If you read the headlines, it may seem like the sky is falling in the Metaverse. At the start of the month, Meta deprioritized its metaverse plans because they were selling headsets but couldn’t buy anyone’s time. Now, they’re actively sabotaging the industry, lobbying that the metaverse is only VR in order to evade federal taxes for AR networking infrastructure.
The problem with Meta muting their metaverse plans is that everyone really was playing a game of “follow the leader.” When Disney hopped on the bandwagon in 2021 to create a metaverse division, it brought a lot of validation to Meta’s pivot, and we thought they might invent a new form of storytelling… and now they’re laying off their entire 50-person metaverse division.
Is the metaverse’s sky really falling? This is how I feel about it:
The sky isn’t falling. It just hasn’t been designed yet. The metaverse is still under construction. And companies are jumping ship because building a new industry is hard. It takes time. And shareholders don’t always have time.
But let me remind you what we’re building and why the metaverse is far from an afterthought.
WTF? The Spatial Web is Inevitable
Digital life has been 2D forever. The interfaces have always acted as windows into the web, but never actually placed us inside the web. Quite frankly, we’re about tapped out in innovation through 2D interfaces. Forget all of the jargon and assumptions about the metaverse and remember it simply represents the shift to the Spatial Web – a 3D portal into everything the Internet has to offer, except giving actual presence to its digital citizens.
The Spatial Web will bring an extra digital dimension to every industry already represented on the web today. For some, that means spatial gaming. Others, it’s spatial shopping or spatial entertainment.
Despite Meta’s departure, the builders are still building and making the metaverse a reality for their respective interests. With that being said, here’s a reminder of the main metaverse industries and a notable creator that hasn’t jumped ship.
Spatial gaming remains the most promising (and unaffected) metaverse vertical because bringing the third dimension to video games has always been a desire of gamers. It’s the most natural transition to the metaverse of all industries. (See: Pokémon Go)
Spatial shopping fits the unstoppable consumer force toward eCommerce because online shopping is missing one crucial part: trying-on clothes. With realistic digital twins in the metaverse, we’ll be able to browse online stores and try-before-we-buy – a feature that will greatly reduce the shipping waste created by encouraging people to over-buy with a “free returns” safety net. (See: Amazon AR View)
Spatial creation is the backbone of nearly every digital endeavor because not much can get done today with 3D files. Advertising, architecture, game design, filmmaking, and so much more utilize 3D creators to bring ideas to life. (See: Polycam)
Spatial working feels like a regression from the physical office at times, although the remote work movement is unanimously viewed as an improvement to work life (for employees). Although the “metaverse office” – where we commute to a VR office space – is likely not the true vision. Immersive meeting spaces and virtual studios will encourage better collaboration over the incumbent Zoom meetings that are despised by all. (See: Meta Horizon Workrooms)
Spatial connection offers a more comfortable way to network and connect with friends for a lot of people. Finding hobbies and bonding with strangers in the metaverse may not seem appealing to you, but millions of people prefer this mode of connection. (See: VRChat)
Spatial education gives new meaning to learning, career exploration, training, and onboarding. With the ability to simulate any environment, task, or learning objective, the metaverse offers a cheaper and more expansive way to conduct hands-on learning. (See: PrecisionOS)
Spatial tourism provides travel destinations a chance to expand their presence as must-see places and showcase what they offer the global economy. Think of it as a taste of the real thing – giving travelers a better way to discover new places to explore. (See: Barbados Opens A Metaverse Embassy)
Spatial entertainment won’t replace our current relationship with the Netflixes, Instagrams, or Twitters of the world. Those behaviors are deeply ingrained. However, spatial entertainment will change how we experience (some of) this content, particularly where a third dimension of presence greatly improves the connection to the content. (See: The Soloist VR)
Many years from now, we'll look back on our current 2D relationship with technology and scoff at how simple it was. Everyone will forget about the cultural apprehension to adopt this tech and proclaim that the 3D, Spatial Web was always inevitable. I'm just making that declaration a decade or so before it becomes obvious.