This article talks about maps and the virtual worlds or Metaverse. It describes how to use maps (of the real world) for virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR). It explains the concept of Metaverse, virtual land, real estate, and digital scarcity (NFT). It explains the economics of AR and VR, which is based mostly on blockchain and cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and native tokens of individual projects.
What is a virtual world?
Virtual worlds such as Sandbox or Decentraland and AR are a rapidly expanding sector that has gained enormous publicity during 2020 and 2021, mostly thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which raised the question of driving remote social interaction and location non-dependent cooperation, or leisure activities in a lockdown environment.
Virtual worlds are currently associated mostly with gaming, the idea of a well-equipped avatar exploring the uncharted territory is probably the first thing that comes to one's mind. However, gaming is not the only use case for virtual worlds popular with the general public. Business or personal meetings are taken to a whole new level in the virtual world, so good by to cumbersome and lagging Zoom / Skype / Teams meetings, where just one talks and the others listen (or sleep... :) ).
Virtual worlds are simply becoming a place where people want or start wanting to spend more and more time. And it does not matter whether it is for business or leisure. AR, VR, and other forms of enhanced reality simply (sometimes) offer benefits that you cannot experience in the real world.
Where did it all come from?
But is it really such a fresh and new phenomenon? Obviously not, people have been dreaming about being a part of a virtual world or a PC game for a long time. The movie Tron (1982) is a great example, followed by a remake Tron: Legacy (2010) or an even more popular franchise Ready Player One (2018). But if we were to look for the most popular depiction of virtual worlds in pop culture, I guess that the clear winner would be The Matrix created by The Wachowskis and shown to the world in 1999. But I guess that Matrix is not the kind of virtual world where you would like to spend your days, or is it?
What does it look and feel like today?
Today's virtual worlds look more like Minecraft or the Sims where the open-world allows the player to do almost anything they want. This concept is one of the cornerstones for all Metaverse platforms.
Now it is worth noting that the idea of open-world PC games is quite old, but Metaverse brings it to a whole new level by allowing the players to come together and meet virtually outside their (locally installed and isolated) instances of the game.
The second improvement that Metaverse brings is the VR-ready experience, meaning that the user is (sooner or later) expected to use wearables for interaction with the virtual world, such as goggles, vests, or walking platforms. This brings the user experience to a whole new level by providing more than just visual and audio stimuli, such as haptics or the possibility of running.
The third and probably the biggest innovation that the Metaverse brings is the possibility to co-create, shape, and influence the whole virtual world as an individual. The player is allowed to rightfully own a piece of digital land (or many pieces), a real estate property, or a physical immovable entity in the digital world. This is possible thanks to the concept of digital ownership provided by NFT and Blockchain.
In today's market (Q1 2022), there are dozens of platforms and projects that provide some form of a "Metaverse-experience". In other words, you have plenty of virtual worlds to choose from when thinking about where to escape from the real world. However, there is just a handful of projects with complex and highly developed virtual universes. Currently, the biggest metaverse projects are Axie Infinity (AXS), Decentraland (MANA), TEHTA (THETA), The Sandbox (SAND), MyNeighborAlice (ALICS).
Maps and the virtual land
Similar to the real world, the metaverse also needs maps for navigation and for the "organization" of space. And as in the real world, the land in the Metaverse is also a limited resource that can be a subject of trade. Trading land is realized mostly via NFTs and the ETH Blockchain that ensure the uniqueness and digital ownership for the individual item/piece of land.
Above is the snippet from The Sandbox Land map that is currently offering dozens of pieces of virtual land and real estate. This virtual world is completely unreal and fictional and its geography has nothing to do with World geography, therefore the real maps are not of much use in this space.
Unlike The Sandbox or Roblox, there are other metaverse projects that use real-world maps to get inspired or to create exact 1:1 copies in the virtual worlds. One of those projects is The Spheroid Universe, a Russian metaverse that has already sold thousands of pieces of virtual land in their Spheroid Universe Marketplace.
Despite the fact that virtual worlds are almost all fictional and do not reflect the geography of the real world, the real maps can be an integral part of the project development and they can serve as a platform for trading virtual real estate and land in the metaverse. MapTiler Cloud provides such maps with a super easy-to-use interface, near-endless options for customization, and competitive pricing. So if you are a metaverse / VR developer, look no more and contact MapTiler to get amazing maps for your metaverse projects today!
Virtual Worlds on Wikipedia
Cryptocurrency on Wikipedia
Spheroid Universe - Marketplace
Sandbox - Marketplace
Sandbox - The map of the Sandbox virtual world
Opensea - NFT Marketplace