Okay, just writing this title makes me feel old, but it's true - I discovered the Metaverse twenty-five years ago when I read what became my favorite book of all time, Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson.
I was fifteen when I first read Snowcrash, and I'll be honest, it really did change my life. So...I'll pause here to give you a bit of background so you know what the heck the book is about, and then we can chat about the Metaverse.
Snowcrash is a book that takes placed in 21st century LA, except well, LA is no longer part of the United States and the world has become a pretty dystopian place. The main character, aptly named Hiro Protagonist is a hacker turned pizza delivery driver for the mafia (of course 🤷♂️ ) who turns into a save-the-world kind of hero in the Metaverse.
When I was fifteen and read Snowcrash, this was the first time I had heard the concept of the Metaverse and I think to this day he's credited with creating the term.
The term Metaverse was first coined by science-fiction author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. In Stephenson's novel, the Metaverse is a shared virtual space that connects all virtual worlds using the internet and augmented reality. Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes computer-generated images over a user's view of the real world. (Source - Newsweek)
Back then I was convinced the Metaverse was only a few years ago, before we knew it - we'd all be interacting as 3D avatars in virtual worlds. Well, I was wrong, it took longer, a lot longer.
When Oculus first introduced the Rift VR headset I picked up a dev kit, the Oculus Rift DK2 which was soon followed by a consumer VR headset, The Oculus Rift. From that point onwards I've been buying every VR headset Oculus makes, most recently buying a Quest 2 which I bought early-into COVID and I credit helping me still experience things outside of my San Francisco apartment, albeit, in the Metaverse.
All this being said, it's still early. The reality is, the vast majority of our communications and social interactions don't happen in a 3D world, they happen in 2D via text. Discord and Slack, both wildly popular chat platforms for interacting with friends and co-workers are more like old school IRC than any new age Metaversian concept.
But the world is changing, and quickly. I'm finding more and more friends now have an Oculus Quest and I'm meeting up with people in the Metaverse using apps like VRChat and RecRoom. The experience is incredibly far from anything you'd find in Snowcrash or Ready Player One, but it's the beginning of a shift, away from interacting by reading and writing text on places like Twitter and Discord, toward actually speaking and interacting in VR environments or huge social games that take place in giant virtual worlds like Fortnite.
So I was a bit off in my prediction that the Metaverse would go mainstream 20+ years ago, but that doesn't make me any less excited to see it all happening now. If you think Fortnite is just something kids play or VR is just a fad - think again, the world is changing and reading text in 2D on a screen like you're doing right now will become a thing of the past. The question to ask yourself is, how long will you hold onto the past for?
If you don't have an Oculus Quest yet, I hope this turns into the nudge you need to pick one up. Never played Fortnite? Maybe give it a shot. Think Roblox is silly? Why not try it for yourself. Don't be afraid to dive in and have fun, because that's what the Metaverse is all about...