Horizon Worlds Is the Metaverse Equivalent of Your Neighborhood

It’s a shared virtual world

Key Takeaways

  • Meta has opened up its new Horizon Worlds metaverse software to Oculus Quest virtual reality headset users. 
  • The software feels like a casual multiplayer game and requires a Facebook account. 
  • I enjoyed random conversations with strangers exploring the new Horizon Worlds areas.
A screenshot of the opening scene from Horizon by Facebook.


The metaverse buzzword is all the rage at the moment, and Meta's new Horizon Worlds app gives Oculus Quest users a taste of the future. 

The metaverse concept is a shared virtual platform that people can use to move through digital environments. At the moment, you can think of Horizon Worlds as a casual multiplayer game with the potential to be much more. The software requires a Facebook account and lets you hang out with up to 20 people at a time in a virtual space.

You can zip between different "worlds" within the software by clicking your controller. Once you are in the virtual space of your choice, you can chat with other users and play rudimentary games or interact with other users in a gathering space. 

Avatars Galore

When you first start Horizon Worlds, the software gives you plenty of options to customize your avatar, although they are all cartoonish. 

Once you’ve established a virtual version of yourself, a prompt lets you know that by rotating your left hand, a handy menu appears on your virtual wrist. You can use the menu to jump among three primary environments: Play, Attend, and Hangout. However, moving between areas is far from intuitive and often resulted in glitchy graphics during my short time in Horizon Worlds. 

The Play area has a primitive, retro look to it, but fans of Roblox might find it just the thing for a distraction. One game called Action Island Teams uses guns to let players shoot each other, while another involves mowing down zombies. You can chat with fellow players using the headset’s built-in microphone. 

The real potential is in The Plaza, which is a spot to mingle and chat with fellow visitors to Horizon Worlds. It was a lot of fun to start random conversations with people exploring the new software, just as I was. 

Safety First

The random nature of the interactions in Horizon Worlds could be problematic. A beta tester reportedly posted in the official Horizon group on Facebook that a stranger groped her avatar.

I didn't notice any untoward behavior in my hours exploring Horizon Worlds. But it's only a matter of time until something unpleasant will occur, given human nature. 

Meta is taking several steps to make the software safer.  You can access a personal Safe Zone through your wrist menu. Once you're in your Safe Zone, you can mute, block or report people and content around you.

"If you mute, block or report someone, a trained safety specialist, who will not appear as an avatar, may remotely observe and record the situation to ensure your safety," Meta writes on its website. "This way, they can submit additional evidence for us to review, and they can temporarily ban someone from Horizon while we review reports." 

A screenshot taken while playing Horizon showing part of the virtual world.

Many other companies are working on software that will allow you to experience a metaverse. For example, Computer chip maker Nvidia Corp is building its Omniverse platform for connecting 3D worlds into a shared virtual universe. The company claims Omniverse can be used as the "plumbing" on which metaverses could be built.

Epic, the maker of the game Fortnite, is experimenting with social experiences like dance parties and virtual music concerts. Users can dress their avatars in different costumes and construct virtual places and games. 

Many tech companies claim the metaverse will evolve into a complete virtual universe where you will spend real money, although there's no way to do that at the moment in Horizon Worlds. One metaverse platform is currently selling virtual real estate for millions of dollars. 

Horizon Worlds is a baby step in the direction of a metaverse and, with its primitive graphics and limited options, feels more like a demo at the moment than a fully-fledged product. But it's free, and it's an exciting glimpse of what might be coming as the hardware and software evolve into a highly-detailed virtual world that erases physical boundaries. 

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