Virtual reality, the metaverse, and NFTs have been in the news a lot over the last couple of years. This has corresponded with a spike in interest and excitement around these technologies and how they can be used together.
They’re not new phenomena though, virtual reality technology has been around for several decades, while the metaverse has been a term used to describe digital worlds since the early 1990s. NFTs are a little newer, though they still go back to the spring of 2014.
But the last 12 months saw an explosion of interest around all three, with the growing demand for crypto assets among retail traders pushing up the demand for NFTs and then Facebook’s announcement that it was investing heavily in the metaverse and VR putting a lot of focus on these technologies.
In the months that have followed, every big name in tech has announced or hinted that it is working on some sort of metaverse, VR, and/or NFT project.
However, as 2022 has progressed, the novelty of these has begun to wear away, the crypto market has cooled down, and most people have gone back to living in the physical universe. So is that the end for these three technologies or will they be coming back?
Virtual reality is the technology that is perpetually “around the corner”. For much of the last decade, companies have been working on making lighter, more portable headsets that offer better picture quality and a more natural interface. Their efforts have certainly borne fruit, the Oculus Quest 2 is streets ahead of the original Rift headset produced by the company.
It still has some way to go through as eye-tracking, short battery life, and motion sickness are still common complaints of VR users.
That said, virtual reality does have some practical uses. Firstly, it’s popular among many gamers and there is a growing number of titles that are designed exclusively for VR or at least support it. There is a lot of variety among these games too, with everything from virtual reality poker to VR racing games, which has helped to create a diverse demographic of players.
These games are very similar to their non-VR equivalents, but they add additional elements of realism that can be seen in your screen. For example, PokerStars offers free online poker for mobile and computer users, including ring games, tournaments and other modes. Many of these features can be found in its VR game but with the added benefit of an immersive and interactive environment. We can also see this with racing games like DiRT Rally too where the VR feature simply provides a new perspective to existing content.
But VR has more applications than this. Many companies are using it to train their employees, improve productivity, and even host remote meetings in a more immersive environment.
Whether the remaining technical hurdles can be overcome remains to be seen, but if they can, virtual reality certainly has a promising future with plenty of potential uses.
Of the three fad technologies, the metaverse is the most abstract. This means it’s open to a lot of interpretation and speculation about what it could offer us in the future, but it also makes it harder to actually imagine how any of this would be beneficial.
Just because we can don a headset and sit with avatar versions of our friends doesn’t mean we should or will even want to. After all, 3D television offered some exciting benefits on paper, but it was a flop because no one wanted to wear some clunky glasses while they relaxed at home.
The jury is still out on this one, so we’ll have to see how it evolves in the coming years.
NFTs are a divisive technology and most people fall into one of three camps. You either love them and think they’re the best thing ever, hate them and think they’re completely overhyped, or have no idea what they are at all.
Right now, NFTs are mostly used for speculative investments on small images and other digital content, but there has been a lot of speculation about their future applications. Some suggestions have included creating secondary markets for digital items in video games, digitally tracking real estate ownership, and ensuring the authenticity of physical items like art.
So far, however, real-world implementations of NFTs haven’t been that successful. For example, Ubisoft’s Quartz program was met with a lot of criticism from players and appears to have been a huge flop in its early stages after just 15 were sold in the first month.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a practical use for NFTs beyond digital artwork, but there are few compelling cases being put forward right now.