The Real and The Unreal
Can the metaverse become a bridge between our virtual and physical realms?
Reading about Snap’s new flying camera announcement and Evan Spiegel’s comments - it is captivating to see the narratives emerging around the evolution of technology and computing, and what it all means for human interaction and Internet experiences.
There are those who are argue the metaverse is a real thing, and there are those who argue that the metaverse is anything but a actual thing. I argue that the more important, and interesting, discussion is on the nature of relationship between the Real and the Unreal. At the moment it seems as if for one human behavior to be dominant (i.e. virtual content augmented over reality) with proponents such as Snap and Niantic, the alternative human behavior must be secondary or less dominant (i.e. accessing virtual content by being fully immersed in it as an avatar), with proponents such as Epic Games, Meta and Roblox. My hypothesis is that the two are notmutually exclusive; they co-exist and complement each other.
We’ve discussed many times on Into The Metaverse podcast and consistently making the argument that the metaverse is not a device, rather it is the next big computing paradigm - a transition of the Internet from 2D to 3D, a hyper social realm, on a very large scale, persistent and interoperable. My co-host Matthew wrote an excellent piece about what is the metaverse, and we’ve both been influenced by the work from Matthew Ball. That being said, just like we have integrated a 2D Internet into our everyday lives (e.g. applications like Snapchat, Instagram, Pokémon Go), in a similar way I believe that we will integrate a 3D Internet into our everyday lives - both virtually and physically. Interoperability could also be translated in a way where we can play, socialize and express ourselves in a fully immersive 3D environment (regardless if it’s a video game, a virtual concert, or work), but those experiences should, and will be connected and enhanced in real life.
The type of products launched by companies like Snap (most recently with Pixy, their flying camera) and Niantic (most recently with Peridot, a digital pet), among others, are focused on enhancing the augmentation of digital content in our physical reality. They are not only here to stay but also provide unique capabilities for users to play with what is “real”. These products allow us to enhance the world around us in unique ways, be it for play, expression or connection. In the coming years we will see continued investment in both hardware and software as companies expand the possibilities for users to immerse themselves in digital experiences layered on our physical experiences.
The type of products and platforms built by companies like Roblox, Meta (Horizon Worlds) and Epic Games (UE5), among others, are focused on enhancing human interaction and experiences in a fully immersive 3D environment through games and other forms of virtual interactive media. They take us on a journey of fully expressing ourselves virtually through avatars and allowing users to enhance their virtual experiences, reimagine how we play, socialize, express ourselves and create in virtual worlds - essentially, living within the “unreal”.
Blockchain and decentralized technologies have an important role to play in both spheres but they are not a key pillar in this specific argument. What’s essential is that the metaverse is not only device-agnostic virtual realm but can serve as a “bridge” that connects the Real and the Unreal. It is my belief that seeing the metaverse as that “bridge” will usher new possibilities to enhance human experiences on the Internet and cementing further the ever-growing role of computing in what it means to be human. The question is not what will prevail - Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality; Metaverse or no Metaverse. The key question is what will a merge between the Real and Unreal looks like; when will it happen; and who’s going to help build it.
The Metaverse is not a replacement to the Internet. It is neither a sub-category of the Internet; the Metaverse is the Internet, the next iteration of it, and when it is fully realized it will unlock a whole new era of human experiences that live within and between the Real and the Unreal.
Matthew and I will continue to explore this dynamic with future guests on Into the Metaverse, as we seek to help our community make sense of the metaverse and contribute to the emergence of an Internet that we can call our own. Listen to the podcast, follow the YouTube channel and subscribe to our newsletter below.