20 reasons why the Metaverse may not work out as we think it will

I’ve been into VR for a few years, had both early Oculus kits, wrote tons of virtual worlds, and demonstrated it to hundreds of people around the world, including Afica. I have a whole chapter on this in my book Learning Experience Design (2021). These worlds are not new. We know a lot about them and can speculate about their future.

1. Facebook’s land grave

One concern most people should have is that this is Facebook. Renaming the entire company to Metaverse is a huge leap, but the Metaverse brand only lets a marketing kite fly. It’s not really a rebrand – we and they still call it Facebook. What we have to question is their step towards total ownership of such virtual worlds. By owning the world, you own everything; the who, what, where, when and how. As a land grab on the Internet, it should be treated with due suspicion.

2. Data on everything

Then there is the data collected in the metaverse. Facebook wants to make a Microsoft and own the operating system for virtual worlds through market dominance. In the moment of data distribution, do we really want a centralized place where data can be collected, not just social data, what is being said, but also physical behavioral data? I do not think so.

3. Metaverse as an economy

Most metaverse, even Second Life, but mostly large-scale games, create worlds in which people want to buy and sell virtual things. When you have a world the size of a small or even a large country, you have an economy. But economies are regulated. Do we want Facebook to be a regulated economy like a country? There are already serious concerns about Facebook’s role as a supranational force. You can see the time when such virtual worlds have the status of a country, but not for the moment, and not those where billionaires are kings, no matter how benign PR claims they are.

4. Metaverse crypto

Notice how Facebook has dealt with cryptocurrency lately? In 2019 Libra was created, which was renamed Diem in 2020. This has created such a backlash that it’s all but gone. That doesn’t mean it is gone. Facebook as the central bank that controls a cryptocurrency is a terrifying thought. But remember, Facebook is not creating a metaverse as a charitable act, they want to make money … lots of it. It is touted to enable them to create a global virtual world with a virtual cryptocurrency and economy. It is really terrifying.

5. 2D to 3D problem

3D movies and 3D TV bombed. Of course we like 3D, but desirable experiences aren’t just about 3D rendering. Stereo also no longer plays a major role when listening to music. Media rich is not witty. We love a good podcast precisely because it’s a slimmed-down, single media experience. It feels intimate, like being in this conversation. It turned out that for entertainment and a lot more we like just enough to do the job well for the immersion (big 2D TV) and nothing more. The metaverse can pile up on the pixels, but it’s not clear if that’s what consumers want.

6. Communication

The metaverse has problems with communication. It’s not so much the high expectations of the avatars, but the communication within a group. In such environments, it is difficult to get the sequence and real dynamics of a real meeting going, especially when it takes place in a 2D representation. We have two ears, two eyes, and a brain that has evolved to watch over us. Our ears are the shape they are, with folds in them as a kind of stereoscopic radar for hearing others around us. Our eyes are stereoscopic and on top of our rotatable necks and bodies. Take it all away and you have a problem. Interestingly, Zoom solves this by taking a 3D world and tiling it in 2D. The Metaverse can therefore have worse group dynamics than Zoom, much worse.

7. Turn

In a fascinating study by Carnegie Mellon, it turns out that the sequence and problem-solving work better when learners have their video cameras TURNED OFF. It seems that sometimes it is much better not to see others in a group than full visibility because you can focus on the task, not the people.

8. Appearance is important

The Carnegie Mellon study surprised many people who had turned to online classes during Covid, where the general advice was to keep students’ webcams on. While this may seem counterintuitive, it seems that students are concerned about what they and their home environment look like online. This says something about being careful about real needs in full-blown online environments.

9. Avatar Narcissism

In most virtual worlds, weird avatars are the norm as people don’t really want to reveal their real age, weight, and appearance online. It’s all color, costumes, animal features, and cartoon fun. The way people present themselves online is a far cry from how they look in the real world. We will have a parallel world where people are forever young, handsome and thin. It encourages the exaggeration of social norms of how to look on the one hand and freak shows on the other.

10th meeting

In a way, Zoom meetings have accelerated the experience and demand for virtual worlds. Still, there are real doubts about the Metaverse as a technology for meetings. Meetings have to be real. We have meetings because we want to have real discussions and make decisions. Is this supported by another level of representation – avatars? Maybe not. We want to hear real voices and see real faces. The key is not really the technology, but how the meetings are set up and conducted. You need a good presidency, a clear agenda and an appropriate sequence, along with a movement towards decisions and action. Having a cartoon may not help. In fact, it can distance you from the event.

11. Overstimulation

One surprising finding in VR research was the lack of learning effectiveness. This has in part to do with poorly designing learning experiences and focusing on creating worlds rather than actual learning experiences. But there are lessons to be learned. Overstimulation is clearly a problem. People are overwhelmed and get some kind of stage fright or amazement in fully immersive online environments. They are also obsessed with details. This can hinder rather than aid other tasks, such as efficient meetings and learning.

12. Game worlds

What happens when you build such worlds. It turns out that most of the people fool around a lot. You have fun. It’s not as conducive to serious endeavors as you might think, such as: B. Joint brainstorming and design, even meetings. In fact, it’s often a little anarchic. In open VR worlds, people put on full body suits and do gymnastic movements (and more). It’s showtime!

13. Policing

I had a female avatar in Second Life and have always recommended this as the best form of sexual harassment you will ever receive as a man. It was relentless. It is a real problem to monitor this type of behavior in open worlds. It’s not like the real world, where norms are accepted, rules and laws are implemented and agreed. It’s all a little bit wild west.

14. Counterfeit

Fake is the norm in terms of looks, but there is also the problem of fraud and large-scale counterfeiting when such a world becomes a phishing ground for scammers and scammers. It’s bad enough with email and the simple phone without people fully talking, charming, and cheating to do harmful things.

15. VR shutdown

Notice how we go into full screen mode for screen sharing, which makes sense in terms of focus. There’s nothing worse than using 3D VR and then seeing 2D videos and PowerPoint in that environment. The problem with VR is that it keeps you from using keyboards, taking notes with the pen, and generally seeing and dealing with the real world. VR is a new medium and not a gadget, but has not yet established itself as a mass medium. Even if it’s not tied, it’s still largely a niche gaming device. That tells us something.

16. Technology is not invisible

Good technology is becoming more and more invisible. The metaverse, especially when it comes to headsets, makes the technology incredibly tangible, visceral, and evident. Invisible technology, powered by AI and data, such as IoT, voice assistants and AI as the new user interface, may catch on and not metaverses. People want solutions, not clumsy tech, and the metaverse is all too visible and clumsy.

17. 90: 9: 1 Consume: Comment: Create

Most of the people on the internet are lurking over that consume (90%), a small percentage comment (9%) and 1% create. The Metaverse is perhaps just another playground for the 1% of extroverts and narcissists. Most people are reluctant to bare themselves in such environments and make contact with strangers, so we may be looking at another niche world.

18. Build

Another problem related to the 90: 9: 1 problem is who will build these worlds. Good at Minecraft, but the idea that adults can use the tools and have the time and inclination to do so is ambitious, if not utopian. It’s not just the tools, it’s the skills. Giving someone a copy of Word doesn’t make them a novelist and giving someone a 3D builder doesn’t make them an architect. Sure, there can be pre-built environments. But that is a gigantic task.

19. Social engagement

Do people really want to respond to such strangers as avatars in a virtual world? It is not clear that they do. The reluctance to take this form is interesting. Low-fidelity, social media can actually be better as the self is less exposed and exposure is more controlled. Virtual worlds offer instant and complete exposure that can be unsettling. People may not be as openly social as extroverts think they are.

20. Breakout problem

We have a media differentiation. While the Metaverse is touted, we have the rise of the audio-only podcast, the reverse of the Metaverse. Philip Rosedale, the chief architect of Second Life, gave up high fidelity, a version of VR, to focus on spatial audio technology. Second Life is still made up of a million people and a $ 650 million transactional environment, but as Rosedale says:it did not break out, it did not become a billion people. And the hope that Facebook has is that a billion people will use a metaverse“. Maybe, maybe not.


The technology is surprising, and I have no doubt that Metaverse-type technology will do just that. It can be speaking to our future or past selves, learning languages, political andEngagement, dating, porn – nobody really knows. But one thing I am sure of, it will happen, just differently than we imagine.

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