The Metaverse Explained Through 5 English Words

These days everyone is talking about the metaverse. Here are the top five English terms you need to know to join the conversation.

1. Metaverse (n.)

The metaverse refers to the virtual world that exists beyond the physical world we're in. "Meta-" means "beyond" and "-verse" is short for "universe."

In the metaverse, we should be able to do anything we do in real life: meet people, make money, exercise, meditate, and even own land. You can get an idea from the following video, in which a journalist goes to a park, a nightclub, and some meetings — all in the metaverse.

There are actually many different metaverses. For example, big tech companies (e.g. Apple, Google, Microsoft) and some governments are creating their own metaverses.

However, these are all supposed to be connected in the future, so native English speakers usually refer to metaverses like they're one thing: "the metaverse." It's like "the internet," "the world," or "the moon" — words which are referred to with "the" (the definite article).

  • Is the metaverse safe?
  • The metaverse has many applications in education.
  • There are many ways to make money in the metaverse.

2. Avatar (n.)

Inside the metaverse, we appear as "avatars" — animated figures that look and act like us. For example, when we smile or raise our hands, our avatars will too, thanks to cameras, sensors, and other technology. This way, when we meet people over the internet, we feel like we're meeting in person.

Here are some ways you'll hear people use the word "avatar."

  • I uploaded a photo of myself and the app turned it into my avatar.
  • You can customize your avatar by buying it different clothes or giving it different hairstyles.
  • I wonder why avatars in the metaverse don't have legs.

People also use the word "avatar" to refer to their character in a game or their profile picture in an online forum.

3. Virtual Reality (n.)

VR stands for "virtual reality." It refers to technology that allows you to enter and experience a virtual world, such as the metaverse. VR equipment usually consists of a headset and two controllers that you hold in your hands.

  • The headset lets you see and hear the virtual world. It also tracks the movement of your head, shoulders, arms, and other parts of your upper body, so that your avatar can make the same expressions and movements as you.
  • The hand controllers track the movement of your hands and fingers, so you can touch and grab things in the virtual world. They also allow your avatar to make hand gestures and wave at other people.

Here are some sentences that show you how "VR" is often used in.

  • VR headsets are becoming more affordable.
  • Let's play some VR games.
  • As VR technology gets more advanced, the virtual world will feel more and more real.

4. Augmented Reality (n.)

Besides VR, you can also access the metaverse through AR or "augmented reality" technology. "Augment" means to "add to" something, and AR adds virtual things to the real world. It's the type of technology that lets you play Pokemon Go or shows you what a new piece of furniture might look like in your home.

You can use AR directly with a smartphone or a tablet, but with AR glasses, the experience is more 3D. For example, if you can't go to yoga class, you may be able to bring a virtual version of your instructor to your living room with the help of AR glasses!

Here are some sentences that show you how "AR" is often used in.

5. Digital Twin (n.)

Businesses are already using the metaverse to create "digital twins" of things. These are virtual copies of real-world things.

For example, many car companies use digital twins to design new cars. In the past, designing a new car cost a lot more money, since real cars needed to be made to test each new version of the design. Now, they can make digital twins of their designs and test those instead!

Digital twins can also be used to monitor the health of their real-world counterparts. For example, Norway uses digital twin technology to monitor the conditions of its bridges. Once, the digital twin of a bridge even saved the original bridge from a possible collapse!

  • Digital twins make the metaverse a lot more useful for corporations.
  • Digital twins help product designers more quickly find defects in new products.
  • Companies make digital twins of their factories and use them to train new employees.

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