It’s not the first time someone has described a digital world free from borders, fees, or restrictions. The Metaverse is just one of many to have come and gone in recent decades with mixed results. But what makes this different?

“The Metaverse Is Already Here” is a blog post that discusses the idea of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. The author argues that these technologies are not just in the future, but they have already been here for some time.

The Metaverse Is Already Here

The-Metaverse-Is-Already-Here

Employees of Meta stand outside the company’s Menlo Park offices on Oct. 28.

Tony Avelar/Associated Press photo

Are you ready to live in a virtual environment that is 3D navigable, socially linked, conscience-curving, and carefree? Facebook’s decision to pursue this metaverse idea as its next platform is audacious, albeit it may be akin to changing the engine of a vehicle while it’s traveling at 100 mph—difficult to achieve without crashing. Consider Apple’s shift from PCs to iPods and iPhones. Facebook has even renamed itself Meta. CEO Mark Zuckerberg remarked, “The idea was to feel present with the people we care about.” “Immersive all-day adventures,” he guaranteed. If the Biden administration dismantles Facebook’s present platform in the name of antitrust, the company may need a new one regardless.

This has been attempted before. In 2003, the virtual world “Second Life” was established. You could spend real money on digital property and clothing, as well as socialize with other blocky avatars. It was the beginning. “Second Life,” naysayers in Silicon Valley used to remark, was for people who didn’t have a first one.

Another interface transition is the metaverse. Apple’s and Windows’ graphical user interfaces replaced green and amber text displays, making computers more simpler to operate. Slow modems linked us to the internet, and we utilized Yahoo and Google’s barren search-page interfaces. Graphics and images eventually crept in, particularly as blogs and social networks grew in popularity, and smartphone cameras transformed many people into photo bugs. Then video was introduced, with TikTok and multi-tile Zoom calls reaching their apex this year. Humans spend less time managing the computer and more time utilizing its potential with each generation of the interface.

Consider the metaverse to be another another shift in viewpoint. Videogames already offer 3D environments, which is a significant improvement from 2D Tetris. “Fortnite” creator Epic Games has over 350 million registered players. Roblox is a game for younger players with over 160 million active users. On cellphones, there are hundreds of 3D games. A total of 2.5 billion individuals play video games on a daily basis, representing a $150 billion business. My assumption is that here is where Facebook will go shopping after begging the Federal Trade Commission for authorization.

No one reads the instruction manual for a videogame; instead, players learn by doing. Videogames have taught whole generations how to connect with computers, even if they were largely murdering one another online.

In 2014, Facebook spent $3 billion for virtual-reality headset company Oculus, and it is expected to invest billions more. Facebook is promoting Horizon Worlds, a virtual-reality social network where individuals can connect, communicate, and maybe transact business. Fitness and education are enormous metaverse businesses with a lot of promise.

Since dreadlocked inventor Jaron Lanier pioneered virtual-reality prototypes in the late 1980s, I’ve been tinkering with them. In 2012, I purchased a development kit for the first Oculus Rift, then in 2013, I purchased a developer kit for Google Glass. I experienced Magic Leap’s artificial-reality glasses in 2019, which fire photons straight onto your retina to show 3D things in the actual world—truly incredible, but restricted and difficult. Now I possess a set of $299 Oculus Quest 2 goggles that resemble opaque ski goggles. It’s breathtaking. I’ve virtual boxed and been to Antarctica and the International Space Station. I can ride any roller coaster in real life, but after an hour of using the Oculus, I became queasy. It takes some getting accustomed to staring at displays that are just an inch away from your eyes. Also, be careful—a friend of mine wound up in the hospital after tripping over his living room furniture.

Although it is still early in the game, never underestimate how rapidly technology evolves if a large market exists to cut prices. How will all of this be paid for? Mr. Zuckerberg said, “Ads… will definitely be an important component of the metaverse, too.”

Many issues from the real world will find their way into this new universe. A few weeks ago, an early tester of Facebook’s Horizon Worlds reported that her avatar had been grabbed by another avatar. I had to consider whether or not it was even conceivable. I oppose all forms of sexual harassment, and this demonstrates that the metaverse has a lot of rules and limits to iron out.

Will we eventually see nonfungible tokens and virtual artwork hung on eternally growing walls? Are you a virtual fitness aficionado? Virtual worlds being purchased by real-estate developers? Virtual cyborg Terminators that self-replicate? Maybe, but the metaverse, like any new technologies, will be very different from anything we can imagine right now. Keep one of those airplane barf bags on hand, however.

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Wonder Land: We’ve democratized neurosis thanks to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. Walt Disney/Getty Images via Everett Collection Mark Kelly’s composite

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does the metaverse already exist?

A: The metaverse is a 2D virtual reality space created by works of fiction, and not an actual place that exists.

What does Facebook mean by metaverse?

A: Metaverse is a virtual world that combines the real and the digital. It can be created by software, but its also possible to create your own in this universe with nothing more than everyday tools such as Google Earth or Second Life

What is metaverse used for?

A: Metaverses are universes in which you can create and explore virtual worlds, most notably the internet.

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