A Metaverse is an online world in which there are no specific goals or objectives.
It is a virtual world in which you create an avatar and then explore the world as that avatar. You are able to chat with others in the world and interact with there avatars.
Typically an inhabitant can create buildings, clothes, habitats or any other items they can imagine. A metaverse usually has some type of economy in which goods are either bartered or paid for with virtual monies. Many times those virtual monies are tied to an exchange rate based on “real” currency (i.e. the US Dollar or the Euro.)
This is in contrast with an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Game) which typically has some sort of a mission or goal. For example in World of WarCraft one of the quests is to battle Ragnoros—a type of fire god. Also metaverses do not typically have non-player characters (characters that are computer generated). In a metaverse all the characters are tied directly to an actual person.
According to wikipedia, a metaverse can be defined as follows:
The Metaverse, a phrase coined by Neal Stephenson's science fiction novel Snow Crash (1992) constitutes Stephenson's vision of how a virtual reality-based Internet might evolve in the near future.
In Snow Crash, the Metaverse can be accessed through public-access terminals in reality. However, using them carries a social stigma among Metaverse denizens, in part because of the low visual quality of the rendered avatar; the Metaverse representations of a user in virtual-reality. Entering the Metaverse through a private terminal, making it possible to customize your avatar, is possible from almost any location using portable devices. In the Metaverse, status is a function of two things: access to restricted environments (such as the Black Sun, an exclusive Metaverse club) and technical acumen (often demonstrated by the sophistication of one's avatar). The Metaverse is frequented mainly by the upper and middle classes.
[Can anyone say…digital divide?]
The best known actualized example of a metaverse is probably Second Life but, it is by no means the only example. Other metaverses include:
- Disney’s Toontown (a quasi-metaverse for kids 8-12)
- Habbo (a teen oriented cartoonish environment)
- Active Worlds (Europe)
- Music World 3D (a must see if you are musician)
So, while Second Life gets and the press and attention, metaverses are slowly invading the net unnoticed in other areas. These will soon become standards for web browsing and web communities.
These communities will then spawn new educational models that will influence how training and education is conducted in the near and distant future. It will be possible to have very real experiences (learning and otherwise) in these online universes.
The question is, how prepared are our educational structures to teach within these metaverses? Will our traditional modules of instruction work? Do we bring everyone together in a virtual classroom and lecture to them? Or, more realistically, do we create new and different methods of helping the metaverse inhabitants learn? If this is the case, and I believe it is, then what educational models work and which do not?
For more information on metaverses and where they might be heading check out the Metaverse Roadmap project.
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