Is the future here yet? Listening to Mark Zuckerberg, one can almost conclude that we are on the verge of a new technological revolution. Zuckerberg announced in June of last year that the company’s next big goal is to build the Metaverse. How serious is the Facebook founder about the fact that he renamed the group “Meta” in October 2021.
This text comes from the 8/2021 issue of the MIT Technology Review (the PDF of the issue is available at the heise store).
Meta, metaverses – there is hardly a clearer message. Back in the summer, Zuckerberg got more specific in a podcast published by technology magazine The Verge. The Metaverse should not only be accessed via virtual and augmented reality glasses, but also via 2D devices such as computer screens or mobile phone screens. Newly appointed Metaverse Team Manager Andrew Bosworth stated, “The Metaverse really exists here as a collection of digital worlds, each with their own physics that dictate what is possible within them.” Only: If it really exists – what exactly does Zuckerberg want to “bring back to life”, and why such a huge investment?
But what is the Metaverse anyway? Obviously, there are many definitions and realms of faith. The term was first used by Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, defining the metaverse as the union of the real physical world with virtual and augmented reality in the form of a shared online world. So while many associate the Metaverse with the Matrix movie or Ready Player One, it’s much more than just a virtual world.
The new issue of Technology Review 8/2021 asks more about our minds and whether it is really about resting through meditation and mindfulness in everyday life. The magazine will be available in-store and directly from the Hayes store from November 11, 2021. Highlights from the magazine:
Zuckerberg says the Metaverse is “the closest thing to teleportation.” In the interview, talk about the opportunity to meet others, to feel immersed, and to have the impression that you are “really there.” But not (only) in virtual reality, but by all possible means, devices and places. It will be “a continuous and synchronous environment in which we can be together”. Later he spoke of the “environment in which we embodied”, and even later the term “internet embodied” was mentioned.
From Second Life to Fortnite
says Matthias Bastian, industry expert and publisher of Mixed.de, an online magazine for virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
Much of what Zuckerberg announced regarding the Metaverse has already been heard. The idea of using “the distance between computers” and linking the physical world to virtual reality isn’t new: Second Life founder Philip Rosedale says he’s dreamed of it since he was a kid. Second Life can certainly be considered an early form of the metaverse, even if it is and can only be used in two dimensions. But Second Life is a world of its own, with its own economy, social relationships, jobs, and much of what investor Matthew Paul described in a well-accepted article as the basic tenets of the Metaverse: among other things, its own economy, perpetual presence, synchronous rather than non-existent. Synchronous and full of experiences created by different actors such as individuals, groups or even companies.
According to Ball, the Metaverse has long been a target of many tech companies and especially game providers like Epic Games, makers of Fortnite: a multiplayer game in which players can play against each other, interact with each other and build their own games. worlds. There are pop concerts with several million spectators. When rapper Travis Scott gave a psychedelic show in April 2020, there were 12.3 million people in Fortnite at the same time. There is also a separate currency, and players pay a lot to equip their avatar. In that respect, Fortnite has always been more than just a game.
Against this backdrop, virtual reality expert Bastian can get something of a take on the idea of a cross-tech metaverse: “If you don’t see the metaverse as a purely virtual world, but as a mixture of virtual and real life, you can be attractive.” For example, one of the problems with a Fortnite avatar is that you cannot transfer it to the real world – and at the same time, some users spend a lot of money on their virtual appearance. If the metaverse really extends to digital and physical life, because it can be layered over the real world with augmented reality, for example, virtual fashion becomes more attractive. “In the Metaverse, you can take to the streets as an avatar and anyone with an augmented reality headset can see your avatar.” For example, a much larger economy could arise around token costumes than it actually exists today.
Bastian also sees the problem of immersion as relative – in his view, the Metaverse can also work on a screen or a cell phone screen. “The immersion isn’t on or off, it’s a spectrum. I think the guy at the Fortnite party with his friends feels like he’s part of an immersive world – even without the VR glasses, usually before the projector.”
Zuckerberg’s bet on the future
Metaverse approaches seem to have already been implemented to a certain extent in virtual social worlds like Fortnite. But the Metaverse goes much further than that, according to Ball: It should be static, so it never stops or ends, even if you don’t log in yourself. And: “The attractions are not going to be designed or programmed centrally, and they’re not just about fun and entertainment,” says Ball. Above all, Metaverse is not a new platform like Youtube or Facebook.