Those are some people’s initial thoughts upon hearing about the metaverse, a virtual universe that big tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg hope users of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets will explore. Zuckerberg’s company Meta spent $10 billion promoting this vision in 2021, according to the company’s latest financial disclosures.
The fact that we now have the ability to enter virtual worlds and participate in activities that were previously only possible in science fiction novels is encouraging. However, simply putting an experience into a VR or AR environment does not make it more engaging. There are many instances in which it does the opposite.
6 ways the Metaverse is Trying
For as long as the metaverse is going to be discussed, we should all be honest about one thing: so many of the fancy metaverse demos are simply worse versions of IRL activities.
All things metaverse have a big selling point because they look futuristic, so they must represent some kind of progress in the way we do things. But newer isn’t necessarily better.
With the help of a Quest 2’s passthrough, YouTube’s VR team has demonstrated how to project a “metal” TV onto a nearby wall.
When Facebook announced it would be rebranding as Meta in October 2021, this clip appeared on the company’s developer-focused Connect stream. It reappeared on social media in early February 2022, this time on Twitter and Reddit. On the surface, drawing a square with a motion controller and seeing what looks like a huge TV show appear in your field of view is amusing, even if the wall you’re looking at is completely blank in real life. In the end, what is the purpose of all this?
My 2019 4K TV, which cost around $250, costs more than a Quest 2 at $299. For some reason, that TV has a really cool feature that allows more than one person in the room to see it at once. The Lord of the Rings trilogy can now be watched in peace, without having to worry that the battery in my bulky headset will run out before the end credits roll.
Metaverse Is Trying To Replace Real Life
Even though you can move and resize the screen in the YouTube VR demo to your heart’s content, as well as use slick navigation controls, the demo still falls short of the real thing in terms of quality. A 4K TV isn’t for everyone, but we’re talking about an alternative that costs as much or more and provides a less-than-satisfactory experience. Not interested!
Even if you can’t think of a more enjoyable way to meet new people, you can’t imagine a time when dating wasn’t a lot of fun. It’s a dreadful necessity, but we put up with it for the slim chance that it will lead to long-term happiness or at the very least, a good time. Imagine going on a date with someone you have no idea what they look like. Catfishing on dating apps is a lot more common than you might think.
Tinder’s parent company, Match Group, is said to be planning something similar. Instead of merely swiping left or right on an app screen, Match Group has laid out vague future plans for avatar-based online dating spaces. Conversations could be started there and then moved to a more private virtual space.
It’s true that there is some value in this concept. On top of being emotionally risky, COVID-19 made dating more physically risky, and it’s much easier to get out of a virtual bar than a real bar. A virtual dating space that allows people to create cartoon-like avatars just makes it more difficult to discern who someone is while conversing with them.. There are already problems with trust and transparency in online dating as it currently exists, so why add to them? Additionally, we’ve witnessed recent instances of harassment in metaverse spaces, which is a problem that is too prevalent in the dating scene today.
The future of fitness in the metaverse was demonstrated by Mark Zuckerberg during the aforementioned Meta rebranding extravaganza stream. Playing basketball with people from all over the world and learning fencing from world-class trainers are just two examples of the fantastical ways in which this happened.
For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a criticism of virtual reality fitness in general. Right now, there are a plethora of exciting and beneficial virtual reality workout options. Beat Saber is both exhilarating and exhausting, as anyone who has played it can attest. Basketball and fencing, on the other hand, are both based on the unique physical properties of objects and the movements of other people’s bodies. Duck, weave, and spin your way around court to find open shots against opposing defenders to make basketball as beautiful as it is. Tossing a real ball around is also a lot of fun.
There’s no substitute for doing these things in real life with real people. There’ll never be a substitute for a real ball or sabre in the hands, even if technology progresses to the point where we have haptic gloves (or wristbands) that use haptics.