I spent a month in the Metaverse, here’s what’s really going on

“A virtual reality construct meant to supplant the Internet, merge virtual life with real life and create endless new playgrounds for everyone – you’ll be able to do almost anything you imagine.” Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Meta (Facebook) knows how to make us dream with his future metaverse. But specifically, how does it happen?

Test the metaverse. OK but how? Apart from the US and Canada, it is not yet possible to access Horizon Worlds from the Meta. But at least I have the basics: a virtual reality (VR) headset. There are different models made by several brands: Oculus (Meta), HTC, Sony, Valve… In this case I bought an Oculus Quest 2, that is, the most popular model at the moment. It sells for €349.99 and is manufactured by… Meta, which bought the company in 2014. Mark Zuckerberg’s group strives to mark the entire route to Web3, heralded as the new Internet. A world where the current internet behemoths (Meta, Google, etc.) should no longer rule. But at the moment, they are the ones who invest the most in this fantasized Web3.

Oculus Quest 2: Total Immersion

I have a virtual reality headset so it remains to figure out what to do with it. After watching a few videos in VR, I understood the principle. Experience roller coasters, an expedition on Everest, space exploration aboard the ISS… There are many opportunities to experience immersion in virtual worlds.

Using the climbing game The climb 2, now I’m learning to use the joysticks that come with the helmet… and I understand how easy it is to get nauseous while sitting motionless on the bottom of your couch. The sensations are very real when I miss a hold and fall several meters down an alpine wall. Worse: my arms hurt from almost climbing because I paralyze my muscles on imaginary holds. Question immersion, no doubt, it works fully. But what about this virtual world that is the metaverse?

Alone on the beach, abandoned

On the virtual interface of the headset, I find an app called Villa: Metaverse Creation & NFT Collaboration Platform. I download, I install. First surprise: to access it I have to pay $9.99 for a month. The vow ? A luxury metaverse with personal villa by the sea, to decorate with NFT paintings and to receive friends by the pool. The (virtual) reality? A kind of Second Lifebut not at the height of its popularity, in 2006. No, rather one Second Life today, that is… empty.

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First of all, it is very nice. The problem is when you start getting closer. The villa is situated on a kind of flying carpet above a fine sandy beach. Rooms decorated very soberly or completely empty, no activity or almost… We walked around quickly. Only the giant aquarium in the middle of the house is funny for two seconds. But this metaverse has an option: to be able to fly above the elements and move like Superman in the air. Again, after two minutes of fun, we remain a little unsatisfied. It’s all well and good to move around in a virtual universe, but if you wander aimlessly, the interest is limited.

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Especially since the surrounding decorations are made of cardboard. Taking a walk along the water or approaching the surrounding hill is a bad idea. The closer you are, the more pixelated the image. And if we “step into” the interior, it is absolutely black. As for the “friends” to invite, not an avatar on the horizon under my many connections. So no one to at least get to know each other, much less invite near my wood stove by the pool. Not really a “dolce villa” as I thought, more like a cardboard movie set. And me, alone on the beach, abandoned. In short, it was probably the worst $9.99 spent in my life. I was wise to set up an alert on my phone to remember to unsubscribe in less than 30 days.

On the attack Roblox

New strategy: I start a search on Google – Web 2.0 is still very useful for that. Upon request “How to Test the Metaverse”, not really an answer in French. On the other hand, I find several tracks in English. Here is what I advise you to go and see on the site of the online game Roblox. Let’s join this popular platform which has an endless selection of immersive 3D worlds created by the community itself. Roblox has grown exponentially in recent months, from 32.6 million daily active users in 2020 to nearly 50 million in 180 countries in 2021. Today it has 230 million and its valuation is around $20 billion.

Originally dedicated to children, Roblox is gradually turning towards an adult audience and attracting more and more brands: Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Chipotle, Kellogg’s, Samsung… The list of communication operations and other marketing events continues to grow. The Nikeland space thus attracted around 6.7 million people from 224 different countries between its launch in November 2021 and March 2022.

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For the connection, there is no direct connection with the helmet. You have to go through a computer and the Oculus Link software to show it in the headset. I then have to create my avatar or choose one that is already ready. If from an immersion point of view I remain unsatisfied – the design of the Roblox universe is at least minimalistic – at least there are people to argue with. Roblox encourages interactions and discussions. Milky_Way_56, SwanStone22 or even AwsomeKitten cross my path during the hours spent walking around different universes. Hard to know who is really behind each profile. Man or woman. American, Indian, French. Young or old… Everyone creates their own character. This is the whole principle of metaverses. And that’s all the wealth of Roblox : a wide variety of imaginary worlds and atmospheres. Also, about 7 million developers participate in making Robloxthis diverse platform.

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There’s no doubt about settling down, though: property speculation in these virtual worlds is very real, and the prices are absolutely delusional. Anyway, I’m a metaverse homeless…

What do we do in the metaverse besides randomly wander around? Although these parallel worlds are still in their infancy, there is plenty to do. For example, the yoga brand Alo (acronym for air, land, oceani.e. air, land, sea) offers a “sanctuary” i Roblox . On this island it is possible to practice mindfulness with daily guided meditation sessions, but also to take free yoga classes. I installed my “real” yoga mat in my living room and found myself, via the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset, in a very calming environment. Sound bath and light wave lapping, I head to the Alo Store to grab my yoga mat – virtual this time – before joining the class area.

Posture of the triangle, of the tree… When each position is “found” by the system according to the approximate location of his body thanks to the joysticks, it becomes very easy to reproduce it with a simple combination of the fingers. We can then happily cheat if we wish… Conclusion? Watching a video on YouTube, training on fitness services like Apple Fitness+ or even a session with a particular teacher in video is equally interesting, but let’s say that the experience has the advantage of existing.

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Alo Island has already been visited more than 32 million times since its launch. But it must be said that the brand also offers a quest to find clues that allow you to win gifts that are very real.

Recruitment, insurance agent, concerts, luxury brands…

Brands and large groups multiply initiatives in the metaverse. Adidas Originals already sold NFTs in December 2021. Unique tokens each sold for 0.2 ether, or about 700 euros during the time, which then gives access to “physical” clothing collections. At Axa, an insurance agent from the north of France has chosen to offer its services both in its physical agency in Bully-les-Mines (Pas-de-Calais) and in the Gather metaverse since last April. Artists have also tried the virtual concert experience at Horizon Worlds. Las, David Guetta, Young Thug or The Chainsmoker did not attract the crowd. Probably due to the lack of enough users on this platform at that time (end of December 2021), because concerts organized on the video game Fortniteby rapper Travis Scott had gathered several million participants.

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So this month in the metaverse? To say I was left unsatisfied is a mild understatement. As in the beginning of many social networks of their time, you must agree to pass an arduous course to finally perceive the essence of these new universes and understand their interest. By creating links to other avatars, by mastering codes and uses, by taking advantage of the good plans offered by the brands that invest heavily in the metaverse “to see”, there is no doubt that perception will evolve . Maybe I’ll even become addicted, just like today I can’t do without Instagram or Twitter. For now, I’ll start by working on the look of my avatar… and something tells me I’ll have enough time to refine it.

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