There are plenty of commentators who will warn you about the potential drawbacks and how virtual worlds are doomed, but I wanted to offer a more realistic perspective of the difficulties the Metaverse concept faces as well as the many benefits society could enjoy if those working on it are successful.
Before I can do that, I need to make sure that we both understand the notion of the Metaverse, as well as the difficulties it encounters and the advantages it has.
Given the past, YOUR SKepticism is not foolish. It makes perfect reason to be a skeptic if you watched the presentation in its whole or just a portion of it (linked below) and haven’t personally used any VR equipment.
They made some VERY significant promises. Hyper-realistic virtual worlds are designed to allow us to travel to far-off locations and experience them as if we were really there, along with other people. Nothing seems plausible; everything feels like it belongs in a science fiction film.
VR technology has been incredibly frustrating up until lately. Older Millennials and Gen Xers merely need to keep in mind the flop that Nintendo’s Virtual Boy became . The fact that it provided a type of 3D vision was cool, but the poor graphics (red and black instead of the pea green and grey of the Game Boy), low resolution, and eye strain problems made it a tremendous letdown for anyone who actually tried it. In fact, when I tried it as a child, it is exactly what occurred to me, and it destroyed the concept of virtual reality for me and many others.
Inexpensive VR devices from the 1990s included inferior technologies. Even the finest of what the industry had to offer back then was marred with large, cumbersome helmets, numerous heavy wires, and rudimentary graphics.
I choose to test VR once more a few years ago. I recently purchased a new Samsung phone from Verizon, and there was a mail-in promotion (yes, I submitted my receipt online, but that’s what old people like us call these promotions) for a chance to win an Oculus Gear VR headset or a 256 GB micro SD card to expand the phone’s capacity.
For those who don’t know, the Gear VR essentially consists of a pair of goggles that you insert your phone into. It featured two lenses, so even if the phone was only a few inches in front of your face, you could focus on a piece of the screen. You were able to use half of the phone’s screen with your left eye and half with your right. The virtual environment moved with your head thanks to the phone’s motion sensors, GPS, and compass, which greatly enhanced realism.
Essentially, this was just Google Cardboard with a little more style. Cardboard headsets acted as a cradle to keep your phone positioned in front of lenses and were frequently made of cardboard to keep them affordable. The Samsung/Oculus gadget has a touchpad and additional buttons, whereas Cardboard devices don’t. There was, at best, a little button that could swing a stylus-like tip for smartphones to tap the top center of your phone’s screen to provide simple commands.
Both the more expensive Gear VR and the $5 Cardboard VR had the same issue: they both required a smartphone. As we all know, cellphones aren’t really designed to offer a fantastic VR experience, so trying to force them into that role results in a fairly disappointing experience. There is some eye strain as a result of the left and right eye displays being too close together. For the majority of users, the experience is simply too unclear when magnified with headset glasses due to the low resolution of smartphones. Even worse, the Gear VR would frequently overheat my Galaxy S7, which was at the time Samsung’s top-of-the-line device, and rapidly deplete its battery.
The underwhelming experiences that devices like Google Cardboard, Gear VR, and Daydream offered just 3-5 years ago killed a lot of excitement for it for many people. In 2016, I delightedly purchased inexpensive Cardboard VR kits and presented them to a large number of members of my extended family as stocking stuffers in the hopes that they would enjoy using them with their children. The thrill had worn off and disappointment had crept in even a week later.
They didn’t trust me when I told them that a VR headset may perhaps be worth $300 to buy their own when I got my next one last year to see whether the technology had advanced. I have no one to play multiplayer games with because they have already given up on virtual reality due to the failure of their last free attempt at it.
Since 2015, things have significantly improved. I continued seeing advertisements for the Oculus Quest 2 in late 2016. Yes, there’s no way that’s worth $300 at first, I thought. There’s no way they could improve the Gear VR given that it cost $100, right?
It turns out that I was entirely mistaken. They weren’t attempting to force a smartphone into duty powering the headgear, despite the fact that the basic idea is the same (tiny screens put near to the eyes, with magnifying and focussing lenses to make it work). The components were picked with a VR headset in mind because the device was designed from the ground up to be one. With the Quest 2, each eye receives 1832 x 1920 resolution, is positioned significantly better, and has refresh rates of up to 120 Hz.
The fact that it has integrated tracking is another significant benefit over earlier VR headsets. When you switch on the device, you may “paint” a safe zone for you to roam around in as it utilizes cameras to track items in the world around you. With WiFi “room-scale” experiences, you can move around in a virtual world like a real room as opposed to just sitting or standing still. A virtual cage that warns you to stop going forward or risk breaking your TV or something else appears in the air in front of you if you approach the safe zone’s edge too closely.
You can still have some enjoyable experiences despite the restrictions of what is essentially smartphone technology (Snapdragon SOC, 6 GB RAM). Even the headgear instruction for Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge is a ton of fun and reasonably realistic (my kids play the tutorial just for fun).
But that only scratches the surface of today’s issues. I’ll examine the more sophisticated AI experiences that are now available in Part 2 and explain how they provide a glimpse into the future. We may then take a realistic look at whether the technology can benefit the environment and save lives in other ways after considering the challenges and potential.
Screenshot from Meta’s presentation featuring two men playing chess remotely in a park is used as the featured image. One that like a Star Wars Force Ghost appears from somewhere else. For amusement, the other person modified his avatar to look like a lion.
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