Facebook has been making some changes lately, and maybe not for the better. Mark Zuckerberg has introduced a new way of Facebook, a new way of social media, a new internet, a new marketplace called ‘Meta.’ Zuckerberg wants to create his own universe called the Metaverse. Can he do it?
What is it?
The Metaverse will be a new Cyberspace, but very similar to the one we know, just more advanced. Technologies that make up the Metaverse include virtual reality, which is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment, as well as augmented reality, where objects in physical reality are enhanced by a computer, to combine digital and physical worlds. The Metaverse might feel like a video game, if you have ever played Fortnite or Clash of Clans, where Avatars live in houses in neighborhoods with the same as your friends who physically live across the world. Meta even shared a video on Youtube of someone sitting on their couch and joining a concert happening elsewhere using a holographic avatar, then showing their friend who can actually see the avatar next to them physically at the concert. This seems to be Meta’s vision eventually, will and when will we get to a point where holographs can travel around the world for us? Seems a bit far off…
The Metaverse will also serve as a digital economy, promoting users to buy and sell goods, and even create goods virtually, being the ‘future of retail,’ or so they hope. Avatars will be able to enter a virtual shopping mall, purchase an item from a store, and sell that item in a different virtual mall, maybe even for more. This might remind you of a certain Steven Spielberg movie, Ready Player One, where people search for prizes on their VR sets and encounter adventure, and of course in the thriller movie, danger. Meta also wants to mix shopping throughout virtual and physical reality by having users walk into their favorite store on their VR set, try on a few shirts with their body dimensions, purchase it and have it be sent in the mail. For instance, if you wanted a shirt from Nordstrom, you could virtually try on a newly released blouse, check out how it looks on you, and get it shipped to you expecting it to fit since you have already ‘tried it on’ in a different reality. We are assuming Meta will profit from this partnership with Nordstrom if that partnership ever occurs, of course.
So, what are some initial reactions to Meta? Mixed reviews, but mostly some hesitance. Robert P., a technology coordinator at Woodward Academy loves using his Meta VR as it has increased engagement in his classroom, having the Students do virtual lessons and scavenger hunts. Michael H. works with Parapelegic kids at the same school, and uses the VR set to help them experience adventure like they have never been able to. Click here to read more about what educators think of Meta. Others view Meta as a train on the way to destination failure. There are many discussions about the price of VR headsets, ranging from $300 to $1,500, being out of reach for a good amount of people around the world. Is this going to make Meta more exclusive? Is one of the richest men on the planet creating an exclusive product, possibly the point? Zuckerberg states that you do not HAVE to purchase a VR set to be able to have the Metaverse experience, and that you can participate on a computer. Without the VR headset, people will be able to create avatars, go on adventures, and buy and sell on a computer, which is basically what we have been doing for over a decade and a half. Therefore, the value of Meta to someone without the VR headset, is equivalent to what they already do day to day. Another concern is that if Covid mandates are starting to calm down, will the desire of virtual hangouts and activities fade? People cannot wait to get out of the house to travel, visit family, go eat with friends and so on. Will there be a big enough market of people who want to stay home and VR the same situations?
How Has the Market Reacted?
EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT! Forbes reported that shares of Meta fell over 25% on Thursday 2/18 erasing over $230 billion in market value for its worst trading session in history, after the company’s dismal quarterly earnings report showed declining users and surging expenses related to the company’s Metaverse project. Wow. A 25% decline in one day, that is wild! Meta stock has not recovered yet, and is hanging around that decline, giving some traders an incentive to buy as they recall what happened with Apple when Steve Jobs debuted the iphone. People did not think Apple could be great ‘phone’ developers, and it took over a month for their stock to reflect the gravitation towards what we deem now as the most famous and sought after Smartphone 15 years later. Could this be a predictor for Meta, or will it continue to decline?
The Metaverse is a whole new concept that has faced hesitation and uncertainty so far, but that never stopped Mark Zuckerberg before. Facebook changed the planet, and Meta now being the parent company, will make changes that move us to more technology based interactions. We do not know the future of Meta, but it will be interesting to see where it goes. Will you be a part of the Metaverse?