Virtual reality, and the effects in our 3D games in general come closer every year to mimicking meatspace (our physical reality). VR headsets quickly readjusts your field of view depending where you turn, the virtual environments are 3D, and sounds have spatial effects.
We send daily messages on Instagram or iMessage, and have virtual meetings on programs like Zoom or Skype. The effects and platforms for virtual communication have only grown more impressive, but continue to lack a crucial element that keeps people meeting in person – crowd vibes. The feeling one gets at a concert or a movie theater. The human energy that surrounds you. The internet is still cold and 2D. Strings of text on Twitter that don’t carry sarcasm or tone very well. Boxes of faces on Zoom that lacks the energy of a house party.
Enter the metaverse. A 3D virtual reality internet 2.0. A fully realized metaverse would feel natural and livable. A virtual world that could participate our 5 main senses alongside our social ones.
Facebook recently announced they were rebranding as a metaverse company, named “Meta”. The Facebook social media app would remain the same, but would be under the umbrella of “Meta” which also holds Oculus, Whatsapp, and Instagram.
It’s not surprising in the slightest that a big social media company involved in VR would also want to play a role in building the metaverse. Many criticize Facebook’s rebranding though, with the controversies still surrounding the company such as ignoring the wellbeing of its users in the name of profit and data gathering. One can also argue that the metaverse should be more decentralized, with open source, democratized content.
For one hundred people to interact in the same environment simultaneously, you need powerful platforms that are seen in businesses like Epic Games or Meta. Until another (perhaps decentralized) system is in place.
However it’s built, it still lacks a huge benefit of meatspace – the human energy that comes when we find ourselves in crowds. A virtual stadium or concert field needs to get a crowd going the way an in-person crowd would feel.
To accomplish that, one can imagine that at the least, these 3D environments would have to instantly render hundreds of people’s visceral reactions in close proximity. You need to sense presence. You need the distanced people to feel in sync (like when crowds do the “wave” with their hands). Not an easy task to suitably replicate.