The metaverse freaks most people out and it's a huge barrier to adoption. Nobody wants to end up in The Matrix and we're wary of further exploitation of our attention and detachment from our physical selves. Likewise nobody owns the metaverse. It's up to us to make it what we want.
It’s an area we're wrestling with at Further Faster; we’re working on a project right now in the area of virtual reality and the metaverse. Our research has found gaming, medical training, and military applications to be the most common. These have a coldness to them and often seem derivative. We're trying to figure out what a more human engagement with the metaverse could feel like.
"Could making the metaverse feel more “human” help with the adoption of the technology?"
The idea we're settling on is that revisiting an event or memory in the metaverse might be a way in. It’s particularly true because even the smallest external stimuli can trigger memories.
Consider that there are a few events in life that you would prepare to memorialize ahead of time. That is to say, you might plan to record them in a special way. For example, there's a wedding. Your graduation day. Your child’s first birthday. What if you could, for example, record one of those days so it could be re-visited in an immersive way? Would you make the effort? It would seem to require a 360-camera and some ground rules. But it begs the question: How might that change people's perception of this new-age medium? Our research found people still need more convincing to buy into such an application.
There's a lack of excitement about the metaverse because people prefer real life. When you say the words, “virtual reality” or “metaverse”, many people still roll their eyes and write it off as something they’d never have any interest in. Our research found that for current virtual reality applications, consumers need a specific reason to use it. It could be gaming. It could be working out. The big question is how the technology will make the leap into more regular use. Many experts believe augmented reality will reach mass adoption more quickly because it blends technology with what you’re already seeing in the real world. That’s even though augmented reality is further behind virtual reality technology right now, in terms of development and adoption.
Consumers see the metaverse as something people are going to disappear into. In contrast to that view, there's a cool Twitter thread that talks about the metaverse as a moment in time. It's when our attention goes into the digital universe more than 50%. That's scary in many ways but it can also present opportunities. These are big questions. Our partners are curious to solve these challenges and they're patient. They want the research to lead them. They want people's genuine reactions to lead them. I'm glad they are taking the time to get this stuff right. We're going to see a lot of products that fail to pass this test. The ones that get it right could define the next era.
The reactions against the metaverse could remind us of Google Glass. The research and execution failed and doomed the product to extinction. In the case of virtual reality though I see an opportunity for memory and meaning to collide. There's a scene in Ridley Scott's movie Bladerunner where two robots discuss memory. It turns out both of them had their memories implanted by their creators. But the movie plays with the power of memory to define our experience in powerful ways. We're also finding that revisiting a memory could be therapeutic. It's about changing the metaverse from a place where fake things happen. Instead, people are going to be revisiting something real. In the medical field, the Bike Around project combines Google Maps with a stationary bike. It allows people with Alzheimer's disease to bike around their childhood neighborhoods. The results are striking. I'm reminded of researchers experimenting with Psilocybin to treat depression. The results there have also been remarkable.
What we're trying to do at Further Faster is think hard with our clients about how to synthesize all this. I'm grateful you're here as a thought partner to share in our journey and I'd love to hear your views. What do you think the opportunities are in the metaverse? What needs to change for the applications to become more widely accepted? Beyond memory, where are other areas where the metaverse and so-called real life intersect?