Many hopes rest on VR as a gateway to the metaverse
VR is a technology which has been in development for many years and has become somewhat notorious for never quite breaking into the mainstream. In the past, this has been hindered by the cost and size of hardware, making it unfeasible for consumers to have their own VR set up. However, over the past decade, we have seen greater investment and improvement in consumer devices which are far more affordable and can operate on home PCs or on games consoles.
In terms of the Metaverse, the thought is that VR headsets will provide the ideal delivery mechanism to provide immersive experiences that mix real life with digital. However, there have been detractors. Notably, PlayStation creator Ken Kuturagi who recently dismissed the idea of users spending extended amounts of time operating VR headsets:
“Headsets would isolate you from the real world, and I can’t agree with that... Headsets are simply annoying." – Ken Kutaragi[i]
However, this view isn’t shared by his former employer- Sony recently announced plans to launch a second generation of the company’s successful PSVR headset, showing the belief the company has in the technology. As we discussed in previous blogs, the videogames industry (alongside enterprise applications such as remote conferences and meetings) is likely to provide the gateway into the metaverse, with other industry giants such as Microsoft seeking to nurture an ecosystem for their audience.
Kutaragi was also pessimistic about the more general concept of the Metaverse when speaking with Bloomberg recently. The inventor, who created Sony’s video game business in 1993, stated that “Being in the real world is very important, but the metaverse is about making quasi-real in the virtual world, and I can’t see the point of doing it. You would rather be a polished avatar instead of your real self? That’s essentially no different from anonymous message board sites.”[ii]
Yet conversely it could be argued that today’s society is in fact primed for such an experience. We see a world of social media influencers, daily blogging, posting, and Instagram filters, where the younger generation in particular are much more engaged with creating an alternate image of themselves… a ‘digital self’.
Questions remain over Metaverse reaching the masses
However, Kuaragi’s comments also follow those of ‘Second Life’ creator Philip Rosedale, who is unconvinced that Facebook’s parent ‘Meta’ would be able to successfully operate a metaverse ecosystem at scale. His concerns rest with the social media giant being able to onboard a substantial proportion of the population for extended periods. He told IGN: "There still arises this weighty question of what is it that's going to cause, you know, normal people, a lot of the time, to be willing to go into these online spaces, and I think we still haven't answered that question.”[iii]
However, despite showing doubts over Meta, Rosedale remained optimistic that virtual worlds will play a part in how people interact in the future. “You might be able to create a public space that could be a positive thing for people — where you could go and make new friends, where you could cry out about injustice,” [iv] – he did however note that such a vision would require public freedom, therefore making it likely unviable to be controlled by one large corporation.
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