Real and virtual in the unique space of the Metaverse

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11:23 am

14 June 2022

We could define the Metaverse as virtual reality 4.0. While the latter has been known for over thirty years, we still have much to learn, develop and understand about the new digital universe. It is thanks to the founder of Facebook – now Meta – Mark Zuckerberg that the Metaverse has entered the new conceptual horizon, in which the real and virtual worlds will become one.


“Metaverse” is a fuzzy concept, attributing an unambiguous meaning to it is still difficult. It first appeared in the science fiction novel Snow Crash, written by Neal Stephenson in 1992. Since its inception, the Metaverse has found its way into the conceptual elaborations of experts and analysts, until its consecration thanks to the definition given by venture capitalist Matthew Ball. Ball described the Metaverse as a virtual world exclusively online but directly ‘connected’ with the real world through the support of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR). Thanks to this definition, the digital assets in which the components of the Metaverse are developed over time.

Videogames, cryptocurrencies and tokens are only the first development contexts, but experts and systems analysts are constantly probing all the fields in which the Metaverse can grow and assert itself, convinced that in the coming years the very concept of reality will be revolutionised, reaching entirely new horizons.


The art industry has been able to grasp the disruptive scope of the new digital horizon sooner than others. It has been using new platforms to convey works in augmented reality and virtual reality for some time now, but above all it has already started to exploit the potential of the Metaverse: virtual galleries where expensive NFT artworks can be exhibited are proliferating, and Sotheby’s recently announced the launch of Sotheby’s Metaverse, the auction house’s new platform designed specifically for digital collectors, curated by digital artist Pak.

What is evident is that the traditional art world, NFT technology and the Metaverse are rapidly merging into one.

In Italy, it is Vanity Fair that is leading the way in experimenting with the potential of the Metaverse. For about a year now, the magazine has been investing in the new technology, broadening the horizons of publishing, innovating and hybridising the print medium and offering its users new ways to enjoy it. The magazine’s latest proposal is MetaVanity, Vanity Fair’s first museum in the Metaverse, presented on the occasion of the Venice Art Biennale 2022. In MetaVanity, a collective art exhibition of 19 artists – among others Skygolpe, Jesse Draxler, Luna Ikuta, Quasimondo – from the international digital and crypto art scene is created and developed. The aim is to offer users the opportunity to experience first-hand the cultural and artistic revolution of the moment.


Unlike VR, which immerses the user in a virtual horizon, augmented reality superimposes the two real/virtual planes by making physical and digital reality overlapping elements. This is possible thanks to the use of a visor that allows the user to constantly exchange data via the Net and receive information, such as messages and notifications, which can be consulted without distracting the user from the physical reality that surrounds him or her. The great novelty of the Metaverse lies precisely in its ability to integrate sensory perceptions – touch, sound, sight – into digital processing.

The real limitation of this new technology, however, is the difficulty of use. To date, there are still no commonly used devices available that can catapult us into augmented reality without using bulky and uncomfortable hardware. Many companies, recognising their current limitations, are experimenting with devices similar to a pair of spectacles, capable of offering the wearer various digital functions to access the Metaverse. The development of such devices will finally make it possible to build a new everyday life in which physical and digital reality will form one seamless horizon.



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