The Metaverse Doesn’t Have a Leg to Stand On

Except, of course, it can’t. Virtual reality, which has been hovering over the top of success for decades now, has never been able to appeal to the masses. In an essay written for WIRED shortly before Facebook became Meta, writer and scholar David Karpf state How VR’s promise to shake up the culture has repeatedly failed to materialize, despite massive advances in hardware and software. “Technology always around to turn a corner, around not just a gaming device, around to revolutionize fields such as architecture, defence, and medicine. The future of work, play, travel and society is always on the verge of a giant virtual upgrade,” he wrote, arguing that the problem stems from the simple fact of “swinging a the virtual sword gets tired pretty quickly.”

Zuckerberg’s specific metaverse can barely provide the expected number of limbs, let alone the feeling that those limbs are somewhere they’re not, cozying up with loved ones far away. Far from feeling “deeply present,” those currently traveling through Horizon Worlds have to do so while wearing a bulky headset that requires frequent charging, which means they not only don’t make it through. the “small window” of the screen but also physically affected. tethered to a charger.

Sure, it’s early days, and there may be major innovations that make being physically present with others in cyberspace more plausible in the next 20 or 30 years, although that seems unlikely. . (matrix group, anyone?) But even if that happens, there’s still a much bigger hurdle to overcome: whether people want this in the first place. Do we really want to plop down, ignore the existence of matter, and instead spend most of our wild and precious lives in a company-controlled simulation? Even the coolest virtual sword lost its luster.

Big tech leaders, especially Zuckerberg, have made bold bets that they can profit from the metaverse. This doesn’t make it something people automatically want. In particular, Meta’s quest madness is tied to its level of ambition. The most successful metaverses today are gaming platforms like Roblox and Epic Games’ fortress. But Meta has no intention of being next Roblox or fortress. It wants to gobble them up, then spit them out into a corner of the vastly larger world, a world where people go to work as well as play games, hang out, read, stream, scroll and, of course, buy small items.

This more ambitious vision of the superuniverse—officially parallel worlds—is misguided. It revolves around this frank assumption that people aspire to move further into a digital replica of the real world, complete with real estate bubbles, art speculation, and Zoom meetings. This is a well-proven assumption against it. It’s not that society is turning away from the internet—people spend too much time both online and playing video games—but there is no big call for a new, more intense version. If anything, especially after the pandemic pushed large numbers of urban professionals into the ultra-online, remote-working lifestyle, the cultural trend is for in-person events, Live chat and augmented reality.


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