- Since its launch, the metaverse has been subject to differing opinions, with some seeing it as just a gimmick, while others considering it the next big thing.
- Despite its apparent potential to change how the internet is used, users and developers have raised concerns about the massive investments and low user growth rate for such platforms.
- Most people have either never heard of the metaverse or are unsure what the concept exactly means.
Remember the Segway? It was a two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter-like device introduced in 2001 that was the subject of a lot of hype and over-promise. Some of the world’s smartest people who had the opportunity to witness an advanced screening of it predicted that it would completely disrupt civilization. The Segway never came close to living up to its promise. Twenty years later, the manufacturer stopped making them.
Let’s not just pick on the Segway, though. Remember the hype of Google Glass and how it was to revolutionize the way we access information and interact with the world? It was discontinued in only two years. By now, autonomous cars were supposed to be delivering our pizza orders, and our homes were to be spit out by 3D printers.
What happened to 100% remote work? Many of the same companies that announced that employees could work remotely into the foreseeable future abruptly changed their policy to incorporate on-prem work mandates. And for those heralding the investment potential of NFTs, have you checked the value of your NFT portfolio lately?
Think about it: it is 2023, and many of us still drive a motorized vehicle into the office most of the week. Most of us complain about not having enough free time despite all the convenient technologies we have incorporated into our daily lives. Despite the internet, we still gather tens of thousands of young people in small college towns to sit in a classroom and listen to a professor daily. Has life really changed that much, at least until the metaverse came, a metaverse that would deliver a whole new world to us?
Change Happens Incrementally
The truth is that promised initiatives to transform the world at a scale rarely materialize because it is difficult to do so. The PC and smartphone certainly changed the world, but not in one great leap. Forty years into the lifecycle of the PC, we still have paperwork to manage and shuffle, and we still use our smartphones to call people in the same way that the dumb phone in the 80s did.
Those inventions didn’t change the way we lived. The PC allowed us to connect with other users and share resources and ideas. The smartphone provided everyone with a persistent, reliable, mobile internet connection so that we could do PC-like things regardless of location.
Most people embrace incremental change, but few can handle sudden exponential change. We want the ability to get better at what we do, not learn a whole new way of life. We are creatures of habit, whether we want to admit to it or not. Are we really ready to abandon the physical world for an unchartered virtual one?
What Is the Metaverse?
Before deciding if it was just hype, let’s try to understand the metaverse. The metaverse is a computing platform that provides digital experiences as an alternative to or a replica of the real world, along with its key civilizational aspects like social interactions, currency, trade, economy, and property ownership.
Ask your average person to define the metaverse, and you will probably get a blank stare. Most people imagine it to be some sort of 3D virtual world where users can interact with one another using their avatars. Because there are so many interpretations of what the metaverse is and no one has been able to define it, no one’s interpretation is incorrect, contributing to the overzealous discussion of it. If any kind of experience can be applied to it, it can be included in any dialogue about it.
Is Interest in the Metaverse Waning?
Some groundswell interest in the metaverse was a sign of the times we lived in. It gained popularity during the COVID-19 era when many people sought an alternate method of communicating their experiences. Our avatars would sit at a conference table within a virtual office for virtual meetings; we would travel to the Grand Canyon and the Egyptian pyramids. Many musical performers were performing at concerts in the metaverse, including Justin Bieber.
Now that the pandemic is over, most people are tired of endless ZOOM meetings. Airplanes are packed with travelers wanting to experience the physical world in person, and the biggest musical acts aren’t offering metaverse concerts because they are on the road performing in front of millions of physical fans. People have even returned to going to the movie theater to see the latest releases.
Future Potential of the Metaverse
While the metaverse may have been overhyped, it isn’t going to suffer the fate of Google Glass. Companies are continuing to make sizable investments in the metaverse. Go to an automotive trade show and see how many vendors use the metaverse in their presentations. Want to know how easy their automotive painting solution is? Try it in person using VR glasses and a real paint sprayer in a virtual spraying booth.
Want to see what your sports car looks like in red instead of yellow? Automobile manufacturers such as BMW use augmented reality to accelerate the development and prototyping of new products. Architects use it to create virtual prototypes so the customer approves every detail before the first nail is pounded.
Then there are the amazing healthcare applications that allow young surgeons to practice open-heart surgery repeatedly until they get it right. Now apply the same concept to other training opportunities for rescue, law enforcement, and firefighters. Today, firefighters can know what it is like to be in the middle of a blazing inferno as they battle the flames within a commercial building.
Was the metaverse overhyped? The answer to that question could be â€œyesâ€. Most people may not be ready to abandon one world for another yet. There is a reason why many of us like to â€œfeel grounded.â€ As humans, we like to feel connected with Earth, time, and space, and a hundred thousand years of evolution may not be circumvented just because the metaverse is open for business.
But just because its benefits may have been overpromised doesn’t mean it can’t offer value because it does. The metaverse isn’t going away; we just needed a little break from the hysteria.
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