A Brief Look at the Metaverse

There has been a lot written about the Metaverse in the past few weeks.

It was a bit confusing, and I thought one way for me to learn about it would be to write about it.

So this post is more for my own benefit, but if anyone wants to read and watch along with me, you are more than welcome to.

As an overview, I thought I would start with my old friend Wikipedia. Here is a short excerpt that offers an overview of Metaverse:

The metaverse is a hypothesized iteration of the internet, supporting persistent online 3-D virtual environments through conventional personal computing, as well as virtual and augmented reality headsets. Metaverses, in some limited form, are already present on platforms like VRChat or video games like Second Life. Current metaverse ambitions are centered on addressing technological limitations with modern virtual and augmented reality devices, as well as expanding the use of metaverse spaces to business, education, and retail applications. Numerous entertainment and social media companies have invested in metaverse-related research and development. The metaverse has come to be criticized as a method of public relations building using a purely speculative, “over-hyped” concept based on existing technology. Information privacy and user addiction are concerns within the metaverse, stemming from current challenges facing the social media and video game industries as a whole.

I am sure most people are aware that Facebook has renamed its company to Meta, as a way of telling the world that the company is more than just its social media apps; it is planning to invest heavily in the Metaverse.

Here is a video that Mark Zuckerberg has created that offers a very high-level overview and examples of his vision of the Metaverse (three and a half minutes long):

I have to admit, there is nothing in that video that captures my imagination. If that is all the Metaverse has to offer, count me out.

But then I thought well maybe I’m missing something. There are a few more videos from Meta that look at specific applications in the Metaverse, like Fitness, Work, and Commerce. The one I was most interested in was the Education one. I was curious what the future of education may look like, and if I am lucky to be near the end of my teaching career.

Here is the education video (one minute, fifteen seconds long):

It’s cool stuff, no doubt, but once again I don’t see what the hype is all about. I think there are already applications like this, so I’m not sure what Meta plans to do that will be different.

The Wikipedia article mentioned the app Second Life, which I remember using more than 10 years ago, and it seemed to offer the same features. Here is a two-and-a-half-minute video from Second Life from two years ago that shows what they have been doing for a while with virtual worlds and education.

I see little to no difference between this and what Facebook/Meta is planning to do.

So that’s my very brief overview and impression of the Metaverse.

I’d like to be proven wrong, but I don’t get the hype. And at this point, I don’t see anything new about what  Zuckerberg’s Meta will be bringing to the metaverse.

If you would like to watch Zuckerberg’s complete overview of Meta, here is the full video (an hour and seventeen minutes).

So if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to take some 3-d virtual tours of some houses for sale in Sarasota…

*image from USA Today

70 thoughts on “A Brief Look at the Metaverse

  1. My son was laughing at me today because I was calling it Mega Universe. Hey it sounds close to that!
    We don’t see the hype in it either. My son says though that he can see us becoming all digital in the future. No one knowing how to socialize anymore. Kind of sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, Zuckerberg can claim he’s finally progressed beyond the meet-and-greet idea he came up with in college. I have to admit I’m intrigued even though I don’t really understand it. The potential abuses and misuses might dwarf the current issues we have with the internet. The concept reminds me of the Holodeck on Stark Trek: The Next Generation and seems like something out of a “mad scientist” science fiction story where the well-intended invention turns out to be a disaster. Thanks for sharing because I had no idea what the metaverse was.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ray Kurzweil, a famous futurist, has predicted that the technological singularity — the crucial moment when machines become smarter than humans — will occur in our lifetime…

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  3. You’re all so well-adjusted to reality that this isn’t appealing in the slightest. Unfortunately, there are way too many humans cooped up inside ALL THE TIME. If (and I mean IF!) the virtual reality can get a lot better, The Oasis -erm, the Metaverse does indeed appeal to many.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do not see the what all the buzz is about, but as Chel points out, my generation would spend real time together rather than virtually, shake hands rather than send an emoji, and do not live within our electronic devices. For the younger generation, this seems to be just an extension of removing themselves from reality. I guess I am old school. Give me the real thing over virtual reality any day!

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    1. but I think Chel is also making the point that for some people, the Metaverse could be a blessing, a chance to interact with people that they may not be able to do otherwise (e.g., the elderly, those with disabilities)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m relieved to know it’s something else I don’t want to bother myself about. It’s good to have bloggers researching this stuff so I don’t have to and explaining it to me.
    Off out for lunch – can’t do that virtually.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I readily admit I’m resistant to change, but I’m more interested in going in the opposite direction. My son and I often dream of buying acres of pristine wilderness somewhere, building a few log cabins (one for my daughter’s family, too), then unplugging and hiding from the world. The last thing I want is to go more digital and find new ways to connect to a holographic representation of it.

    I think I was born in the wrong era.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for this Jim. After listening to five or six articles on NPR, I still had no idea what the metaverse was. I think the wiki description is pretty clear. Honestly, as a society I think our innovation has stalled. Besides the Covid vaccine and the *advent* of the internet, I’m hard-pressed to think of a game changer in the past 40 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I like the wiki description, and the videos helped me as well.

      I’d agree that the speed of the COVID vaccine and the internet are the two biggest things I’ve witnessed that have happened during my life. If self-driving cars become more mainstream, I might add that as well…

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  8. I can see some of the practical and functional implications of the meta universe, and I have to admit here that I love change and creative innovation. I can see how this would be useful, especially in times like these, where social distancing is a necessity. I am a concerned however, about the potential abuse and the further disconnect from what we know as “real” reality. I do think that when examining technology such as this, we need to consider that what we view as reality, has changed, and will keep on changing whether we like it or not. We can dig our heels and say “count me out” but the world will keep on changing around us. We will have to sit tight and see where this is all going…

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    1. thank youf royour thoughful comments. I agree that, like most technologies, there are some good things and some not so good things. I think the metaverse, like other social media platforms, could be quite helpful to certain populations, like the elderly or those with disabilities. I think there needs to be careful consideration of what can be done on such platforms, and how to regulate it as necessary…

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  9. Someone who used to be a Twitter ‘friend’ was heavily into Second Life, about 8 or 9 years back. I took a look at it and it seemed potentially dangerous, inviting people to create alternative personae which they then ‘inhabited.’ From what I saw, there were quite a few on there who had become incapable of telling ‘meta’ from reality.

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  10. Well Jim, that was a sterling attempt to explain the metaverse but having read the Wikipedia explanation and having watched the rather inarticulate videos, I am non the wiser. I wonder, is it just a marketing tool for the IT and social media companies to use to make us buy into more products as digital and VR technology advances? Some would say it is the start of a pernicious movement designed to keep us at home in front of our devices, under control and totally dependent on the internet. Whatever, we must ask who is it designed to benefit most?

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  11. I’m so out of the loop with all this social media stuff (I don’t have any of the big socials) and the renaming of these companies- I think I learned on your blog a few weeks ago that facebook rebranded…. can’t seem to keep up~

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  12. I can see why FB and other social media would grasp this concept as it is aimed at keeping people trapped in the unhealthy world of the virtual and technologically unreal which suits their pockets. I think this has its place in our society but it needs to be controlled as it is not the idea way of living your life.

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  13. There’s so much to be said about the metaverse. On the one hand, it could be great for connecting with people from all over the world. But on the other, I kind of start to see a future similar to in the movie Wall-E; completely dependent on technology and not interacting with others properly.
    In the book “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson the metaverse was developed and used to escape from reality, but in the metaverse inequalities still existed. Quite a sad prediction, but, if Meta doesn’t thoroughly research the impact of such technologies and its current platforms on society and psychological well-being, it could be a pretty realistic prediction. I just hope that the company learns from its mistakes and tries to improve…

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    1. thanks for your thoughtful comment and insights. I agree that Meta needs to be very careful in terms of how it offers these tools to its users so that the users do not become overly dependent on them…

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