One of Mark Zuckerberg’s first steps toward building the metaverse may be physical instead of virtual. Meta, as Facebook is now known, has discussed opening stores to showcase its virtual reality and augmented reality devices. https://t.co/VFVUnOoxdb
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 5, 2021
Virtual reality is a hot topic these days, but what is this hype actually about?
Are you old enough to remember the first days of the internet?
My dad was in the computer industry in the early 90s. I remember how his friends made fun of him when he said, “One day, everyone will use the internet on a daily basis.”
Before he died in 2001, he told me to buy stocks of the first company able to build a device that could be used for communication, taking pictures, and listening to music. A few years later, the first iPhone was released by Apple. Saying that this device changed our lives would be an understatement.
And I am not talking about iPhone, I am talking about all the devices we use every day. I am talking about the time we spend online as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
Let’s imagine doing a time travel to the 70s.
First of all, if we somehow managed to bring a smartphone to that time, we would have been able to sell it for billions of dollars. If you feel that I am exaggerating, please google what computers looked like at that time. The devices in our pockets are far more advanced than any technology available in the 70s that would fill up an entire house.
After explaining what a smartphone is, we would have to explain social media to our friends from the 70s. They wouldn’t believe a single word of our explanations. They would probably ask, “Why would anyone spend their days arguing with strangers on the internet?”
What sounds normal to us today would have been labelled as crazy talk a few decades ago—and I feel the same thing is about to happen again.
Let’s say we are at the supermarket. We see bananas and think about buying them. But before buying them, we want to know more. We want to know where these bananas came from and if they were grown in an eco-sustainable way. And that’s where our AR glasses come to play.
This is how Walmart envisions Shopping in the #Metaverse.
Thoughts? ? pic.twitter.com/5l7KhoBse7
— Homo Digitalis (@DigitalisHomo) January 3, 2022
But there are even more useful ways to use AR.
A few weeks ago, I was thinking about getting some new furniture. A friend told me about a new app released by IKEA. This app uses AR to show us what the furniture looks like in our home (virtually). I had a lot of fun playing with that app but decided not to get the bed that looks like a spaceship (after consulting my partner).
One of the most famous applications of AR is gaming. You might have heard about “Pokémon Go“—the first game ever that makes gamers spend time outside. Who would have thought 20 years ago?
In the future our lives will be infused by #6G-powered #MixedReality, at a very high speed (up to 200 Gbps) #AR #VR #MR #Metaverse #China #CES2022 @JoannMoretti @CurieuxExplorer @anand_narang @Hana_ElSayyed @TheAdityaPatro @PawlowskiMario @MargaretSiegien @kalydeoo @enilev pic.twitter.com/waTtNYDFGs
— Franco Ronconi ?? (@FrRonconi) January 7, 2022
But what about the Metaverse Mark Zuckerberg is dreaming about? What is that supposed to be?
One of the most popular video games of all time gives us an idea of what the Metaverse could look like—I am talking about Grand Theft Auto (GTA). This game allows the player to move around in a virtual city, interacting with other players.
When one player stops to play, the rest of this virtual city keeps going. The virtual playground exists 24/7, and players decide when to enter (or leave) it.
And that’s basically the concept of the Metaverse. The only difference is that Zuckerberg doesn’t want us to steal virtual cars; he wants us to spend money on virtual items, meetings, and real estate. Deepak Chopra is already setting up a virtual mediation center in the Metaverse.
And, of course, this all sounds so far-fetched today. But maybe we are witnessing the same dynamic like decades ago when some nerds claimed that almost everyone would have internet access one day, and people laughed at them.
I am not here to judge any of that. I don’t know if I want to hang out in a virtual coffee shop talking to avatars. And I am worried about the impact on humanity.
These VR games getting a little too dangerous ??? pic.twitter.com/GZzjdt2N5d
— Hood Comedy (@HoodComedyEnt) December 30, 2021
The last two years showed us how important face-to-face meetings are (and I am not talking about Zoom). So, I am not sure if the Metaverse is able to nurture these needs. There is a difference between virtually meeting someone and meeting someone in the real world.
But what do I know? I also don’t use dating apps, but I hear that some folks love them. Some of us might actually enjoy meeting others in a virtual space instead of attending a crowded nightclub—I am looking at all the introverts out there.
Only time will tell how all of that works out.
And that brings us to the part that I called shenanigans in the title—I am talking about money. How are we going to pay for stuff in the Metaverse?
Today, social media is dominated by folks who are trying to sell products, coaching packages, and other stuff. The former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey thinks that this is a result of content creators not getting paid for their work. Wait, what?
As many smart people pointed out over the last years, the main problem with social media is that we are feeding it with content without any compensation. Zuckerberg makes money because we spend time looking at each other’s content. Big-tech makes money with the time we spend online—why not pay those who make us stay online instead?
That’s Dorsey’s vision for the future of the internet. He wants content creators to get directly paid for their content and make them less dependent on advertisements and affiliate links. That doesn’t sound too bad, right?
But before we enter a promising future for content creators, there are a lot of problems that need to get solved.
The main problem is the energy consumption of cryptocurrencies. The last thing we need is a new technology that wastes energy and worsens the ongoing climate crisis.
And there is some hope; it’s based on renewable energies. The need for cheaper (and more eco-friendly) energy might also drive the evolution of renewable energies to the next level.
I am aware that all of this sounds like science fiction to many of us—but it wasn’t any different with the so-called internet decades ago, right?
I often ask myself what my dad would say about all this. But he died more than 20 years ago. It would take a long time to update him on what happened in the last two decades—and that’s exactly how we might feel 20 years from now.
Let’s keep an open mind and try to make sense of it all. All these new technologies will change our lives, but we don’t know in which way.
And that part depends on our actions.