I don’t exactly know what “metaverse” means, but what is clear is that nobody really does right now. Here is an excerpt from a recent article by Benedict Evans:
If the narrow definition of ‘metaverse’ is that VR and AR will be the next smartphone, the broad definition is that there’s going to be a whole new internet. Our experience will be 3D, but much of that will be layered onto the real world as we see it through glasses. Games will become a much larger part of daily life – instead of the current split between a few hundred people playing deep and rich AAA PC and console games and several billion playing much lighter-weight smartphone games, Roblox and Fortnite point to a growing middle ground of persistent, open, accessible and expressive environments that are much more about social and identity than games per se, and that can become platforms and ecosystems for developers. Many of these experiences will blur into each other, and digital goods (skins, avatars and other models of self-expression in digital form) will be portable and interchangeable between these worlds, rather like the characters in Wreck-it Raph could pass between games.
Some people, namely Mark Zuckerberg, believe that VR is going to be the next smartphone. But Benedict raises an interesting point: the direction of travel for tech seems to be toward less immersion, rather than greater immersion. We used to have giant computers that filled rooms. Then computers got smaller. And now we just carry one around in our pocket and pull it out when we’re standing in a line and bored. Portability and casual usage are what won out. And so is it reasonable to assume that billions of people are going to want to immerse themselves in VR goggles all day?
I don’t see it. Here’s my working thesis:
- I am an urbanist. I love cities. And I believe that our deep desire to interact meaningfully with other humans is not going to go away. For this reason, I believe in the less immersion over greater immersion argument.
- At the same time, blockchain technologies have made it possible for us to own, collect, and trade digital assets — everything from digital fashion to digital art. I think this trend is only going to continue.
- And as this trend continues, we are going to continually look for ways to display and experience these elements of our digital identity. So how do we make that happen? This is an important part of the conversation around “the next smartphone.”
- My view is that it’s going to be some version of augmented reality, and that we are going to end up with a continuous blurring of the line between physical and digital.
But hey, I could be wrong. Time will tell.