Google, Meta, Apple and Microsoft are just a few of the world’s largest tech companies that are primed in the race for a market-leading Metaverse product. 

While these companies are beginning to lay the foundation for virtual and augmented reality, each advancement brings the world closer to a functional Metaverse in which users can converse, explore and engage with one another in a digital, 3D simulated world.

But what actually is the Metaverse? How long have the world’s top minds been speculating on the prospect of a virtual, immersive world? And why has the Vatican taken an interest? 

Kicking off the second day of SBC Summit Barcelona to try and answer questions like these was Matthew Ball, entrepreneur, Investor and Author of national bestseller ‘The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionise Everything’, presenting his keynote speech simply titled ‘The Metaverse’. 

“My goal today is to talk about a topic that many of you have probably found yourselves frustrated with, and with good reason” he started. “It doesn’t matter whether you make food or video games, whether you make physical toys or petrol, odds are you have heard these companies talking about this term.” 

“i’ll be the first to tell you the term metaverse is lost”

Matthew Ball, Author of ‘The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything’

An abundance of company names and logos then popped up behind Ball, listing Google, Microsoft and Facebook, with a recognisable coat of arms also appearing on the screen. 

“Those of you less familiar with that pair of keys, that’s the Vatican City,” he explained. “Yes, even the Vatican. Their chief philosopher started talking about the role of the Metaverse for the clergy, for the Vatican, for belief.”

After capturing the audience’s attention with those religious links, Ball presented a timeline of Metaverse mentions across previous decades, from 1999’s ‘The Matrix’ to Stanley Weinbaum’s 1935 science fiction novel ‘Pygmalion’s Spectacles’, a vague concept of the Metaverse has been around for much longer than expected. 

To explain the concept himself, Ball stated: “When we’re talking about the Metaverse, we are talking about a distinction, which is to understand it not as an encapsulation of information.

“Not about an individual experience, not about me broadcasting a presentation, but about the production of a sheer virtual plane using digital technology to sustain a living experience, and that is where we end up with a 3D element.”

“We will never know when the metaverse has arrived”

Matthew Ball, Author of ‘The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything’

This led him to describe what concepts are often considered to be the Metaverse, stating that multi-layered video games, virtual reality headsets and the internet, in general, do not represent a Metaverse, but are rather closely associated. “I’ll be the first to tell you the term Metaverse is lost,” he added. 

Continuing, he said: “Simplifying the Metaverse and these other ideas does a disservice to each, because while they may often overlap, in many instances they do not.” In fact, Ball stated that the “Metaverse is not yet here”. 

“The crypto rush helped to reinforce the idea that change was imminent. We will never know when the Metaverse has arrived, we will never have a date for it. What is important is the trends.” 

And trends were what Ball moved swiftly onto, looking at the real-world impact of current 3D simulation technology, listing virtual cityscapes for architectural purposes, Tesla producing real-time simulations of US cities and John Hopkins University performing the first ever live patient surgery using a mixed reality device in 2020. 

On that last point, Ball commented that over 470 surgeries have been performed using said technology, proving that 3D simulation has transcended video games with these real use cases.

After presenting several evolutions in simulation technology, machine learning and electromyography, Ball began to explain the concept’s impact on the igaming industry. 

He suggested that companies hoping to launch a virtual casino within the Metaverse must take inspiration from the video game industry, by “investing in the same tools and systems and talent that a video game company will.”

Before finishing off, Ball explained his own attitude towards the Metaverse, stating: “I’m also not going to be someone who says you shouldn’t go outside, that we shouldn’t spend more time socialising with our loved ones.

“I’ll never believe that an immersive reality basketball or football match will be better than going to a stadium. But one of the things that I try to remind people when they’re sceptical of an existence spent inside a video game is that we have to be realistic about current systems.”

Listing a number of statistics behind the average US citizens’ amount of free time in a day, Ball continued: “You get down to a reality where the average person in the US has seven hours of free time a day. Five and a half of that is spent watching television. I’m not going to encourage the Metaverse because we already spend too much time watching television, but we should be cognizant of the fact that as a species. 

“The primary thing that we do in the West is watch television, by ourselves, not moving. The substitution of that time to a more social, interactive medium seems positive to me.”