Is it too early for the metaverse?

Hololens 2015
Hololens 2015 (Image credit: AP (2015))

Another week, another bout of metaverse news and discussion. This time around, we have the (reportedly) sorry state of Microsoft's big AR deal with the U.S. Army. The company fully expects the Pentagon to be disappointed with its deliverables, and some suspect that what the U.S. Army wants is just too far removed from what current technology and, by extension, Microsoft, can provide. After all, can tech that barely works in ideal living-room-esque conditions actually translate to the harsh environments soldiers spend time in? Are we there yet?

That's the question hanging over the entirety of the metaverse. Be it soldiers on the frontlines with specialized HoloLens units or consumers playing Synth Riders with a Windows Mixed Reality headset in their bedrooms, there are a lot of asterisks and caveats to modern-day AR, VR, mixed reality, and metaverse-linked experiences. Tons of hardware limitations, not a lot of support, and other pitfalls have trapped this new dimension of virtual experiences in a tiny corner of tech talk that makes the current "metaverse" chatter seem overblown and disproportionate to reality. Unless, of course, you don't define the "metaverse" as a Ready Player One fantasy come true, kind of like what Meta is positioning it to be.

Do you view the metaverse as a ways off from becoming a reality, or do you define it like Microsoft does, wherein it's just a vaguely interconnected network of software that allows you to interact virtually with others? By Microsoft's definition, we're already in the metaverse.

There is always the third option, of course. The one nestled between the extremes of "yes, we're already in the metaverse" and "no, the metaverse isn't here yet." That option is to reject "the metaverse" entirely and brand it an ill-defined term spawned from the depths of PR buzzword hell.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

15 Comments
  • I have always said vr is a fad. Look at psvr as an example what killer game has it got? Even the pcvr is the same. OK it works great in some instances like raceing games but let's be honest having a full chair and screen setup is better. VR is like the Wii and kinect. Great in short bursts but nothing more. AR on the other hand has alot more going for it in terms of overlaying things and being able to interact with them. But again this is way off where it needs to be to become mainstream.
  • I think VR is nothing more than a fun addition to gaming which still needs to 'mature'. AR seems promising but no one yet seems to know how to position it or roll it out. Besides that is the concept of a virtual world old and long in the tooth to me. Second life, Minecraft, Roblox and even Sims existed for ages now. Unless someone actually manages to make the Startrek Holodeck a reality, it's all nothing more than just another avatar based open world game/environment. Whether it's with vr goggles or not.
  • I enjoyed the Metaverse back in 2010. Of course, we called it an MMORPG. The fact that the new version is in VR doesn't change that the underlying technology is the same. And yet, it's amazing the Metaverse is expecting people to grab onto a technology that doesn't appear to mass audiences to play a game that generally doesn't appeal to mass audiences. It's a niche of a niche.
  • Just play VRChat
  • If we define metaverse as an online environment where you interact with others at a remove it is already here and has been since the days of dialup and Minitel, Compuserve, AOL, etc.
    What we don't have (and never will) is a single VR platform hosting all or even a majority of online interactions.
    That is corporate pipe dreaming.
    People interact in different ways for different needs which is why we have dozens of healthy big commuities and a million smaller ones. The big ones include Facebook and twitter, yes, but they also include Linkedin, XBOX LIVE, PS Network, Discord, Teams and Zoom, Twitch, and others. Every news site that still allows comments, moderated or not, every blog with an attached forum, every online multiplayer game with communication, those are all metaverses. Or pieces of the great metaverse we know as the Internet.
    Metaverse = Internet. 3D avatars in VR?
    Cute to look at but what's the added value?
    What functionality do you gain? VR is a solution in search of a problem.
    AR is a problem in search of a tech breakthrough.
    Neither is ready to be a viable business.
    All the talk is just positioning in hope things change.
  • 👍 (Please submit a longer comment (min 3 words))
  • You almost make it sound like this is all hype and BS from companies that have run out of ideas and gullible journalists with the critical thinking skills of a preteen who just downed two liters of Mountain Dew. Didn't you read the teaser? "The metaverse is coming"!!!
  • Mostly.
    Bill Gates once said tbat "people overestimate the short term impact of a new technology and underestiate the long term impact. " Pundits also project their own biases on their projections.
    VR proponents *want* headsets to become a big business and thus project their desires on the masses without paying much attention to what people actually need or want. Some day there might be a killer app (remember those?) for mass adoption of AR or VR but it won't be gossip or shopping or streaming media. In fact, it probably won't be anything people currently do without spending $500 on a headset and even more on a computer to feed it. Not.Anytime.Soon.
    We'll have a moon base first. 😇
  • According to one study almost 60% of people experience VR motion sickness. People that talk about widespread adoption of headsets that make a lot of people sick some or all of the time, aren't living in reality.
  • You don't even need VR to experience vestibular disconnect with FPS games.
    Lots of people can't play FPS at all because of it.
    In fact I used to have the problem until I realized I had to recline so as to align my line of sight with the centerline of the game.
    Because of this I never bothered with 3D TVs (saved a nice chunk) or VR.
    AR I haven't tried so I don't know how it'll work for me but I won't be tbe first kid on the block.
  • I voted that the Metaverse is just PR nonsense. The closest I feel I come to being in a metaverse or alternate reality is when I regularly play Apex Legends, my favorite online game. If you come home from work or separate your schedule by emotionally investing your time in some online form of existence, like immersing yourself in a game - to me, that's maybe some Metaverse. When you can say - see you in the arena or see you in Apex, or BF 2042, see you in Minecraft or whatever, especially where you play a character role, that's what I imagine the Metaverse is at this point. So many people flocked to Facebook because of the perceived benefits of using that platform. Well, if they can bring out some game or alternate reality environment that enough people subscribe to - they can call it what they want. It is interesting to imagine that millions of people might interact from their homes one day using VR headsets. If you remember the Total Recall movies. Maybe alternate realities could be that real one day. (Just having fun. I didn't sleep much.)
  • A better example would be the recent FREE GUY for the tech and Isaac Asimov's NAKED SUN for the long term social effects. A good read on its own merits.
  • Dare I say that the metaverse isn't simply PR nonsense, it's a PR nightmare! No one can really explain what the metaverse is. At best you'll get some woo-woo explanation about digital avatars and attending Zoom meetings that look like the Super Bowl. Companies are trying to sell you on the promise that one day "something" will be cool. Unfortunately, what they're trying to sell is at odds with what the masses want. I've said it before, the company that rules the metaverse will be the first one that designs an all-day, unintrusive headset that people want to wear. Furthermore, it has to provide a need. For all the time wasting things you can do with a smartphone, it has a specific need. If a headset could legitimately improve your life in a way that a smartphone couldn't, then I could see mass adoption (again, assuming it's an unintrusive design). Otherwise, the metaverse will be just like VR. Some people will reeeeaaally like it, but it will never escape its niche.
  • PR nonsense. Web 3.0 at least makes a little more sense if you think of it simply as web apps and services that are accessible through AR and VR. Where Web 3.0 runs off the rails is when people solely associate it with this NFT, Cryptocurrency and "Second Life" grift that Facebook and others are trying
  • I want to play on my bed without moving my head or body and reach for soda without dealing with a headset. I wouldn't mind wearing something like HoloLens where I am still in the real world, just have a giant immersive 500inches curved TV 10 feet away from me. And I don't like pass through, it is not the same.