Beyond the universe

Posted by Unspector Blog on Tuesday, August 17, 2021

the metaverse has been here a few times already

The metaverse is an abstract concept and describes a transcendence of our universe into a virtual 3D space. This is the sales pitch at least. Everyone who plays video games can attest: Virtual 3D spaces do exist already.

The metaverse is not an scientific concept, but an unspecific collection of ideas borrowed from late nineties science-fiction authors. Their vision of shared 3D spaces may have been revolutionary at the time, but they precede a lot of advancements in online multiplayer video games, we take for granted today.

MMOs are not new and nearly everyone of them fits the definition of a metaverse - if it is happening in virtual reality or not. But MMOs lack a crucial link: A safe way to maintain the body in our universe. This consists of all bodily functions as well as getting a minimal amount of excercise and being able to buy and pay for food and shelter. Additionally the equipment (PCs, input devices, VR headsets, etc.) for these metaverses need to be developed and build in the real world. Therefore it is unlikely that any virtual reality concept can satisfy the requirements of transcending our universe completely and will only achieve what video games do for decades.

Though what can reach metaverse-like qualities is augmented reality. AR is happening in the real world, therefore the body can be preserved and the relevant equipment can be developed and build. Experiments like Pokémon Go already showed that participants of AR experiences excersize more instead of less.

Companies like Facebook, Valve and SONY invested heavily in VR-technology and have to justify the R&D and acquisition costs to their shareholders. Therefore the metaverse is presented as a noncommital vision that can be understood easily and declared fulfilled at any point in time, since 3D online video games are already here.

The reality is much bleaker: The software challenges that needed solving to make a video game engine VR capable are the same challenges that needed solving for AR. At the same time VR needed a lot of hardware development for displays, optics and sensors. And while some of it may be salvageable for AR glasses, a lot of it will need to be written off.

Gaming in VR is great! But it merely replaces one display with another. AR is where the transcending of our current universe is happening.