Metaverse is a word that has taken the world by a storm. From gaming companies such as Epic Games, Niantic and Roblox to clothing brands such as Nike to tech brands such as Meta, Microsoft, Samsung to even auto companies such as Hyundai, brands across industries are investing heavily in what one of the biggest proponents of metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg, has described as the ‘successor to the mobile internet’. Its impact in terms of adoption was also felt at the CES 2022 wherein big tech companies and startups alike introduced products and services focused on this concept. Also Read - Google Pixel 6a and the first Pixel smartwatch could launch on the same day
Trends have said and so have the tech executives that metaverse is coming and it will have a huge impact on our lives. Despite the collective global enthusiasm around this concept, a lot of companies and executives remain apprehensive about it. Then there are others who have neither accepted nor rejected the influence of this concept. Also Read - PlayStation creator Ken Kutaragi shrugs off metaverse, says VR headsets are annoying
The apprehensive ones
Apple is reportedly planning to skip this trend as far as its much-awaited mixed reality headsets are concerned. The company’s executive told Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman that “the idea of a completely virtual world where users can escape to – like they can in Meta Platforms/Facebook’s vision of the future – is off limits from Apple.” While the company is working on mixed reality based headset, it imagines them to be used for shorter time periods such as gaming, communication and entertainment, which is quite different from how metaverse has been imagined to be. Also Read - Google rolls out major update to 2 billion Chrome users, fixes critical bugs
Amazon, on the other hand, has refrained from speaking about the concept just yet. Though reports say that it could be an important player in the goods market if it does decide to foray in this field. Google and Tencent have given mixed signals. “On metaverse, I think this is actually sort of a very exciting, but a little bit vague concept,” Tencent President Chi Ping Lau has said.
“So, just like you speak to people, you see, and interact, computers will become more immersive. They’ll be there when you need it to be. So, I have always been excited about the future of immersive computing, ambient computing, AR,” Alphabet Inc CEO Sundar Pichai told Bloomberg recently.
Contrary to that, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has just mocked the entire concept. “I think we’re far from disappearing into the metaverse. This sounds just kind of buzzword-y,” Musk said in an interview with the Youtube channel The Babylon Bee.
While a lot has been said in for and against the metaverse, one question that hasn’t really been answered is what gap will the metaverse fill or what issue will it solve? The answer to this question also explains why some (both companies and executives) are not so sure about this concept.
If you say that the metaverse will give people a collective social experience digitally, then the argument against it is that video conferencing platforms, social media platforms and online gaming platforms are already providing users with that experience. If you argue that it will be “an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it,” as Zuckerberg put it, then the question is that why increase the sensory bulk load and exhaust users more than they already are?
The primary reason why some are still suspicious about the metaverse is its adoption by people at large. It was the same with social media when it arrived almost two decades ago. While companies are excited about it and hailing it as the next big tech trend, will it be received with the same enthusiasm by the end users remains a thing to be seen. Sure, one can argue that the tech-savvy Gen-X will be quick to try it out, after all they are already using a lot of these seemingly complex platforms, but that generation is just a part of the total user base.
The real challenge that the companies will face when the metaverse becomes more real is convincing millennials and baby boomers to get on-board this alternate reality. And that isn’t expected to happen easily unless metaverse offers some real benefits other than being a more holistic social media experience with a tad bit of more benefits.