22nd February 2024 3:48 pm
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HP reckons we’ll be shopping in digital malls by 2030

Curse you and your talk of a Metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg.

Ever since the meat smoker mentioned a virtual reality space where everybody can do everything, every tech firm and their dad has talked about investment in the space.

What is the metaverse exactly? Well at the moment it’s a range of different metaverses from independent companies which don’t seem to tie into each other in any sort of notable way. In fact, it’s laughable that companies who take issue with YouTube content being used improperly would collaborate and let users live out their Ready Player One fantasy of a fully connected and unrestricted metaverse.

The latest firm to wax lyrically about the future of the internet and how we’ll use it is HP.

While HP avoids using the term metaverse it’s using the idea of blended reality to get folks excited about, erm, shopping in a digital mall where they can access anything and everything. If it looks like a metaverse and sounds like a metaverse, chances are high it’s talk of a metaverse.

“Blended reality retail in a world that is interactive, connected, and shoppable is only just materializing. Brands that get it right will bring digital wallets, gaming, and mixed realities together, along with digital storytelling and new forms of engagement – a kind of 360-degree retail,” HP writes in a press release sent to Hypertext.

The hardware maker goes on to give vague examples of how together with a VR headset, sensor and gloves, a person can shop virtually while engaging their senses.

We have to ask – Have any firms touting web3 and the metaverse actually participated in a public VR chat because we really think they should to get an idea of how people use these spaces?

The firm reckons that because “the next generation” is buried in their smartphones and video games, it can get them excited about buying goods and services and even real estate in “an entirely new way”.

HP envisions a world where brands are selling you products and services in games, a digital mall where you can visit app stores (seriously) and digital marketplaces and even the ability to visit a destination before you book your holiday, virtually of course. This all seemingly serves to talk up the HP Reverb G2 which is: a) not available in South Africa through any retailer we can find and, b) costs $599.

We have to wonder how in eight years, while a semi-conductor shortage is plaguing the world and a recession is in play, HP plans to make virtual reality tech more accessible and affordable. While firms tend to counter this by saying they are investing in key areas, that’s not an answer.

To be frank, all talk of the metaverse seems like a way to sell virtual reality gear to people and infrastructure to businesses. Whether it’s a virtual office, virtual mall or virtual land, users need to invest in hardware to actually participate. It’s telling then that the firms talking up the metaverse are keen to get you to invest in some aspect of it that benefits them now. As the metaverse is something in the future, if it fails those companies can just brush it off and move on as that’s a risk of investing in bleeding edge technology.

The idea of strapping a $599 VR headset to your face so you can experience shopping and other real-life activities in a digital space is just bizarre. Does anybody even want to do that? A study analysing workers who had to work in the metaverse says no.

The blog Web 3 Is Going Just Great regularly highlights just how little substance there is to talks of web3. Mentioning a decentralised platform is often accompanied by the launch of a centralised platform that will enable the metaverse.

While HP talks about being able to “‘tunnel’ from one world to another, and interact with others” it doesn’t say how that will be possible. Is intellectual property law going to change? Will companies allow you to just use their creations on other platforms?

We’re doubtful that the answers to these questions are yes and for the metaverse, blended reality and web3 to be fully realised, the answers should be yes.

While we don’t claim to know what the future holds, right now talk of a metaverse, web3 and other future tech needs to be met with the question of how this becomes a reality because for now, it’s all very speculative.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

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