You May Soon Be Able to Get Into the Metaverse Without a Headset

No goggles necessary

Key Takeaways

  • A new device called PORTL M claims to let you access the metaverse without a virtual reality headset.
  • The PORTL M will cost $2,000 and acts as a two-way hologram communications device.  
  • Augmented reality glasses and 2D displays on smartphones are other ways to get on the metaverse.
A parent and child using the Portl device to speak with a grandparent.


You soon might not need a bulky headset to access the metaverse. 

A new device called the PORTL M offers what's essentially a two-way hologram communications device in a box. The makers of the PORTL say it's perfect for things like exploring the network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. It's one of a growing number of ways that are under development to explore the metaverse without a virtual reality headset. 

"The need for a headset is a huge barrier to adoption," David Nussbaum, the inventor and CEO of PORTL Inc., told Lifewire in an email interview. "A huge portion of the population will always find it off-putting. But more importantly, headsets as they are mostly made now shut you off from your surroundings and the people around you." 

Window to the Metaverse?

PORTL has been making hologram communications devices for several years, but previous models were bulky and too expensive for the average user. Now, with the PORTL M, the company wants to make accessing the metaverse a lot easier. 

The $2,000 PORTL M sits on your desk and works in landscape or portrait mode. The M has an AI-enabled camera on the top bezel, 16GB of system memory, and one TB of internal storage. It will cost $2,000 when it ships later this year. 

"To be able to access the metaverse while still engaging with the people you're with physically makes it a communal experience, a less isolating one, and one with more emotional and engaging impact," Nussbaum said. "Think of a classroom being able to watch a lecture in the metaverse but. also chat among themselves and pick up on the teacher's cues and classmate's enthusiasm as they learn."

Most current versions of the metaverse are based on a model of an immersive Internet that uses virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) platforms, noted journalism professor John Pavlik, who researches virtual reality at Rutgers University, in an email interview with Lifewire. 

Some versions of the metaverse support users accessing their environments from a smartphone or tablet, but these experiences are not immersive, Pavlik said, and are instead 2D. 

"Donning a headset in some ways limits users' mobility and therefore can limit the potential of a metaverse experience," he added. "Not having to don a headset could also help make the metaverse more widely available and help make the digital divide less of a problem."

Ditch the Goggles

Developers and device manufacturers like PORTL are working on new ways to display the metaverse without bulky gear. One possibility is to use augmented reality (AR), an interactive experience of a real-world environment enhanced by computer-generated information. AR devices such as the Microsoft Hololens look more like eyeglasses than goggles. 

Someone shopping on a Portl holographic device.


The software Hoverlay lets you create and publish digital content in the metaverse without headsets using mobile devices. The most natural way to present digital content to people is by integrating it directly into physical surroundings, Nicolas Robbe, the CEO of Hoverlay, said in an email interview with Lifewire. Many people report headaches, eye strain, dizziness, and nausea after using headsets, he said. 

"Such symptoms are triggered by the VR illusion, which makes the eyes focus on objects that appear in the distance that are actually on a screen just centimeters away,” Robbe added. “Mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) with constantly improving cameras represent healthier and more useful entry into experiencing metaverses without headsets.”

Holographic displays or projectors, similar to the Star Trek Holodeck, could represent the future of the metaverse, Theo Priestley, the CEO of Metanomic, a metaverse platform for developers, told Lifewire by email. Contact lenses with integrated augmented reality is another possibility. 

“The last mile would be a direct brain interface, like NeuraLink [a device that could allow communications between the brain and a computer that’s being developed by Elon Musk], but this is still very much in the realms of science fiction and won't be a science fact for a very long time, if at all,” Priestley added.

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