicas of the museum, auditorium, meeting rooms and a fairground at playing-field level.
The Metaverse at Telefónica
Swapping the ball for the racquet, Telefónica has developed the metaverse of the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar, so that the viewer can learn first-hand the secrets of this sports centre or emulate the achievements guided by the avatar of the best Spanish tennis player of all time.
A project that, in the words of Telefónica’s digital director, Chema Alonso, demonstrates the company’s “strong commitment” to “continue exploring the technological possibilities offered by Web3 and the metaverse”.
Indeed, the metaverse itself was the platform chosen for the first time by the company to present Nadal’s virtual universe. The journalists who attended were able to choose their 3D avatar, interact with other colleagues from around the world and ask their questions from this parallel universe to reality.
This initiative is in addition to the actions being carried out by the carrier in this direction, with the holding of the first Metaverse Day and the search for new alliances, including collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies to develop extended reality (XR) and with Meta and its Meta Quest glasses, to explore network technologies for the metaverse.
Different strategies with the same aim: to consolidate a position of leadership while awaiting the definitive arrival of the metaverse in our lives.