“Meta announces legs” was probably one of the more bizarre headlines last week from the Facebook owner’s virtual event, Meta Connect. The backstory: Meta has spent billions on its virtual space, Horizon Worlds, and yet the avatars representing users are merely moving torsos, as they have not yet been given legs. In this recent announcement, the company has confirmed avatars will soon come with legs.
Rather embarrassingly for Meta, however, was the revelation that the avatar legs shown during the event were not demonstrated in Horizon Worlds but animated beforehand using motion capture.
Another point of criticism and ridicule is that a new headset introduced by Meta to help you enjoy this virtual whole-body experience will set you back 1,499 USD.
You might be thinking that these are just the growing pains of creating a metaverse. Not really. Metaverses are here, from popular game Roblox to virtual offices, and they won’t set you back thousands of dollars to try them.
Read more: What is the metaverse?
Virtual spaces for gaming in the metaverse
Some of the most popular online games in the world right now already take place in the metaverse. Although they can be played without headsets, wearing one will provide a more immersive experience.
As the most popular metaverse game, Roblox’s more than 43 million users can create their own name and avatar, head into one of the countless “experiences” to play or move around in, and meet other users also in the same experience.
A major reason for Roblox’s popularity is that despite the more basic avatars, Roblox lets its users create their own games and environments, which can bring together players with similar interests.
In 2020, when the pandemic resulted in many cancellations of live concerts, the game demonstrated what more it could do, with Lil Nas X holding a virtual concert in Roblox, drawing millions of users to the virtual experience.
Starting off as a free-to-play battle royale game, Fortnite has also carved out spaces for users to interact with each other while allowing them to customize their avatars with battle-earned gear, weapons, and emotes (actions your avatar can do).
Jumping on the precedent of Lil Nas X’s concert on Roblox, other famous performers, like Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, and Marshmello, have held events and concerts on the Fortnite platform.
If you remember dial-up connections, you are probably also likely to remember the first popular online multiplayer platform, Second Life. According to its developer, Linden Lab, it’s technically not a game, with “no manufactured conflict, no set objective.”
In fact, many of Web3’s forays into purchasing virtual objects with cryptocurrencies may sound familiar to those who remember purchasing bespoke clothes and even virtual property with real dollars in Second Life.
The game is still around, and Second Life appears to be getting its second wind in the growing metaverse discourse, reporting almost 65 million active users.
Virtual spaces for working in the metaverse
With office work practices and many interactions going online thanks to the pandemic, a new niche tool has formed: The virtual workspace. Going a step further than, say, Slack or Zoom, these spaces offer a simulated office environment, allowing colleagues to collaborate through video calls, shared screens, and general internal messaging.
A fairly nascent subset of the metaverse, there has understandably been much resistance to working in a virtual office, especially from employees who fear greater surveillance. They are nevertheless a sneak peek into what the future of the metaverse may hold in corporate spaces.
Read more: Survey reveals surveillance fears over the metaverse workplace
Go-karting to meetings, albeit virtually, still beats clicking zoom links throughout the day to get to your meetings. At least, this is what Gather is betting on.
Instead of hyper-realistic 3D-rendered avatars striving for facial accuracy, Gather has gone the opposite route, opting instead for pixel art and a general 2D aesthetic. You can “walk” or go-kart to your meeting rooms where video conferencing is supported, play chess in the courtyard, and even have a dog follow you around. In the virtual world, an office can be as pet friendly as you want.
It works off the principle that “Society gets the most value out of a Metaverse that is a free, open platform, much like the Internet,” which we can get behind. If you’re a fan of the 8-bit game aesthetic, give Gather a go.
Mozilla’s Hubs lets users create different spaces for working, learning, congregating, and playing. Hubs is a 3D virtual space that allows users to communicate and collaborate with other colleagues and peers, with options to present and share work virtually in a room to your own liking. No go-karts in this one, but it might just break up the monotony of Zoom meetings.
They may not be the most immersive spaces with fully integrated VR just yet, but at least they have a leg (or two) to stand on.
Tried any metaverse environments? Let us know in the comments!
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