When we look back in 50 years, the 2D internet we all use now is likely to seem laughably old. Not only will the internet probably not be hidden behind a screen, but we may also use it in a different way that the metaverse will do.
We’ll use augmented reality (AR) to move things around, explore virtual reality (VR) worlds, and combine the real and the digital in ways we can’t imagine right now.
And what will that mean for the work world? We are already moving away from the nine-to-five commute and the traditional office setting. This is because of two years of lockdowns because of pandemics and a newfound love or tolerance for virtual meetings.
So, will the next logical step be to work in the metaverse, the planned virtual universe where 3D cartoon versions of everyone will walk around, talk, and interact with each other?
The word “metaverse” is overused, so it’s important to remember that it doesn’t actually exist yet. Even people who are interested in the idea have different ideas about what it will be.
Will different virtual worlds connect in a way that doesn’t happen between different technologies right now? Will it take up more of our time than the real world? Will we need completely new rules to govern these new spaces?
We don’t know the answers to any of these questions yet, but that hasn’t stopped firms from getting excited about a new way to make money.
Meta’s Horizon Worlds, games like Roblox and Fortnite, and newly made lands like Sandbox and Decentraland are all examples of places where businesses have opened up.
Nike now sells virtual trainers, HSBC owns land in Sandbox, and Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, and Sotheby’s all have a presence in Decentraland.
Neal Stephenson, a writer, came up with the word “metaverse” almost 30 years ago. In his book Snow Crash, the main character goes to a virtual reality world to find a better life for himself.
In October 2021, they took a step that might have been the most risky to make this fiction into real technology. That’s when Facebook said it would change its name to Meta and start spending billions of dollars to make itself a metaverse-first company, which was very much Mark Zuckerberg’s vision as its founder and CEO. Still, this huge investment has made some shareholders suspicious. Recently, some of them said they were worried that the company was spending too much money on VR.
And a report from The Verge website last October, which said it had seen internal Meta memos, said that the Horizon Worlds platform had a lot of bugs and wasn’t used much by employees.
Herman Narula, the CEO of Improbable, a company that makes software to build metaverse lands, and the author of a book called Virtual Society, is not convinced by Zuckerberg’s vision.
He asks, “Why would we want a metaverse office that looks like our real office?” “The whole point of creative spaces in new realities is to give us new experiences, not to give us the same ones we already have in the real world.”
“But I do think the metaverse will have a lot of jobs. For example, we’ll need moderators.”
The moderating or policing part of the metaverse is controversial, not only because it is hard to keep an eye on potentially billions of avatars having live chats across a virtual world, but also because these avatars may create a huge amount of data as they go.
A study from Stanford University found that just 20 minutes of virtual reality gave more than 2 million unique records of how the body moved. This gives companies a rich new source of data.