The metaverse was the result of long decades of reflection, whether by science fiction authors, engineers or even simple geeks. A look back at the genesis of a technology that gives birth to virtual worlds in which everyone can immerse themselves and live a parallel life.
«was one of the in 2021 on the Collins English Dictionary. And nowadays, the word designates a using ultra-advanced technologies . It is possible to do a thousand things there: meet other people, participate in competitions and concerts, go shopping, attend conferences… A real world parallel to ours which has begun to be deployed on platforms as . All eyes are on the immersive metaverse being prepared and which will require putting on a helmet or goggles and similar projects from companies such as ou Epic Games.
If the term quickly spread in the language, the question can be asked: who is at the origin of the metaverse? As we will see, the answer is not unique. The development of this concept was the result of reflections spanning almost a century.
The first evocation of such a fictional world dates back to 1935 and appears in the book Pygmalion’s Spectacles (Pygmalion’s glasses) by author Stanley Weinbaum, a short story published in Wonder Stories, a magazine from the golden age of science fiction. After having put on special glasses that give him access to vision, sound and also, and touch, the character finds himself immersed in another reality. Weinbaum was a highly imaginative author who, sadly, died very young, at the age of 33.
In 1956, filmmaker Morton Heilig imagined the first virtual reality machine, the Sensorama. A prototype was ready in 1962. Perched on a vibrating chair, facing a large screen equipped with loudspeakers, the viewer was supposed toof a biker driving around New York. Heilig has even made sure to incorporate scents and a wind tunnel that simulates the effects of . Unfortunately, no investor wanted to support this project.
Aspen Movie Map
In 1978, an ambitious project was carried out in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, the most advanced university inof technological innovation. Under the supervision of Nicholas Negroponte, Andy Lippman and Bob Mohl combined images of the city of Aspen engraved on a LaserDisc with a computer program. They thus created a sort of ancestor of Maps: the team filmed the streets of the city from a vehicle equipped with a camera. With Aspen Movie Map, users can virtually move around the city of Aspen, Colorado.
« Snow Crash », de Neal Stephenson
It was in 1992 that the term “metaverse” appeared for the first time, in the novel Snow Crash (The Virtual Samurai) by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash is a dystopia that takes place in the XXIe century. In order to escape the reality of a totalitarian and sinister world, the citizens take refuge in the “metaverse”, a virtual world on a very large scale. To do this, they must put on. Within this parallel, they appear as a whose appearance they choose. They live in their own house and can connect with other people and share experiences.
Matsushita Electric Works
From the beginning of the 90s, Virtual Reality technology began to make headlines. After putting on a helmet, you get the illusion of bathing in a photorealistic world. The personality who is then commonly associated with this technology is called Jaron Lanier. This hippie-looking character created the VPL company, which launched the first “head-mounted display” and also the “dataglove”, a kind of glove that allows you to grasp objects in simulated space.
Virtual Reality is identified by three concepts:
- immersion ;
- interaction ;
One ofheadlights is the sale of custom kitchens. Carried out on the initiative of Matsushita Electric Works, it leads a potential buyer to visualize his future kitchen and to move around in it as if he were there: he can turn on the tap, open a take out the plates… Thousands of kitchens are sold thanks to this application created by the Dutch group Espeq in 1993.
The flop of virtual reality video games
In the mid-1990s, Virtual Reality became a “trendy” subject. The two video game giants, Sega andare therefore positioning themselves on this potential market. In reality, the general public will quickly become disillusioned. In 1995, considers it appropriate to market a surprising accessory, the Virtual Boy. Once put on, this helmet makes characters and decorations appear in “wire of on a red background. This failure will leave a bitter taste to those who had the awkwardness to acquire a copy. If it must be that, Virtual Reality, let’s forget!
« When we were talking about Virtual Reality, people were talking about the Virtual BoyPalmer Luckey, the creator of the. It was awful. The technology was not ready. With the best will in the world, it was then impossible to make a satisfactory device ».
Released in the year 2000, the game The Sims de Maxis obtains a reception which surprises even its editor: it then becomes the greatest success of the video game. However, the salient point is that The Sims simulates social life.
An essential milestone was set in 2003 with the appearance of Second Life. This application is the work of Linden Lab, an edition created by entrepreneur Philip Rosedale. Just like in a massively multiplayer online game, everyone can move around as they please, meet other people, complete quests together… However, in Second Life, the “game” aspect is in the minority. The essential activity is socializing: parties, cocktails, professional meetings… Second Life even has its own currency. It is indeed the closest experience to a metaverse as it is envisaged today.
However, at the beginning of the millennium, Second Life must face problems of, which hinders its large-scale adoption – the game still has a good million users today who thrive on it for several hours a day. In 2008, Sony will launch PlayStation Home, a similar environment organized around the but the audience of this console will not answer the call.
Launched in 2004,will prove, if need be, that Internet users are fond of being able to find their friends on a .
The Oculus Rift headset
During 2009, while exploring the bowels of, the young geek Palmer Luckey acquires the feeling that the hour of Virtual Reality has finally come. The rise of telephony has encouraged the development of high-performance miniaturized technologies.
Palmer Luckey embarks on the design of a helmet which quickly becomes the subject of enormous buzz among gamers. L’offers a 90° field of view with a higher frame rate than cinema.
Towards the end of 2013,gets a prototype of the latest version of the helmet and spring paralyzed from the experience! In mid-March 2014, Zuckerberg acquired Oculus for two billion dollars. Over the years, he will consider marrying Virtual Reality made possible with the Oculus Rift helmet and the interaction that a social network such as Facebook allows.
In 2013, Sony andannounce that they are creating their own . An essential element of the metaverse is now the subject of enormous R&D.
Ready Player One
In 2011, Ernestpublished the book Ready Player One which depicts a world in perdition, affected by famine and climatic damage. To escape this reality, citizens don helmets and gloves (which simulate touch) and go to Oasis, a virtual environment. The book is a huge success to the point where Steven Spielberg decides to adapt it to the cinema. The movie is coming out in 2018. This is a major step because when trying to conceptualize what a metaverse is, a lot of people will now think of the movie. .
Facebook becomes Meta and announces its Metavers
Finally, the crucial step was the announcement by Mark Zuckerberg, at the end of July 2021, that his company was working on a very large-scale metaverse. On October 28, he even announced that the Facebook company was. On this occasion, Zuckerberg presented his Metavers as the “successor to the mobile ».
What happened in the meantime? The cryptocurrency boom, and, have hinted at unexpected possibilities, including owning artwork and other virtual objects. The containment has led a lot of people to practice virtual meetings with Zoom or And then, in April 2020, in Epic Games’ Fortnite game, we got a taste of what the metaverse could be like when Travis Scott and Marshmello performed a concert that drew nearly 30 million viewers.
The bricks of the metaverse are therefore now well defined: an ultra-realistic immersion in a parallel world in which we can maintain very diverse social relationships.