The Metaverse Is Your Future, Even If You Aren’t Ready

It’s the next big thing in communications

Key Takeaways

  • This year is likely to see the metaverse take off in a big way. 
  • Many companies are jumping on the idea of a shared virtual reality where we communicate through avatars.
  • Apple could release a virtual reality headset this year that could solve many of the problems of the current generation of VR gadgets.
Someone having a virtual reality experience, floating in a bubble through a large city.

timeandtim / Getty Images

Like it or not, the metaverse is coming, and 2022 may be the year it arrives. 

Tech companies ranging from Facebook (now Meta) to Google are jumping on the idea of a shared virtual reality where we communicate through avatars. The metaverse could drive the adoption of VR headsets by making them as common as smartphones are now. 

"Large tech platforms (which benefited from the rise of mobile computing apps) now look toward augmented reality as the next computing platform shift," Goldman Sachs analyst Eric Sheridan wrote in a recent note

Avatars ‘R Us

The idea of using avatars to communicate and process transactions isn’t so far-fetched since many video games already offer a similar experience. 

But tech visionaries are intent on making the metaverse an everyday experience. For example, Meta is so enraptured with the idea of the metaverse that it changed its name from Facebook. It’s also one of the leading manufacturers of VR hardware with its Oculus line of headsets. 

Interestingly, Meta recently bought the company which makes Supernatural, a workout game in which users smack floating blocks in time with the music. This acquisition shows that Meta sees the metaverse as a place where it’s possible to do much more than just play games. The company sees Supernatural as a replacement for a gym workout where you can also interact with fellow users. 

I tried out Supernatural last year and was thoroughly impressed with its ability to make working out fun. The Oculus hardware that the game runs on is clunky, but I’m confident that VR headsets will soon get a lot more comfortable.

Although it’s only rumored at this point, many people expect Apple to release a virtual reality headset this year that could solve many of the problems of the current generation of VR gadgets. Using its renowned technical know-how, Apple may launch a headset that is lighter, more comfortable, and higher resolution than current options like the Oculus Quest 2. 

Work From Anywhere

The biggest driver of the metaverse use may be the growing number of people working from home as a result of the pandemic. Connecting with colleagues is a problem when you lack face-to-face interactions, but many companies think the metaverse can help. 

There are a handful of virtual reality business meeting apps that let you take the form of an avatar and interact with colleagues in a virtual environment. The experience of talking to cartoon-like versions of your colleagues can be awkward, and I suspect that many users will quickly discard these early efforts. But the hardware and software are rapidly improving. Once the images become photo-realistic and the interface less clunky, you won't be able to ignore the enormous advantages of talking rather than typing to co-workers. 

Someone using digital technology in a futuristic, virtual metaverse.

krongkaew / Getty Images

It's easy to imagine that once the metaverse gets going that some virtual areas will be more valuable than others. That's the basic idea behind the recent boom in virtual real estate. A company recently bought a plot of land that doesn't exist in the real world for $2.4 million worth of cryptocurrency. The virtual land grab was in Decentraland, an online environment where users can walk around, buy things, visit places, and meet people as avatars.

Of course, the metaverse can be used for fun as well as work. I recently tested Meta's Horizon Worlds, which lets you navigate virtual scenes and interact with other users. It's an exciting tech demonstration at the moment, which is bound to get better as Meta throws its vast resources into the project. 

Some critics argue that the metaverse could devalue the experience of meeting people face-to-face. But I see the metaverse as an adjunct to our current forms of communication rather than a replacement. 

Just as emailing and texting can be isolating, so does the occasional video call bring some humanity back into the equation. Chatting with friends and colleagues in a virtual world will open up many possibilities to bring us closer in a world made larger by the pandemic. 

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