How the metaverse, a nebulous concept full of promise, is coveted by digital giants

The metaverse, or “metaverse” in English, is regularly talked about but it is difficult to define it. Immersive virtual world, video game, augmented reality… It’s a bit of all that at once.


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A woman wearing augmented reality glasses.  Illustrative image.  (WESTEND61 / WESTEND61)

If you’ve played The Sims, Minecraft or Fortnite, then you’ve been in touch with the metaverse. In these video games, you can customize a virtual double in your image, explore a huge 3D world and interact with other characters who sometimes exist in real life. This is perhaps the most concrete facet of the metaverse yet. But according to several experts, this logic is set to extend beyond video games, into our daily lives.

“Until now we accessed the Internet behind our screen, in two dimensions. We imagine the future of the Internet in 3D”analysis Morgane Soulier, consultant, specialist in digital issues and co-author of Metaverse (Grasset). “That is to say that the objects will come to us, they will also be in 3D, we will be able to interact with them. We enter the screen, or the screen comes to us.”

Google, a pioneer more than ten years ago with its connected glasses, had flopped, but the term metaverse became known very recently, in 2021, when Facebook decided to name its parent company Meta, as if to better name itself. appropriate the concept, but he did not invent it. “Horizon Worlds”, this is the name of its metaverse, allows you to explore a 3D world using a virtual reality headset. There are plenty of activities there: chatting with strangers, playing sports, watching a film in a cinema… Everything is done so that we are immersed in a universe which occupies absolutely our entire field of vision.

Several visions of the metaverse

Other companies, however, like Apple, are considering another type of metaverse, much more hybrid. “What Apple is going to do is not a priori to isolate people in a virtual world. We are really on the idea of ​​seeing the real world with applications that are projected in the middle of the vision”estimates Nicolas Lellouche, journalist specializing in new technologies at Numerama. “Apple will certainly serve as a locomotive for the industry. And there are replies by Google, Samsung and large Chinese groups which are expected throughout 2024.”

As we can see, each heavyweight in the sector wants to leave its mark, its vision of the metaverse, at a time when the use of this technology is still extremely rare, hence the difficulty of finding a definition of the concept that has a consensus.

The word “meta” in Greek means “beyond”, therefore beyond the universe, the world in which we live and for the record the term is not brand new: it appears for the first time in 1992 in Snow Crash (The Virtual Samurai in French version), a science fiction novel written by the American Neal Stephenson. And it was only 32 years later, in 2024, that the term entered the Larousse and Le Robert dictionaries.

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