“A construct of virtual reality intended to supplant the internet, merge virtual life with real life and create endless new playgrounds for everyone – you will be able to do almost anything you can imagine.” Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Meta (Facebook) knows how to make us dream with his future metaverse. But how does it actually come about?
Test the metaverse. Okay but how? Except for the United States and Canada, it is not yet possible to access Horizon Worlds from Meta. But at least I have the basics: a virtual reality (VR) headset. There are several models produced by different 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 produced by… Meta, which the company bought in 2014. Mark Zuckerberg’s group aims to mark the entire route to Web3, heralded as the new Internet. A world where today’s internet giants (Meta, Google, etc.) should no longer be in charge. But right now they are the ones investing the most in this imaginary Web3.
Oculus Quest 2: Total Immersion
I do have a virtual reality headset, so it’s just figuring out what to do with it. After watching a few videos in VR, I understood the principle. Experience roller coasters, expedition on Everest, exploration of space on board the ISS… There are many opportunities to immerse yourself in virtual worlds.
Using the climbing game The climb 2, now I’m learning to use the joysticks that came with the helmet… and I understand how easy it is to get nauseous while sitting without moving on the bottom of your couch. The sensations are very real as I miss a foothold and tumble down a few meters from an alpine wall. Worse, my arms hurt from almost climbing as I paralyze my muscles with imaginary grips. Demand immersion, no doubt, it totally works. But what about this virtual world that is the metaverse?
Alone on the beach, deserted
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 per month. The promise ? A luxury metaverse with personal villa by the sea, to decorate with NFT paintings and where you can receive friends by the pool. The (virtual) reality? Kind of Second Lifebut not at the peak of its popularity, in 2006. No, rather a Second Life of today, that is… empty.
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 very soberly furnished or completely empty, no activity or almost… We quickly made the rounds. Only the giant aquarium in the middle of the house is fun for two seconds. But this metaverse has an option: that of being able to fly above the elements and move like Superman in the sky. Again, after two minutes of fun, we remain a little dissatisfied. It’s all well and good to move in a virtual universe, but if you’re wandering aimlessly, the interest is limited.
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 when we “enter” the decor, there it is absolute blackness. As for the “friends” to invite, no avatar on the horizon during my multiple connections. So no one to at least get to know each other, even less to invite over my brazier by the pool. Not quite a “dolce villa” as I thought, more of a cardboard movie set. And I, alone on the beach, deserted. In short, it was probably the worst $9.99 spent of my life. I did well to create a notification on my phone to remind me to unsubscribe within 30 days.
on the attack Roblox
New strategy: I launch a search on Google – Web 2.0 is still very useful for that. Request “How to test the metaverse”, not really an answer in French. On the other hand, I find more songs in English. This is what I am advised to go and look at the side of the online game Roblox. Let’s join this popular platform with an infinite variety 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 about $20 billion.
Originally dedicated to children, Roblox gradually evolving towards a mature audience and attracting more and more brands: Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Chipotle, Kellogg’s, Samsung… The list of communication activities and other marketing events continues to grow. For example, between its launch in November 2021 and March 2022, the Nikeland space attracted some 6.7 million people from 224 different countries.
There is no direct connection to the headset for the connection. You have to go through a computer and the Oculus Link software to display it in the headset. I then have to create my avatar or choose one that is already ready. If, from an immersion standpoint, I remain dissatisfied – the design of the Roblox universe is minimal at the very least – then at least there are people to argue with. Roblox encourages interaction and discussions. Milky_Way_56, SwanStone22 or even AwsomeKitten cross my path during the hours I spent in different universes. Difficult 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 the whole wealth of Roblox : a wide variety of imaginary worlds and spheres. In addition, some 7 million developers are involved in creating Robloxthis versatile platform.
Not a matter of settling in: real estate speculation in these virtual worlds is very real and the prices are definitely misleading. Anyway, I’m a metaverse homeless…
What are we doing in the metaverse other than wandering around randomly? Even though these parallel worlds are still in their infancy, there is plenty to do. For example, the yoga brand Alo (acronym for sky, land-, oceani.e. sky, land, ocean) provides a “sanctuary” in Roblox . On this island it is possible to practice mindfulness with daily guided meditation sessions, as well as to take free yoga classes. I installed my “real” yoga mat in my living room and, through the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset, found myself in a very calming environment. Sound bath and light lapping from the waves, I head to the Alo Store to grab my yoga mat—virtual this time—before I head to the classroom.
Attitude of the triangle, of the tree… Once each position has been “found” by the system according to the approximate placement of its 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 want to… Conclusion? Watching a video on YouTube, classes on fitness services like Apple Fitness+ or even a session with a particular teacher in video is just as interesting, but let’s just say the experience has the merit of being there.
Alo Island has 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 with which you can win gifts, which are very real.
Recruitment, insurance agent, concerts, luxury brand drops…
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 at the time, which then give access to “physical” clothing collections. At Axa, an insurance agent from the north of France has chosen, since April, to offer his services both in his physical agency in Bully-les-Mines (Pas-de-Calais) and in the metaverse Gather. Artists have also tried the virtual concert experience at Horizon Worlds. Las, David Guetta, Young Thug or The Chainsmoker didn’t draw crowds. Probably due to lack of enough users on this platform at the time (late December 2021), because concerts were organized on the video game Fortniteby rapper Travis Scott had gathered several million participants.
So this month in the metaverse? To say I was dissatisfied is a mild understatement. As in the beginning of many social networks in their time, you have to accept to take a arduous course to finally see the essence of these new universes and understand their interest. By linking with other avatars, by mastering the codes and customs, by taking advantage of the good plans of the brands that massively invest in the metaverse “see”, there is no doubt that the perception will evolve. I might even get addicted, just like today I can’t live without Instagram or Twitter. For now I’m going to start with the look of my avatar… and something tells me I’ll have plenty of time to fine-tune it.