Into the Metaverse We Go

Linden Labs launched Second Life on June 23, 2003. The website is where users can create and interact online with avatars, which are virtual characters. Second Life was the venue for several political press conferences. Sweden and Maldives have opened virtual embassies. Second Life is still available, but it is used mostly by individuals without social life.

Today, technology companies are racing to create the next internet. Augmented reality or AR is one way to do this. AR is a way to see the world through augmented reality. It also adds information that enhances your view. A headset can show you how to fit furniture pieces into your room. Another option is to play an online game where the piece of furniture appears to have been placed on your actual floor, but it’s only there in your view.

Alternatives include virtual reality or VR. VR is a way to experience a virtual reality. You can put on a headset and instantly exist in a 3D environment. You can turn your head any direction to enter that virtual world. Placed speakers allow you to hear and immerse yourself in the world.

Facebook or Meta sent me an Oculus Quest 2, allowing me to experience their “Metaverse,” which is a virtual world. I decided not to attend the meeting explaining Metaverse. My twelve-year-old son, and I dived in. The Metaverse is well-known if you’re familiar with Ready Player One. Facebook knows its future. It is amazing what Facebook already does in its Metaverse.

The first thing you need to do is get Oculus. This is the next gaming platform. The Oculus, according to my son, is the best gaming platform. He has both a Nintendo Switch, and an Xbox. The Oculus is his favorite gaming platform, even better than the Nintendo Classic Edition that my wife and me have. He must be pulled out from the Metaverse by setting timers. He only laments that none of his friends has one so he is forced to play alone. He does play, oh my goodness. He plays with his feet, unlike other consoles.

The Oculus is all-consuming, as are the Metaverse. After I received the Oculus and deleted my Facebook demo account, I set it up again with my credentials. My goal was to travel, make friends and connect with others. Because of the post-COVID-19 world, I see all that is possible. I was able to go to meetings. It was like being there in person and interfacing with other people. Even though it was cartoon avatars, the experience felt real and authentic. The potential for me to be able to see friends in America at a Pearl Jam concert is obvious. A YouTube stream can be more dull than watching it. It is more sterile to be at a concert and fully immersed in the three dimensions.

In a world where people feel increasingly isolated, Mark Zuckerberg’s vision is inspiring me. My Dubai friend and I could experience the same concert or conference call, as well as the same landscape together without actually being physically present. Zoom and FaceTime calls don’t give me that feeling of presence. This was unexpected. Although I had dismissed the possibility of it, it turned out to be true. Interaction is possible. Although it is difficult to describe, this interaction is very real and tangible.

But, there is a problem. Scripture tells us to look out for our fellow citizens and to pray to them. Virtual worlds are not real. There are real people who need help. Metaverse’s danger is more like George Orwell’s, that of Aldous Huxley. It represents a society in disarray driven by the desire for entertainment. Meta’s Metaverse could connect us when we are most disconnected from society. This also holds the potential to disengage us from the world around us. I have so many things to reflect on.

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