The term “metaverse” was coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science-fiction novel “Snow Crash.” It described a virtual reality space where users could interact with each other and digital objects in a shared space. The concept of the metaverse had been discussed in science fiction before, but Stephenson’s novel popularized the term and helped establish the idea in the public consciousness.
However, the concept of the metaverse has deeper roots. One of the earliest examples of a metaverse-like concept can be found in the 1932 novel “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. In the novel, people live in a highly stratified society where they are genetically engineered and conditioned to be content with their assigned roles. The society is dominated by technology, including a virtual reality system called the “feelies” that allows people to experience emotions and sensations they would never have in real life.
In the 1970s and 1980s, researchers at institutions like MIT and Xerox PARC were exploring the possibilities of networked computing and virtual reality. These early experiments laid the foundation for the technologies that would make the metaverse possible.
Another classic example of a metaverse is “The Matrix” film franchise, which began in 1999. In the films, humans live in a simulated reality created by sentient machines to keep them docile while their bodies are used as energy sources. The main character, Neo, discovers the truth about the world and becomes part of a resistance movement fighting against the “evil” machines.
One of the key pioneers of the genre was Jaron Lanier, who is credited with coining the term “virtual reality.” In the 1980s, Lanier founded VPL Research, a company that developed some of the earliest VR technology. He envisioned virtual reality as a medium for artistic expression and social interaction.
Another early contributor to the development of the metaverse was Mark Pesce, who co-created the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) in the mid-1990s. VRML was a way to create 3D virtual environments on the web, and it laid the groundwork for the development of today’s 3D graphics technologies.
In the 1982 film “Tron,” the protagonist is sucked into a computer and forced to compete in a virtual gladiatorial contest. The film’s depiction of a digital world where computer programs have physical bodies and engage in combat was groundbreaking at the time.
William Gibson’s 1984 novel “Neuromancer” also explored the concept of a virtual reality, which he called “cyberspace.” In the novel, hackers and mercenaries navigate a virtual landscape to steal corporate secrets.
These early examples of the metaverse concept may have been limited by the technology of their time, but they paved the way for the immersive virtual worlds we have today. It’s fascinating to see how these ideas have evolved over time and continue to inspire the development of new technologies and experiences.
The origins of the actual metaverse can also be traced back to online gaming and virtual worlds. In the early 2000s, Second Life, an online virtual world launched by Linden Labs, became a phenomenon. It allowed users to create and inhabit a virtual world, interact with other users, and even conduct commerce.
Today, the metaverse is a rapidly evolving concept with implications for entertainment, social interaction, and even work. As technology continues to advance, the line between the physical and virtual worlds may become increasingly blurred. It remains to be seen what the metaverse will look like in the years to come, but its origins can be traced back to the imagination and ingenuity of pioneers who dared to dream of a virtual world beyond our own.