The metaverse, a concept that captured the imagination of many as a fully immersive digital universe, has failed to achieve widespread adoption.
Facebook’s ambitious venture, known as “Meta” and for which the company changed its core branding, lost billions of dollars in the process of failing to attract paying customers.
How could it have failed when everyone and their dog seemed to believe it was “the next big thing?” Was the writing on the wall from the word “go?” If lessons from history had been heeded, could this expensive failure have been avoided?
There’s no simple or single answer to this question. The failure of Zuckerberg’s metaverse (and others like it) can be attributed to a lack of understanding, lack of purpose, technical limitations and a range of other factors. Let’s explore them.
The Hype Around The Metaverse
The metaverse was inspired by science fiction. It promised a virtual realm where individuals could engage in almost any activity using augmented reality, virtual reality, and other immersive technologies.
It generated excitement among fans of next-gen technology and even briefly captured the public’s attention, fueling anticipation for a new era of digital experiences.
Hype and attention are both usually “good things” when it comes to the prospects of a new product – and yes, while the metaverse might be an intangible concept, we should call it a “product” because people were trying to sell it to us, and expected us to pay money for access to it. The problem was that while the hype was briefly there and the public was paying attention, nobody ever did a particularly good job of explaining what the metaverse is or why we ought to care.
Unrealistic Expectations And Technological Limitations
As we said at the top of this page, the metaverse faced several challenges that led to its failure. That starts with technical infrastructure and accessibility. Building a functional metaverse requires a robust technological infrastructure that’s both affordable and accessible to the masses.
However, the current state of AR and VR technologies falls short in terms of affordability, accessibility, and quality. Limitations in hardware, network connectivity, and computational power hindered the creation of a seamless and immersive metaverse experience and will likely continue to do so for several years. The metaverse might still be a good idea; it simply arrived too early.
We’ve seen this before, several times over. We were told that 3D television was the future in the 1990s, and we were told the same thing again in the 2010s. The experts were wrong both times. We’ve also been told that the time is right for VR gaming several times in recent years, but there’s still been no mass adoption of the technology.
Many an online casino would attest to this. It was briefly thought that people would be happy to put on a VR headset and walk around a virtual casino to play against their fellow players rather than competing against each other in a simulation. They quickly found out that wasn’t the case, which is why LC International doesn’t operate any AR or VR online casinos.
If a casino operator of that size has chosen not to dabble with the format, it’s because the public doesn’t want it. It’s a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The absence of standardised protocols and interoperability across the many and varied metaverse platforms has posed a significant obstacle. Different companies pursued proprietary approaches, resulting in fragmented ecosystems that impeded seamless user interaction. The lack of unified standards limited the metaverse’s potential for widespread adoption.
To put it another way, the old adage about too many cooks spoiling the broth has reared its ugly head again.
Another factor contributing to the metaverse’s failure is the perception that corporate interests prioritised profit and control over user-based design and collaboration.
Meta’s rebranding was the perfect example of this – it was a classic example of the technology giant’s aspirations to dominate and monetise everything it gets its hands on.
The metaverse was seen as just another profiteering frontier for Facebook, raising all the same concerns about privacy, data security, and monopolistic control that have dogged the company for years. These concerns further dampened public enthusiasm and trust in the entire concept.
Past Technological Failures
The metaverse’s failure to achieve mainstream success mirrors past technological “next big things” that fell short of expectations, and if the lessons from these failures had been learned properly, the massive losses experienced by companies that have invested in metaverse technology might never have happened. We’ve already mentioned the repeated failure of virtual reality to truly capture the mainstream, but let’s talk about VR in the 1990s. During that decade, VR experienced a surge of development, with the companies behind that development promising transformative experiences. However, limitations in technology, high costs, and cumbersome hardware hindered VR’s integration into everyday life. It took decades of refinement and advancements in display and processing technologies for VR to find niche success in gaming and training simulations, and the emphasis is still on “niche” even now.
Wearable technology, such as smartwatches and augmented reality glasses, have faced and still face challenges in achieving mass-market appeal. Early iterations lacked a clear purpose, had limited battery life, and faced fashion and societal acceptance barriers.
While wearables found success in specific domains like fitness tracking, their broader transformative potential has yet to materialise. Many a “smartwatch” failed before Apple watches became commonplace. Google Glass was a colossal failure, and the era of smart glasses is still yet to arrive.
AI Technology As The “Next Big Thing”
As the metaverse failed to gain traction, AI technology, exemplified by ChatGPT, has emerged as the “next big thing” in the technological landscape. AI’s capabilities in natural language processing, automation, and decision-making have garnered attention across various industries. As soon as a “next big thing” arrives, people tend to forget about the last one if it hasn’t already gained traction or mainstream acceptance. That’s the position that the metaverse finds itself in now.
In summary, the failure of the metaverse to achieve widespread adoption can be attributed to a combination of factors, including technological limitations, fragmented ecosystems, and the monopolistic ambitions of its biggest exponent. Will its time come again?
Who’s to say, but given the staggering amounts of money that have been wasted on it this time around, it’s likely that the companies behind the idea will be working with smaller budgets next time.
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