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The Metaverse is a virtual world, described in Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional space that uses the metaphor of the real world. The word metaverse is a portmanteau of the words "meta" and "universe".


[edit] The environment of the Metaverse

The Metaverse appears to its users as an urban environment, developed along a single hundred-meter-wide road, the Street, that runs the entire 65536 km (216 km) circumference of a featureless, black, perfectly spherical planet. The virtual real estate is owned by the Global Multimedia Protocol Group, a fictional part of the real Association for Computing Machinery, and is available to be bought and buildings developed thereupon.

Users of the Metaverse gain access to it through personal terminals that project a high-quality virtual reality display onto goggles worn by the user, or from low-quality public terminals in booths (with the penalty of presenting a grainy black and white appearance). Stephenson also describes a sub-culture of people choosing to remain continuously connected to the Metaverse by wearing portable terminals, goggles and other equipment; they are given the soubriquet "gargoyles" due to their grotesque appearance. The users of the Metaverse experience it from a first person perspective.

Within the Metaverse, individual users appear as avatars of any form, with the sole restriction of height, "to prevent people from walking around a mile high". Transport within the Metaverse is limited to analogs of reality - by foot, or vehicle, such as the monorail that runs the entire length of the Street, stopping at 256 Express Ports, located evenly at 256 km intervals, and Local Ports, one kilometer apart.

[edit] Appearance in fiction

Although similar concepts have appeared under a variety of names in the cyberpunk genre of fiction as far back as 1981 (in the novella True Names), in the acknowledgments section following the text of Snow Crash, Stephenson writes:

The words "avatar" (in the sense it is used here) and "Metaverse" are my invention, which I came up with when I decided that existing words (such as "virtual reality") were simply too awkward to use.

[edit] Real-life implementations

Various software implementations, with differing degrees of similarity to the original text, have been made of Metaverse-like environments.

  • In 1993, Steve Jackson Games launched a MOO (a text-based, low-bandwidth virtual reality system) called The Metaverse as part of their BBS, Illuminati Online.
  • In the mid-1990s, SenseMedia created a MOO called SnowMOO, also based on Snow Crash.
  • Active Worlds, which was based entirely on Snow Crash, popularized the project of creating the Metaverse in 1997 by distributing virtual-reality worlds capable of implementing at least the concept of the Metaverse.
  • In 1998, the online three-dimensional virtual world There was created, wherein users appear as avatars and, in addition to socializing, can purchase objects and services using the virtual currency therebucks, which are purchasable with real world money.
  • In 2003, the online three-dimensional virtual world Second Life was launched by Linden Lab. The stated goal of the project is to create a user-defined world like the Metaverse in which people can interact, play, do business (using the virtual currency Linden Dollars, also purchasable with real money) and otherwise communicate.[1] It is usually used from a third-person perspective (although first-person "mouselook" is available), and its current technology (like the others listed here) does not yet allow the photo-realistic environment described in the Metaverse of the book.[2]
  • After Linden Labs opened software, OpenSimulator and the closely related Open Life Grid have appeared, developing derivatives of the Second Life software.
  • The Open Source Metaverse Project was begun in 2004 but ceased development a few years later in the light of the success of Second Life.
  • Solipsis, begun in 2005, is a free open source system aiming to provide the infrastructure for a Metaverse-like public virtual territory.
  • The Croquet Project, begun in 2005, is an open source software development environment for "creating and deploying deeply collaborative multi-user online applications on multiple operating systems and devices",[3] aiming to be "more extensible than the proprietary technologies behind collaborative worlds such as Second Life".[4] It has been used to build virtual worlds such as the Arts Metaverse'.
  • In 2007, some companies launched a few social networks completely devoted to metaverse members. The most relevants are Koinup, Myrl, AvatarsUnited. The main issues challenged by these projects are the DataPortability of the Avatar across many virtual worlds and the possibility of managing multiple accounts on a single dashboard.
  • Google unrolled a Metaverse-like platform called Google Lively through the Google Labs July 8 2008.[5] It was intended that new features would be added over time, but on November 19, 2008, it was announced that the Lively service would be discontinued at the end of December.
  • Metaverse new comer ExitReality has taken a open standards and open platform approach to virtual worlds, building on the existing web infrastructure to create a open metaverse system.
  • Various massively multiplayer online games bear a resemblance to elements of the Metaverse, although typically focusing on specific gaming purposes rather than socializing.

[edit] References

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