Alternate Title: "Why Hype About "Metaverse" Might Revolutionize Something"
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on 6 August 2022
A good many individuals in tech and media are content to use the term "metaverse" as if it is a new, important thing. And then attempt to define it.
Here's the thing: By the middle of 2022, when this book was released, one of the largest advertising companies in the world, Meta, aka Facebook, has become inextricably linked to this word - as a brand name. Continuing to talk about "Metaverse" in '22 is essentially doing promo work for a large (and arguably broken and corrupt) ad business.
Perhaps that's why the opening keynote of the recent AWE conference stated "we're not going to use the "M" word".
Even the most cursory review of recent commentary shows that there is no consensus about what the metaverse is. Most individuals who seek to burnish their reputation by commenting on the metaverse devote considerable energy to simply define it. And most of the definitions are broad to the point of irrelevance.
And that's the case with Ball's Metaverse, too.
Once again, "metaverse" is little more than a buzzword to describe an array of technologies, associated processes, experiences, and possibilities. Like many other commentators, Ball outlines some of the ideas that have been floating around for years if not decades. Starting from zero? Looking for metaverse 101? This might be the book for you.
There is no thought leadership behind this term of convenience. Even at Meta, the company has merely coopted a term invented by someone else. The real issue: The various technologies, commercial, industrial, and social interests associated with the "metaverse" ideas are not limited to advertising, or commerce. It's unlikely that any entity will define or dominate unless significant disruption occurs in the tech, public policy, and/or social attitudes.
Instead, it's far more likely that several companies - the usual suspects (Apple, Google, MicroSoft, Amazon, and others) will continue to each play a part as both competitors and collaborators, while people (not "end users" and not "consumers" - PEOPLE) decide how or if they see any value in the so-called metaverse.
The fact is: To date, many primary and secondary studies have shown that people have little or no interest in opening their wallets to wear headgear - especially if the experience is deeply connected to advertising, commerce, and/or has privacy implications.
There are some compelling points in Ball's book, but it would be so much better if he cared to truly stand apart from any association with Meta, or Alphabet, or Amazon, and to reach for something a bit narrower - and focused entirely on value for people.
A better term - XR (which encompasses the full spectrum of AR and VR) already addresses commercial, industrial, military, and consumer uses. Consumer uses go beyond entertainment and gaming and shopping. This is not new. From a tech POV, HUDs are decades old in aviation - as well as some Cadillacs and Pontiacs, among other vehicles.
The difference between "XR" and "metaverse" is that XR implies a wide range of products and services across a limitless number of use cases and with no dominant provider - while "Metaverse" implies commerce and shopping, dominated by one broken and corrupt company. Yawn and/or puke.
Contrary to what Zuck and others would have investors believe, there are near-eye displays that only require 1mw of power, small batteries, and limited processing - today. We don't need to wear powerful processors and large batteries on our faces, chip makers don't need to create anything new, and it doesn't need to cost $1k per head.
Where is the discussion about this opportunity? i.e., The practical application of true cutting edge tech to give people super powers, for relatively low cost, and without turning them into cyborgs?
Where is the insight and discussion re: real under the radar companies and tech that could usher in a new era of real-time / hands-free data interfaces? Not in this book.
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