Historically, Virtual and Augmented Reality did not become the “next big thing” in the 1990s because the internet did. After a VR Winter of 15 years, the metaverse hyped. Despite massive drops of Meta’s stock and staff similar across the board in Big Tech and crashing crypto currency, the metaverse is definitely not dead. So no: another long winter is not coming. The metaverse is inevitable. On one hand, perceiving the (digital) world in 3D is in our human DNA. On the other hand, almost the entire metaverse industry is already too big to fail.
The three recommended publications by Louis B. Rosenberg
- The Metaverse of the 1990’s. How the “next big thing” fell into a Virtual Winter of 15 year (January 5, 2022)
- No, the metaverse is not dead – it’s inevitable (November 19, 2022)
- METAVERSE 2030 (November 28, 2021)
I strongly recommend reading these three publications in the listed order above, because the first article gives a historical account of what killed VR in the 1990s.
The second article explains perfectly that the metaverse is not about NFTs but about transforming how we humans experience the digital world.
The third one is a short story taking place in the year 2030, which illustrates vividly how a 68-years-old widow would live his life in the metaverse.
Lastly, please find the most relevant quotes from each publication below. Summarized heading text and introductory paragraphs are my own.
Virtual Winter due to burning hot Summer Web
In the 1990s, VR/AR pioneers truly believed that virtual reality would become widely adopted within a decade. Although it was over-hyped, the real reason was that the internet (Web 1.0) beat VR to it to be the “big next thing”.
(…) I was sure VR would be widely adopted within a decade. I know this sounds wildly optimistic, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. And I wasn’t the only one with that outlook — a creative and vibrant industry emerged in the late 80’s and early 90’s, complete with VR tradeshows and VR conferences and VR magazines. Many of us believed virtual reality would be mainstream within 10 years. Clearly, we were off by decades.
By the mid-90’s the enthusiasm had peaked and the industry fell into what can only be described as a VR Winter from about 1997 to 2012. During those fifteen cold years, you could hardly use the phrase “virtual reality” with venture capitalists and expect to be taken seriously.
So what killed VR back then?
The typical answer is that it was over-hyped, with hardware that was too expensive and fidelity that wasn’t good enough. While true facts, they don’t explain why VR totally fell off the map. No, what really killed the industry was the internet. You see, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, VR was the “next big thing” in Silicon Valley. But in 1995 the internet suddenly took off, grabbing the crown in a massive way. The phrase “virtual reality” quickly became old news and the butt of jokes about failed markets.
So, will the Metaverse really happen this time?
There are those who say the metaverse is just the latest marketing hype, claiming it already exists in the form of Minecraft and Roblox, and will never extend beyond gaming and entertainment. I strongly disagree. In fact, I am increasingly confident that by 2030, immersive media will rival flat media as the means by which most people access digital content.Quotes from The Metaverse — of the 1990’s by Louis B. Rosenberg
But don’t get me wrong — I don’t believe most adults will spend countless hours wearing VR headsets to control cartoon avatars in cartoon worlds. That will be a popular and growing form of social entertainment, but it will not transform society. On the other hand, I’m convinced that augmented reality, enabled by light weight eyewear, will create an AR metaverse that transforms our lives, replacing phones and desktops as our primary interface to digital content. Sure, I’ve gotten the timing wrong before, but this time the momentum is unstoppable — another winter is not coming.
No Red Wedding but a Red Herring
So, no: the author does not believe another (Virtual) Winter Is Coming.
But with the Red Wedding in Big Tech, people started to ask the question:
(…) Is the metaverse dead? This pessimism is not surprising, considering that Meta stock has lost over half its value since formally announcing its strategic pivot to the metaverse. (…) Last week Meta announced major layoffs across the company, increasing fear throughout the industry.
Trying my best to be objective, I see the current struggles at Meta as a reflection of its legacy business rather than an indication that its metaverse strategy is failing.
My bigger concern is that the general public is still confused about what “the metaverse” is and how it will benefit society. You’d think this would be clear by now, but even simple definitions of the metaverse are hard to come by. Personally, I blame influencers from the Web3 space for creating the confusion, describing the metaverse in terms of blockchains, cryptocurrencies and NFTs. These are profoundly useful technologies but are no more relevant to the metaverse than 5G, GPS or GPUs. The metaverse is not about NFTs.
Instead, the metaverse is about transforming how we humans experience the digital world.
Since the dawn of computing, digital content has been accessed primarily through flat media viewed in the third person. In the metaverse, our digital lives will increasingly involve immersive media that appears all around us and is experienced in the first person.
It will impact everything, from how we work, shop and learn online to how we socialize and organize.Quotes from No, the metaverse is not dead – it’s inevitable by Louis B. Rosenberg
So no: the Red Wedding in Big Tech aka the mass layoffs at big tech companies like Meta (11.000 or 13%) and Twitter (3400 out of 7500 so almost half its staff) does not mean the metaverse is dead. On the contrary, the metaverse is inevitable. The metaverse is the ultimate form of digital transformation and the most natural way for humans to perceive the (digital) world: in 3D or even 6D. Or better put, 6DOF:
6 Degrees Of Freedom.
Double-blink to power on the ELF in your lens
I saved the best for last: the short sci-fi novel that Louis B. Rosenberg wrote, titled METAVERSE 2030. The quote below describes the scene in which the main character, Gordon Pines, is putting his brand-new Carbon 14 lenses in his eyes. He is voice-guided by the accompanying earbuds.
The virtual voice and augmented projection of Gordon’s new AI-powered digital personal assistent is dubbed Elf:
Electronic Life Facilitator.
Gordon sat at a smooth white counter in a small white dressing room, a large mirror directly ahead. A nervous breath and he opened the white box, revealing two contact lenses, black as charcoal, and a pair of tiny wireless earbuds. That was it, nothing else — certainly nothing that looked like instructions. “Now what?” he sighed.Quote from METAVERSE 2030 by Louis Rosenberg
In response, a green light began flashing on the earbuds. Gordon pondered, then grabbed the buds and popped them in, pushing them deep. “Greetings Mr. Pines,” rang an excessively cheerful female voice. “Can you hear me alright?”
Gordon nodded, motion sensors in the buds detecting his reply.
“Stupendous!” the voice gushed. “I’m sooooo excited to meet you.”
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