The term metaverse is derived from the prefix “meta” (beyond) and the suffix “verse” (from the English universe) and thus basically describes a universe beyond the physical world . However, apart from the word’s meaning, there is no clear research and practice consensus on how a metaverse should be defined and conceptualised. Based on a comprehensive analysis of different conceptualisations, Yoo et al. (2023)  developed an inclusive definition and proposed to consider a metaverse as a collaborative online universe of 3D environments in which (1) different technologies are used to create immersive experiences to (2) make the perception of the environment as real as possible and (3) enable sharing unique digital assets as well as (4) interaction between digital personae of users . The new online universes can be used in various cases beyond gaming applications
Important cornerstones of a metaverse include cryptocurrencies, the digital assets already mentioned (for example, non-fungible tokens) and technologies such as blockchain, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technologies are also used apart from metaverses but are interlinked in metaverses to enable a wide range of functionalities
Even though the term metaverse has only become popular in recent years, the idea of a virtual world is not new. The concept of a three-dimensional representation within the metaverse has a notable history dating back to the year 1838. At that time, the scientist Sir Charles Wheatstone introduced the concept of binocular vision . In binocular vision, a single 3D image is created by combining one image per eye. This concept is still used today in virtual reality glasses. The next milestone was set by Morton Heilig in 1956 when he developed the first VR machine to simulate riding a motorbike by combining 3D video, audio, scents and a vibrating seat . In 1960, Heilig patented the first head-mounted display with 3D visuals and stereo sound. In the 1970s, a team of scientists at MIT developed the Aspen Movie Map, which allowed users to take a computer-generated tour of Aspen, Colorado . The Aspen Movie Map was the first technology to enable people to virtually experience another place through VR. Neal Stephenson first used the English term metaverse in his 1982 novel Snow Crash. The novel’s metaverse is a virtual place where characters flee to escape a bleak, totalitarian reality . In sports television 1998, the live image was overlaid with artificially generated graphic elements for the first time . With the hype around the first-generation metaverse, such as Second Life, Fortnite, Roblox, and VRChat, beginning in the 2000s, many companies ascribed great importance to virtual reality. They began developing hardware and software for the metaverse. Although this initial wave died down during the 2010s, the metaverse experienced a boost with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that he would drive the development of digital universes through extensive investment
Application and examples
A key component of the metaverse is the full immersion of users in the virtual world using technologies such as AR or VR
Criticism and problems
Metaverse represents new technology-enabled universes of 3D environments that create both excitement and uncertainty about potential risks. The metaverse is still primarily a vague concept to describe a new trend largely determined by market interests and heavy investments by IT companies such as Meta, Epic Games and Microsoft . There are opportunities for companies and consumers, especially in areas where the virtualisation of processes can offer added value. However, criticism is voiced regarding the added value of metaverse: Critical voices describe it as a mere marketing tool since the actual applicability is not fully developed due to technical hurdles . In addition, there is a lack of user acceptance, which manifests in the absence of participation. Accordingly, comprehensive marketability is not yet given [16,17]. How the market around metaverse will develop and whether the high investments can be turned into profits remains to be seen in the future.
In addition to the entrepreneurial challenges, social concerns are raised. New technologies often generate fears for the future, as described in the dystopian world in the novel “Snow Crash”, where large corporations and crime rule the metaverse. In contrast, the real world is characterised by great social inequality between a few rich and many poor people. This social inequality can be reinforced by creating a comprehensive metaverse on the part of a company if it prevails in the market and establishes a market standard. To prevent a monopoly position and its possible abuse, the EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, calls for enforcing healthy competition in the metaverse
Besides data protection risks, there are concerns that bullying, racism, fraud and harassment may spread in the metaverse. Therefore, politics call for the protection of vulnerable groups to restrain threats such as invasion of privacy and harassment by other users as much as possible
 Dionisio, J./ Burns, W./ Gilbert, R. (2013). 3D virtual worlds and the metaverse: Current status and future possibilities. In: ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR) 45 (3), 1–38.
 Yoo, K. et al. (2023). The merchants of meta: A research agenda to understand the future of retailing in the metaverse. In: Journal of Retailing.
 Golf-Papez, M. et al. (2022). Embracing falsity through the metaverse: The case of synthetic customer experiences. In: Business Horizons 65 (6), 739–749.
 Wheatstone, C. (1838). XVIII. Contributions to the physiology of vision. – Part the first. On some remarkable and hitherto unobserved phenomena of binocular vision. In: Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London 128, 371–394.
 Steed, A. (1993). A survey of virtual reality literature. University of London. Queen Mary and Westfield College. Department of Computer Science, London.
 Lippman, A. (1980). Movie-maps: An application of the optical videodisc to computer graphics. In: ACM SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics 14 (3), 32–42.
 Nalbant, K. G./Uyanik, Ş. (2021). Computer vision in the metaverse. In: Journal of Metaverse 1 (1), 9–12.
 Attaran, M./Morfin-Manibo, R. (2018). Your future reality will be digital. In: ISE Magazine (50) 7, 26–31.
 Dwivedi, Y. K. et al. (2022). Metaverse beyond the hype: Multidisciplinary perspectives on emerging challenges, opportunities, and agenda for research, practice and policy. In: International Journal of Information Management 66, 102542.
 Jaynes, C. et al. (2003). The Metaverse: a networked collection of inexpensive, self-configuring, immersive environments. In: Proceedings of the workshop on Virtual environments 2003, 115–124.