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 [1]. 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) [2] 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 [2]. The new online universes can be used in various cases beyond gaming applications [3].

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 [4].


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 [5]. 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 [6]. 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 [7]. 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 [8]. In sports television 1998, the live image was overlaid with artificially generated graphic elements for the first time [9]. 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 [10]. Since then, companies have increasingly begun to examine the potential of these platforms and their integrability into existing business models [11].

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 [12]. These technologies stimulate visual perceptions and, if necessary, the sense of touch of the users and thus create a real experience in the metaverse [11]. Dwivedi et al. (2022) [11] distinguish between the metaverse as a tool and as a target in applying the metaverse. Metaverse as a tool can be utilised to solve real-world difficulties. In doing so, the real world is augmented in various ways by virtual functions that would be difficult to implement in reality, for example, due to too high costs. For example, virtual office spaces enable a real working atmosphere, which can boost interaction with colleagues (for example, Accenture Nth Floors). Other examples include using the metaverse for educational purposes and as a platform for private social contacts. In addition, the metaverse can serve as an extension of digital healthcare (for example, DeHealth) and allow virtual doctor’s appointments. Metaverse as a target describes generating profits in the metaverse. The gaming industry (for example Fortnite) should be mentioned as a possible application domain. From a business perspective, the metaverse is a potential new market that can be leveraged to gain new customers through advertising or generate sales beyond the established distribution channels (e.g. through the sale of NFTs). Retailers such as Gucci, Ralph Lauren or Nike are already testing virtual sales platforms on Roblox to sell digital assets in the form of clothing for digital personae [13]. Other profit opportunities in the metaverse are role-playing games and real estate, where users can interact with services through digital personae and properties are commercialised in the metaverse.

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 [14]. 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 [15]. 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 [18].

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 [17].


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[3] McKinsey. (2022). Value creation in the metaverse.

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[9] Attaran, M./Morfin-Manibo, R. (2018). Your future reality will be digital. In: ISE Magazine (50) 7, 26–31.

[10] Meta (2021). The Metaverse and How We’ll Build It Together – Connect 2021.

[11] 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.

[12] 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.

[13] McDowell, M. (2022). Metaverse Fashion Week: Auch Sie können teilnehmen (und sogar digitale Mode kaufen).

[14] Gross, A. (2022). Epic Games secures $2bn from Sony and Lego to build gaming metaverse. In: Financial Times 11.04.2022.

[15] Höfler, N./Krolle, H. (2023). Was ist das Metaverse? In: Handelsblatt 23.02.2023.

[16] Ziegener, D. (2022). Milliarden wert und menschenleer: Das Metaverse ist ein simulierter Markt. In: 20.10.2022.

[17] Schräer, F. (2023). Horizon Worlds: US-Politiker gegen Meta-Pläne, Teenager ins Metaverse zu holen. In: Heise online 03.03.2023.

[18] Chee, F. Y. (2023). EU’s Vestager says scrutiny of competition in metaverse already needed. In: Reuters Media 03.03.2023