The Battle for the Metaverse May Be More About Competing Visions of ‘Reality’

Everybody is talking about this company’s vision for the metaverse versus that company’s vision…Facebook wants to do this, and Microsoft wants to do that, and so on.  Well, according to Niantic CEO, John Hanke, that misses the mark.

One word, Pokémon.  Quick memory refresher – Niantic Labs is the company that launched the blockbuster game Pokémon Go in 2016 which made everyone obsessed with a vision of a physical world enhanced by Pokémon characters for quite a while.

Dystopian metaverse.  Hanke thinks that the trend of increased time spent online that has been exacerbated by Covid is not a healthy vision for the future, and the problem is that companies like Facebook and Microsoft are basically saying hey great, let’s multiply this 10X with virtual reality.

Competing vision for reality.  His vision for the future of computing and the metaverse that he thinks is going to win is basically the opposite of virtual reality, something called ubiquitous computing.  Ubiquitous computing or ubicomp for short is a vision of computing in which the tech disappears into the background, although it is stays with us all the time. 

Ubicomp goes back to the early work done at Xerox PARC and involves computing devices becoming smaller, less obvious and more embedded on your person or in the environment.

So ubicomp is really the opposite of virtual reality with its theory of fully immersive experiences that take you away from reality, and currently, at least, which involve bulky computing equipment like 3D goggles.

Hanke amusingly says of virtual reality, “I don’t need to make a conference room look like a cartoon Tahiti. That doesn’t make it better for me.”

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