Having written about technology for a decade and a half I've received some pretty quirky pitches and, more recently, a boatload of them (if not all of them) are about – you guessed it – the metaverse. Yes, the metaverse.
You've no doubt already heard the buzzword, but have you experienced what it's all about? I have – and I can tell you it's nothing but a fad. A vacuous idea that people want to invest and exist in a virtual world to do entirely normal, boring everyday things.
However, it is proving a popular fad that's bankrolling various companies by raking in big funds from investors. Former Facebook, now rebranded Meta, is one of the big players, describing it as "the next evolution of social connection". Even Microsoft acquired Activision for an obscene number of billions of dollars, whilst touting the metaverse as a part of its prospect– something that left me scratching my head.
What is metaverse used for?
Now everyone seems to be in on the action. I've already gone to a metaverse opening event for the launch of Heineken Silver, a slightly lower alcohol version of Heineken's 'normal' lager. After struggling to get past the bouncer on the door because this metaverse experience wasn't compatible with my web browser, I was eventually thrown into a low frame-rate nightmare game world reminiscent of something from the late 90s. And, spoiler alert, I didn't get to taste said lager (it sounds metallic anyway) and that's tainted my view of that product already.
That's not even all. I've witnessed Qualcomm's CEO partake in a live metaverse chatroom during the company's live, in-person annual Tech Summit. As if a live audience sat right in front of you wants to see these twee character representations of real people interacting in a rigid, lifeless manner. It was the epitome of irony in that scenario, especially as one of the first in-person events in tech to occur post-pandemic.
But, I get it, big tech companies are kind of forced to tow the line on the metaverse, because, at least right now, the metaverse means money. Big consumer brands seem to be investing in the hope of reaching a wider audience by surfing that buzzword wave too.
What is the metaverse?
To me, the metaverse is this peripheral idea, rather than something fully formed. It's not augmented reality (AR), the merger of real life and virtual, which has genuine application in a variety of hands-on mechanical and business situations. It's not explicitly virtual reality (VR) either, as you can join a metaverse through any screen, and VR has plenty of uses in creative and gaming contexts. The metaverse isn't gaming either, an industry that's so big and advanced that it's plotting its own path with great success – and doesn't need to lean on the metaverse at all.
The metaverse is nothing but a fad. A failed pseudo-tech idea that's not really designed for anybody. And you know what? Having endured years of cancelled events and having missed social interactions in person, I want real life back.
I don't want another virtual music festival. I don't want to attend ice cream or beer 'launches' in virtual worlds. I like all these things, albeit in the real world. While technology is often a wonderful thing, sometimes the line needs to be drawn in its application. And the metaverse just isn't the answer.