Ready-go: 2023 has just begun, and we're still dealing with last year's waste. Face it: certain things will stay with us, beyond any resolution for the new year. The Metaverse Debate, for example. One of the most used and searched for words of 2022: the "technological revolution" that bit the brake under the blows that slowed down Big Tech and Meta.
What we all understood about the metaverse is that at the moment the metaverse does not exist. Or rather: it's a series of more or less closed platforms (hence the ideological opposite of what a metaverse should be), full of ridiculous avatars, or people who want to sell "virtual houses" and NFTs. "It's not a good start," Alessandro Borghese would say.
Yet, if/when it will be, the Metaverse is an idea that really has transformative potential for society: but we need to be aware of the challenges we will face to make the most of this potential. Go beyond the virtual cartoon worlds we see today, create immersive, realistic and artistic experiences. Focus on developing creativity and productivity, not on creating closed platforms, or bubbles like current NFTs.
Above all, we need to get rid of an idea: that we should live a future perpetually in virtual worlds, far from our physical environment. Sure, there will be places where people will spend hours in an "asocial" sociability. The evolution of current social platforms, to be clear, with an extra quid of immersion. The TRUE metaverse, however, will be contiguous to our reality: in some ways, complementary. It will expand our daily lives with digital content, gradually moving away from the screens we hunch over for hours today.
Keep an eye out for mixed reality
In a few years, the world of mixed reality will undergo a revolution. And already in this 2023 we will see the signs, with a new wave of products. Zuckerberg himself revealed the trend to us, running (badly) for cover with his new viewer. MetaQuest Pro uses cameras that show the wearer the real world, and combine it with virtual content: they are already, in fact, the embryo of mixed reality platforms.
Although the potential of Meta Quest Pro is enormous, however, at the moment there is very little software capable of fully exploiting its capabilities. And the device costs too much, it is not oriented to the public but to the business world. This year new programs and new devices will come out, however, and will act as an "activator" allowing more and more people to understand what the theme is.
Knights and platforms of the "new" metaverse
HTC is preparing the launch of its own viewer in 2023 (which promises to be more powerful than the Meta Quest Pro). It will be presented this week at CES2023 and will have guess what? Color passthrough cameras that will allow you to look around and see graphics superimposed on reality.
What about Apple? She should throw too your viewer in 2023. Obviously "the best viewer ever", at least that's what they always say in Cupertino. It will be talked about in the middle of the year, and guess what? It will have high-quality passthrough cameras and (possibly) LiDAR sensors for measuring distances in the real world. If the rumors about LiDAR sensors are true, Apple's headset will be the first to develop true mixed reality content.
It looks like an arms race. Platforms and companies compete to prepare the ground, and that's worth more than a few clues. In 2023 the customs clearance of something that perhaps someone will no longer want to call "metaverse" but which will represent the near future will begin.
Simple: because, even if someone thinks otherwise, we human beings don't like being excluded from physical reality. Yes, we can put on a viewer and stay in it for one, even two hours, but then we will be alienated. And not like one can be alienated after hours and hours, or days, locked up in a room. I'm talking about real discomfort. A real conflict between different mental models, which could cause serious pathologies.
To solve this problem we need an immersive experience in which our visual, spatial and physical senses are perfectly aligned, allowing us to interact with the real and the virtual as if we were inhabiting the same perceptive reality. I did the spitting portrait of mixed reality. It is about that, nothing more.
Believe me, we are only at the beginning. Mixed reality can really blow up. Companies like Meta, HTC, Apple, Magic Leap, Snap, Microsoft, Google, Lenovo, Unreal and Unity don't randomly move in unison. We will have platforms for video games (a classic), for military use (unfortunately), for medical applications. Everything and more.