By now we’re all familiar with the Facebook company’s name change to Meta. You’ve probably seen a good number of memes dunking on Mark Zuckerberg for acting inhuman, too. But how much do you know about the Metaverse itself?
WSJ’s senior personal tech columnist Joanna Stern straps on a VR headset for 24 hours and dives into the world of the unfinished Metaverse. Before jumping in, she introduces the Metaverse to those of us less familiar with Zuckerberg’s brave new world. It’s defined as “the virtual world that will usher in the new phase of the Internet”, though right now it seems like it’s a version of VRChat that won’t let you be a banana, Bugs Bunny, or an anime girl. So much for doing “almost anything you can imagine”, quote Zuckerberg. (Second Life also already did the whole virtually socializing, working, playing, and shopping thing.)
But I digress. Stern takes a trip to a hotel and sets a few rules for herself for using the headset.
- The headset can come off to eat and go to the bathroom. (She slept with it on.)
- She can only check her phone if it’s urgent.
Now it’s time to get into the VR apps and check out currently existing games and hangouts that are similar to what the Metaverse promises. Stern first starts off with playing Beat Saber, but has no friends to play with that evening. She heads to AltspaceVR for some social interaction via hanging out with other avatars in social venues. After customizing her character, she goes to a campfire and listens to the calming sounds of birds singing and a virtual woman hacking up a lung. Ah, nature.
Stern briefly interviews and then befriends the people in game. She is invited to a comedy club via a portal, and she accepts. Though the club itself looks fake and empty, Stern is surprised to find that the experience feels genuine. There’s crowds of people, she orders wine at the bar, and the comedian hits on her avatar. You too can look forward to being uncomfortably flirted with in the Metaverse!
That’s enough social interaction for today. With headset still on, Stern brushes her teeth, gets into bed, fumbles with the light switch, and turns on a meditation app. Unfortunately, she did not get through the full night sleeping with the headset on.
When she wakes, Stern goes to her Internet browsing app and checks out the morning news on the Wall Street Journal. She then goes to the National Geographic app to have a lovely breakfast with a llama. Stern then works out with the Supernatural app. She uses her controllers to hit targets and stay fit – and actually enjoys herself so much that she loses track of time!
Time for work. Stern joins the Spatial app, which is a virtual space where you can have meetings via your avatar instead of Zoom. She meets with Spatial co-founder Anand Agarawala in a NFT art gallery. (NFTs have also already been a thing: it’s called commissioning a digital artist.)
Finally, Stern heads to Workrooms, an app created by Meta. Similarly to the comedy club, she is pleasantly surprised to find that there is a real sense of presence from the other people.
She might have enjoyed some of the apps, but Stern walks away from her headset with aching eyes and head. So the most important takeaway from this experience? Don’t wear your VR headset for 24 hours.
Interested in more news about VR? Check out this article about eight industries that are already making the most of this technology!