The metaverse has been described as the next phase of the internet: interconnected and persistent 3D spaces where we will work, play, and, so it seems, purchase virtual real estate. But metaverse-related technologies have failed to keep up with the considerable hype, the vision of ultrarealistic virtual environments offered by tech vendors miles away from the current reality of cartoony avatars and cumbersome, expensive headsets.
As the hype spotlight has shifted sharply to generative AI and all its dangers and possibilities, talk of the metaverse — or “Meh-taverse” — these days largely centers on its demise. And not without reason: Meta (formerly Facebook), which changed its name in 2021 to reflect its new focus, has spent billions on VR development with comparatively little return, at least so far. Sales of VR and AR headsets have fallen short of expectations. And Microsoft shuttered AltspaceVR, the social VR platform it acquired in 2017, and has reportedly laid off workers focused on mixed reality development while making AI its clear priority going forward.