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Internet: What will help the Metaverse to break through

2022-10-05T15:14:24.005Z

They are visions of glasses and 3D worlds: There is a lot of talk about the Metaverse - and ridicule. Our columnist, however, believes that the technology will prevail, just like the smartphone.



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Promotional image for Meta's app "Horizon Worlds": Many made fun of Zuckerberg's VR selfie

Photo: facebook

“We overestimate the short-term implications of technology, but we underestimate the long-term,” said futurologist Roy Amara, and of course he was right.

But one important facet has to be added: At the very beginning, just before the beginning, so to speak, technologies often look completely ridiculous.

And in particular for people who are familiar with related areas.

Which leads straight to the Metaverse, which is not only the future technology that Mark Zuckerberg has bet an insane amount of money and his digital company's name on, but also something that's often derided.

Most recently, at the end of August, when Zuckerberg wanted to present the progress of his work on the Metaverse - with an avatar that looked like it was rendered out of a bad manga, with a graphics card from 1997.

The Metaverse doesn't exist yet, at least not really, which is why most people have little idea of ​​it.

Wikipedia is only of limited help here, talking about a »digital space created by the interaction of virtual, augmented and physical reality« and a »future iteration of the Internet in the form of persistent, shared, virtual 3D spaces «.

An “increased need for immersion” is also described.

more on the subject

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Personally, I think the Metaverse is a very significant future of the internet.

“One” and not “the future” because the net spreads itself and its functional landscapes far and some areas of the internet will have little or nothing to do with the metaverse.

But there are many other areas, including some that you might not believe today.

It is all the more important to approach the metaverse as understandably and comprehensibly as possible without throwing around persistence or immersion.

You can't approach the metaverse purely technically, economically or even philosophically, but with the help of the most important design maxim of the Internet, namely "user centric", i.e. from the user's point of view.

What comes after the smartphone

At its core, the Metaverse is about a question that even less technically interested people may have asked themselves: what will actually come after the smartphone?

If you consider that the smartphone has quickly become the crystallization point and even a kind of operating system of digital capitalism, it is a trillion dollar question.

That's why all experts are so merrily excited when it comes to the metaverse, either pejoratively mocking, murmuring danger or pathetically promising.

But one of the most likely answers to the question of what comes after the smartphone is: glasses.

From today's point of view, one would say virtual reality or augmented reality glasses, but the essential features of the glasses would be three abilities: They would supplement or cover the image that the eyes see with a digital layer.

The glasses would work via voice input, gesture and movement control, possibly supplemented by a small handheld device.

Above all, however, the glasses would be able to adapt to the physical environment, they perceive their position and movements and thereby change what one can see.

This creates the feeling of a digital space in which one can look around.

That seems banal, but it is banal in the same way that the smartphone is just »mobile internet«.

A digital surface with the impression of a walk-in room

For every large-scale digital technology, there is a system of classification that graphically explains how to find your way around, how applications and interactions work, the symbol for the operating system, so to speak.

For the old PC, this was the “desk” on which documents and programs lay around.

With the networked computer, that was the browser.

With smartphones, it's the app principle.

For the upcoming digital glasses, it is the metaverse, i.e. the space around a person, supplemented by a digital level.

This is the key to understanding for non-professionals - the Metaverse is a digital surface with the appearance of a walk-in space in which one can look around.

That doesn't sound spectacular because it's not spectacular, just like the desk on a PC.

I think it's fairly certain that the Metaverse will prevail sooner or later, but the question is of course how (and linked to that when) and what will be the decisive factor.

To do this, you have to take your eyes off the Metaverse's »desk«.

Because the exciting things happen in app-like applications.

And just as when the first iPhone was introduced, no one had any idea which apps would become the driving force and which would somehow remain irrelevant, the same is true of the Metaverse today.

The smartphone has prevailed, or rather: significantly separated from its business predecessor, the Blackberry, because it has entered into an almost perfect marriage with social media.

What role will gaming play?

Mark Zuckerberg gambles that it's the same with the Metaverse, that "social" will also make the Metaverse big after the smartphone.

From my point of view, that can be a good thing, but it's not a given.

At the moment it speaks more for games, but they are a kind of social dead end.

Specifically: A technology like a console can be extremely important and big in the gaming sector, but it is completely irrelevant in the everyday life of non-gamers.

If the Metaverse will only be gaming, it will only matter to the rest of the world as an entertainment and economic factor.

Special applications such as teleoperation with 3D glasses or video conferences with full-body avatars will not help.

Some experts say that one of the key features of the Metaverse is interoperability, meaning that you can walk back and forth between the Facebook Metaverse and the "Fortnite" Metaverse.

That would roughly correspond to the metaphor of the browser, with which one can (and does) visit any page.

In my opinion, this is more of a side issue.

People have been used to the fact that everything on the web can be reached with a click, but is otherwise largely unconnected.

You can't even send a text message from WhatsApp today to someone who only uses iMessage.

So it seems extremely optimistic to me to believe that such a complex and therefore extremely expensive technology complex as the Metaverse will be seen as a people-friendly, open,

The device determines the digital world

In the search for the way in which the Metaverse will prevail, it is worth examining the origin stories of earlier technology complexes for their success patterns.

Most people believe that somehow digital spheres arise as an idea and then the devices are developed for them.

It is exactly the opposite: the device and, above all, how it is used determines the digital world.

Those concepts that prevail often go to the limits of technological feasibility - but in a way that is difficult to plan and often surprising.

Only a few experts expected that an application as simple as WhatsApp (and other messengers in other parts of the world) would become the application that would catapult the smartphone into previously inaccessible areas of society, for example into almost all age groups in.

It's a kind of techno-social evolution in which companies and institutions keep making offers and the most powerful prevails.

This power consists of mass use on the one hand, the (attributed) economic and (tangible) social potential for improvement on the other hand and – often underestimated – the joy of use on the third.

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There is a quote from Mark Zuckerberg that I summarized a little that perfectly illustrated his relationship with the Metaverse – on which he (at times) invested almost a trillion dollars, namely his entire company – a few years ago : »In the Metaverse there is a flat screen no more hardware, just a $1 app.” If you think about it, Zuckerberg, like all Metaverse believers, is betting that sooner or later, most people will end up with those glasses on most of the time.

That might sound odd to us today, but it would have sounded just as odd to most people in 1987 if you were talking about a mini touch screen that people will be holding in their hands for more than half of their waking hours by 2022.

This will be the crucial point: the change between smartphone use and smartphone non-use is only connected to the direction of one's attention and lasts less than a second.

The Metaverse then becomes big beyond the obvious applications such as gaming, video conferencing or specialized professional applications when the associated device offers this flexibility.

Or, to put it "user-centric": It's about the feeling you have when you wear glasses like this.

It has to feel like glasses and not like a contraption or a portable game console.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-10-05

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