You don’t have to be able to do everything.
Many people have felt this way about the metaverse. It is a virtual, all-encompassing world that Mark Zuckerberg and other tech executives want everyone to experience using augmented or virtual reality headsets. In 2021, Meta, Zuckerberg’s tech company, spent $10 billion to promote his vision.
We have the technology now to immerse ourselves into virtual worlds. However, it doesn’t make the experience more exciting. It can even do the opposite in many cases.
We should all admit that many of these fancy demos of the metaverse are worse than IRL activities if we want to continue hearing about it in 2022.
You can pin a TV to your wall or get a real one
All things metaverse have one thing in common: they look futuristic. It must therefore represent some forward-looking improvement to the way things are done. But “Newer” does not always mean “better.”
Here’s an example: The YouTube VR team demonstrated a method to project a “meta TV” onto a wall nearby using Quest 2.
This clip was taken from Facebook’s Connect stream for developers (where Meta announced its rebranding) in October 2021. It was again circulated on Twitter and Reddit in February 2022. It looks great, even though it isn’t real, to draw a square with a motion controller, and then have something that looks like a TV in your field of vision, even though the wall is completely empty in real life, it does seem quite impressive. What is the real benefit?
A Quest 2 TV costs $299 more than the 4K TV that I purchased for $250 in 2019. This TV’s cool feature allows more than one person to see it. It’s a tangible object. Even though my headset is heavy, I can still enjoy Lord of the Rings movies without worrying about it running out of battery.
YouTube VR demo is a great way to position the screen wherever you want it to be, and to adjust its size to your liking. It also has navigation controls that make it easy to navigate around. However, it’s still inferior to the real deal. While I understand that not everyone can afford a 4K TV of decent quality, we are talking about an alternative that is just as expensive and provides a worse experience. No!
Online dating with more catfishing
It is difficult to imagine a way of dating that is less enjoyable than the ones we have done for most of human history. It is an anxiety-inducing evil that we accept for the very small chance it will lead to long-lasting fulfillment or even a night of laughter. Imagine dating someone you don’t know much about. You can do more than just what is happening with existing dating apps.
This is what Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, has reportedly in the works. Match Group, specifically, has plans for avatar-based online dating platforms that allow you to meet people in a more natural way than just swiping left and right on an app screen. You could start conversations, and possibly take them to more private virtual space.
This idea has some utility, it must be admitted. It made dating more risky than it was emotionally. Also, COVID-19 made it easier to get out of an uncomfortable situation in a virtual bar rather than in a real one. However, allowing people to create cartoony avatars for a virtual date space adds an additional layer of secrecy which could make it difficult to determine who someone is while speaking to them. Online dating, as it is now, already has problems with trust and transparency. So why add more?
We’ve also seen harassment in metaverse spaces recently, which is too problematic for regular dating.
Dating can be so difficult. Let’s stop making it worse.
Basketball without the ball
Mark Zuckerberg spent a few minutes showing off the future of fitness in the metaverse during the Meta rebranding event stream. It was manifested in many amazing ways, including playing pick-up basketball with people all over the globe and learning fencing from a top trainer.
This is not an endorsement of VR fitness as a concept. VR fitness is a great way to exercise. Beat Saber is both exhausting and exhilarating. Anyone who has played it will agree. The thing about fencing and basketball is that both revolve around unique physical properties as well as the movements made by other bodies. The skill of basketball players weaving, ducking, and spinning around the court to score against defenders is what makes it so beautiful. It’s fun to bounce a real basketball.
These activities can only be done with real people. Even if technology improves to the point that gloves (or wristbands), use haptics for the simulation of the feeling of a ball and fencing sabre in your hands, it won’t be the same as the real thing.
Pop star avatar concerts
Snap hosted a virtual concert in February to promote Marry Me, the new rom-com by Jennifer Lopez. It’s fine to do that in a vacuum. However, concert-going was made more difficult by the pandemic. There have been some creative options, such as Fortnite music events and livestreamed performances.
This is not the JLo show. They made “Jenny” and her co-star Maluma look like 3D bitmoji monstrosities. Although the avatars are terrible, it is not hard to see why they were chosen.
The importance of stage presence is real. Although a live performance by your favorite artist may not sound as good or as polished as an album recording of the same artist, their physicality transcends that. They shouldn’t exist if metaverse concerts don’t go as far as Fortnite’s absurdity. Instead, film performances and put them online.
Bar crawls without the alcohol and fun
Some people found COVID more annoying than being unable to get together with friends at the bar. Others found bars to be boring. Both can agree that going to a Miller Lite-branded bar in virtual Miller Lite is the worst thing.
Miller Lite does have a metaverse bar that is hosted on “Decentraland”, a virtual real estate platform. You don’t need to use a VR headset, it’s browser-based so it’s easy to access, but it’s best to avoid it.