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Published on August 4th, 2021 | by Emergent Enterprise


Microsoft, Facebook and Others are Building the Metaverse. Will You Want to Live There?

Emergent Insight:
Is augmented reality the future? What about virtual reality? Mixed? There are enough realities to make your head spin but perhaps the answer is “none of the above.” Becoming a “new reality” is an enormous task for any technology. But it could all be found in the metaverse, our new potential world outside of our physical world. Big tech players like Facebook (Horizon) and Microsoft (Mesh) and others are sinking big money into Metaverse building in the hopes that they can control everyone’s complete device ecosystem. This post by Scott Stein at cNet gives you the lowdown on metaverse developments and where they are headed. Think about this. Every word you say and move you make down to your eye movement will be monitored and scrutinized by AI to optimize your experience in the metaverse. The metaverse is waiting… are you ready?

Original Article:
Photo Credit: Facebook

Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash is about a pizza delivery man by day, VR superhero by night, who lives in an online universe called The Metaverse. “So Hiro’s not actually here at all. He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse. Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse,” the novel says of the globe-spanning city that everyone pops into in VR. The idea rings, once again, among many other places, in Ready Player One’s Oasis.

Back in 1992, I considered the “metaverse” to be a knockoff of William Gibson’s concept of cyberspace. Of course, cyberspace got reappropriated, coined as a stand-in term for all of the internet. So, too, has the metaverse.

And the term “metaverse” has been around for a long time. How long? CNET wrote about the trend back in 2007.

Over the past few years, the term metaverse has re-emerged, applied to Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, VR, AR, even Animal Crossing. Facebook just created an entire metaverse group in its AR/VR-focused Reality Labs division. Microsoft is searching for the “enterprise metaverse.”

The definition of metaverse, now, is sort of a future-forward social hub, a space where avatars can meet, an ecosystem for connected apps. A VR- and AR-ready dream of bringing people into some sort of virtual universe that’s as creation-friendly as a Minecraft, as popular as a Fortnite, and as useful as Zoom, Slack and Google Docs. Metaverses are perhaps the clearest admission yet that the future of tech doesn’t lie just in VR or AR, but in a mix of many devices accessing a shared online world, which may be more immersive and 3D than the internet you’re currently using to read this story.

Science fiction ideas always get appropriated into tech, and it’s happened with the metaverse, too. To be clear, this isn’t simply a stand-in for the immersive worlds of AR and VR, even though it’s often being used that way. The way to read “the metaverse” is instead about a fusion of VR, AR and all the other tech that is not and will never be a headset you glom on your face. It’s also about companies figuring out how to get more people into these future advanced virtual communities than the few million in VR right now.

Yeah, Fortnite’s a metaverse.Sarah Tew/CNET

The world’s already living virtually

We’ve already redefined the idea of “virtual” in 2020, and for most people it didn’t involve a VR headset. Zoom, online games, Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and every other social app on your phone — everyone’s carved out a virtual existence of some sort. I wrote about this last year. The holodeck is a concept that lives beyond VR or AR.

The metaverse concept has become an umbrella term that floats over the big connected multiplayer worlds, including Fortnite, or Minecraft, or Roblox, or VR apps like Rec Room, VRChat and Microsoft’s AltspaceVR. But it aspires to be a stand-in for all your virtual tools, headset or not.

The shift to the idea of metaverses is basically a way of including multiple devices and platforms, and not insisting people use a particular gadget. Again, think of Fortnite. Or, again, Roblox. Or Minecraft. Or, in a sense, most apps we use now. But in this case, we’re talking about ones with their own deep social world.

My kids are already deep in their own metaverses. They just call them by the name of the app they are using to access them, and these companies are already well aware of this.

The metaverse is about massively social future things

Most metaverses being discussed are massively multiplayer spaces with avatars and worlds and persistent players or creative tools. Facebook’s upcoming social platform, Horizon, is an example of this: The avatar-based app will work in VR, but Facebook intends for it to work in AR as well, and on regular laptops and phones. Microsoft’s AltSpaceVR is already like this.

VR is a lot of things right now, but it’s not very massively social because most people don’t have VR headsets. Companies are struggling to find tools that loop all the other phone and computer experiences together with VR and AR ecosystems. Microsoft has been working on this for years, but still hasn’t cracked it.

Tech’s realizing not everyone’s going to be in VR (or AR)

Microsoft’s recent push is for AR that also works on phones in addition to the Hololens; Apple’s focus is on AR on iPhones and iPads; Facebook is integrating Oculus with the rest of its non-VR social apps. It’s easy to see a common thread here. You’ll never be able to get everyone into VR headsets. Or, AR smart glasses. Just like not everyone will wear a smartwatch, or wear AirPods, or play a Nintendo Switch.

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The Emergent Enterprise (EE) website brings together current and important news in enterprise mobility and the latest in innovative technologies in the business world. The articles are hand selected by Emergent Enterprise and not the result of automated electronic aggregating. The site is designed to be a one-stop shop for anyone who has an ongoing interest in how technology is changing how the world does business and how it affects the workforce from the shop floor to the top floor. EE encourages visitor contributions and participation through comments, social media activity and ratings.

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