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What is Metaverse - and why are Fortnite, Facebook and Robolox getting in on the action?

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Kelly Ross digital

Rumours began circulating mid-October that Facebook was changing its name and rebranding to reflect its focus on building the metaverse. Yesterday it changed its corporate name to Meta as part of a major rebrand. In April, Epic Games, the company responsible for the hugely popular Fortnite, raised an eye-watering $1 billion from investors to help with its long-term plans for building one, while Roblox has big plans of its own.

What is metaverse?

The concept of the metaverse is quickly becoming a buzzword in technology and business. But what does it mean?

Metaverse is a broad term as it isn’t a tangible concept. It generally refers to shared virtual world environments which people can access via the internet. Essentially, a metaverse is a 3D virtual world that you can explore online using an avatar (a digital version of yourself). The digital spaces are made more lifelike by the use of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).

Is metaverse the future?

The idea of the metaverse is attracting a lot of interest from investors and companies who are keen to be part of the next big thing.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in July that the company will try to transition from being a social media company to a metaverse company in the next five years or so.

Is metaverse all about gaming?

No. Even though there are so many ideas about what the metaverse might be, most visions see social human interaction as the core.

Each company will have different ideas of what that virtual world should look like and the purpose it should serve, but the main idea is to create something truly immersive and fun to explore. Some people use the word metaverse to describe gaming worlds, in which users have a character that can walk around and interact with other players. Whereas Facebook has been experimenting with a VR meetings app called Workplace, and a social space called Horizons, both of which use their virtual avatar systems.

The popular children's game Roblox describes itself as a metaverse company. Epic Games' Fortnite is also considered to be part of the metaverse. In June, Roblox collaborated with the Italian fashion house Gucci to sell a collection of digital-only accessories; a hint of how consumer brands are leaking their way into video game worlds.

What is Facebook’s plan with metaverse?

Facebook recently revealed that it plans to spend at least $10 billion this year on Facebook Reality Labs, its metaverse division tasked with creating AR and VR hardware, software, and content. This comes after CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg announced he has hired thousands of European engineers to work on it.

Facebook's version of a metaverse is going to look different to those which started as a game, or still function as one.

Mark Zuckerberg has described the metaverse as “an embodied internet,” where people can have “different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage.”

How is the music and entertainment industry using metaverse?

As everyday life increasingly moves into digital spaces, companies are taking advantage of consumers’ enthusiasm for virtual concerts to introduce them to the concept of the metaverse. Musicians can do virtual concerts within these platforms. For example, in September millions of people watched the singer Ariana Grande virtually perform in Fortnite,