You don’t often expect Tuesday night to give you a big surprise, right?
Tuesday nights are just a step up from Monday nights, and Monday nights aren’t usually pretty.
But here we were, my wife and I, having dinner at a restaurant on a Tuesday night with a friend of mine and one of her friends from out of town. We have not met him before.
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Everything was absolutely amazing for Tuesday night. We talked about natural personal absurdities, socio-political gripes, and deeply held feelings about linguistic vs. Spaghetti
But then came the sound from another planet.
Love of different generations
I don’t know how we got on the subject, but my friend’s friend — a millennial woman — suddenly offered: “I like the Metaverse.”
Maybe your Tuesday nights are different than mine, but if there’s one thing I don’t expect to hear, it’s that. Honestly, I’ve yet to hear anyone say they like the metaverse. Which probably just suggests that I should get out more, find new friends, or perhaps a whole new virtual world.
Still, to some ears, exclaiming “I love the Metaverse” might sound like “Wow, I miss Google Glass” or “I admire all tech leaders for their boundless humanity.”
So I had to ask what drove this woman to such heartfelt passion. Naturally, I assumed she’d interact with some incredibly cool nerdy people — in real life — who were all fans. Naturally, I was fatally wrong.
“My dad’s partner bought some Oculus for his grandkids. They didn’t want it. So he gave it to me to try and I loved it,” he said.
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Did he say grandchildren? Did he say that some teenagers were not interested, but an adult was the head of his intelligent knowledge? I was a touch confused.
So, why did he love his Oculus so much? (He referred to it as his “Oculus” the whole time. It’s now Meta Quest.)
“I like to disappear into it,” he said. “I love exploring all these new worlds and meeting new people there. I love being able to share things with my friends in those worlds.”
He continued to express his unbridled enthusiasm, but then I got more evidence.
The next day, my friend sent me a picture of her, well, friend, enthralled, wearing a mask and clearly experiencing a moderate level of nirvana.
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It was definitely an eye opener for me.
I’m not impressed with anything that pops over my head. I find crash helmets claustrophobic. So the thought of putting on a mask to get out of this world doesn’t excite me as much as, say, a well-formed linguine vongole.
Yet meeting someone with such enthusiasm for his Oculus/Meta Mask was a collision with an altered reality — one that Apple clearly wants to capitalize on. Vision Pro.
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Meta, which has committed itself to Metaverse by renaming the entire company from Facebook, by force It’s poised for Apple’s foray into this heady space.
But are there really that many people in the metaverse? I always imagined it wasn’t much, but as my colleague David Gewurtz recently reported, the Meta Quest 3 outsold Apple’s AirPods on Black Friday.
Some people – perhaps a growing number of people – want to leave this world. For them, the Quest is an everyday adventure in another country, unencumbered by travel plans or serious financial outlays.
A Meta Quest 2 can cost as much as $249. It exudes a more basic, Android-like attitude in the face of Apple’s fancy tendencies.
But as my friend’s friend described how wearing a headset was off-balance and punctuated his life perfectly, I couldn’t help but wonder about the changed world.
The Power of Disappearance
It is difficult not to consider the power and prevalence of loneliness in this context. The internet has made it all too tempting to disappear into his bowels and not emerge for hours. The pandemic has heightened the sense of emotional and physical solitary confinement for many.
Why, travel companies now Working hard to create trips that bring lonely people together.
Perhaps the true power of the metaverse is that, like the best vacations, your disappearance is absolute. Or you can create it from wherever you are (or feel) stuck. You put on the mask and you’re gone.
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Yes, the meta metaverse is focusing more on a mixed form of reality, where you still have your real world but the (possibly more exciting) virtual world is layered on top of it. Yet my friend’s girlfriend insists that she likes it because of its all-encompassing nature. He does not want to mix his reality. He wants to stay out of it.
I may worry that many are finding more joy and affirmation in the digital world than the so-called real one, but my friend’s friend just loves her Quest. To him, it offered a different life for a while.
Who am I to wonder what the (real) world will be when my friend’s friend gleefully says: “Grandma loves her Oculus too”?