In the ‘Immersive Wire’ Monday Briefing (March 6th, 2023) (1) Tom Ffiske cautions us about the way the metaverse is often misrepresented. He describes how “people visualise fleets of people docked in VR headsets, plugged into another reality and retreating from the real world” and says “we need to show how immersive technologies bring people together, and step away from shots of people gawping in VR headsets”.
I completely agree with Tom’s observations about the way the metaverse tends to be portrayed. From the very beginning we’ve ensured that Metaverse Tech’s ‘VBuddies’ platform (2) has its feet firmly in both the 2D and 3D worlds. VBuddies is a social, connecting platform and by its nature a shared experience. It is our role and mission to make all those shared experiences accessible and as positive as possible, so we can learn from each other and make things better.
Whilst VR and AR headsets may be the latest expensive must-have gadgets for the better-off (that is not to disparage the evident benefits and uses of the technology), there is a whole new world of recently accessible (and growing) communities which can be brought together in positive ways to impact the real world now without VR. Whilst the VR and AR immersive environments are exciting prospects that will no doubt become more accessible to many of us over the coming years, there will always be a need to make sure that as much of the benefit as possible is inclusive now, and that it never becomes exclusive for the benefit and enjoyment of just a privileged few.
As with all new technologies of course, it does take time to spread the benefits – books were first printed long before there were public libraries. In England it took around 360 years (3). Hopefully we can keep our eyes on the ball and make VR / AR and 2D connectivity accessible to all in a much shorter time-frame!
Whilst VR headsets are undoubtedly an easily understandable attraction of what a metaverse experience can be, equally important are the other newly emerging technologies which are connecting to turn Web 2 into the turbo-charged version that is becoming Web 3 – think AI and blockchain technologies.
It is also pleasing to see that we seem to be in tune with the thoughts of Neal Stephenson, who coined the term ‘metaverse’ in the first place in his 1992 sci-fi novel, ‘Snow Crash’. In a recent interview he observed that the mistake people make is "to assume that it's always about using goggles, which is a reasonable assumption…… that's how it is in the book and in other depictions of virtual reality and fiction. It seemed like a logical assumption at the time that that would be the output device. But that's not what happened. What happened is that everyone is accessing these 3D worlds through two-dimensional flat rectangles on flat screens. And that works really well. In some ways, it works better than using goggles, for various reasons." (4)
An immersive experience does not necessarily require a VR or AR headset. And learning does not necessarily require a classroom.
In terms of woodblock printing, the first dated printed book is the Diamond Sutra, from 868 CE. (https://www.languagehumanities.org/what-was-the-first-printed-book.htm)
William Caxton was the first Englishman to learn to use a printing press. The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye was his first printed book, and the first book printed anywhere in English. It was produced in 1473 on the Continent, in either Bruges or Ghent. (https://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item126577.html)
The first free modern public library was opened in 1833. The Peterborough (N.H.) Town Libraries was the first institution funded by a municipality with the explicit purpose of establishing a free library open to all classes of the community. (https://www.ala.org/aboutala/before1876#:~:text=1833,all%20classes%20of%20the%20community)