Like any emergent technology, the metaverse is steeped in mystery and misconception. The hype surrounding the metaverse reached new heights in 2022. For supporters, the metaverse offers a revolutionary immersive internet with new opportunities for commerce, remote work, and socializing. Skeptics, on the other hand, dismiss the metaverse as another tech fad.
Although many misconceptions about the metaverse circulate the headlines, it can’t be easily dismissed as another fad. The metaverse promises to be a disruptive technology, but one with innumerable benefits when it comes to reducing business costs, promoting accessibility, and creating sustainable sales channels.
But the misconceptions surrounding the metaverse are so rife they’ve become passed off as fact. When it comes to metaverse myths, can you separate fact from fiction?
Metaverse Myth #1 - The Metaverse is Brand New
The metaverse might seem like it appeared out of thin air, but the concept has existed for a long time. If you’ve ever read any article about the metaverse online, you already know that the concept was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel ‘Snowcrash.’ But the concept of the metaverse predates Snowcrash by 57 years.
In 1935, a science fiction author named Stanley G. Weinbaum wrote a short story titled ‘Pygmalion's Spectacles.’ This story tells the story of a professor who invents a pair of gas-like goggles that transports the wearer into "a movie that gives one sight and sound [...] taste, smell, and touch. [...] You are in the story, you speak to the shadows (characters), and they reply, and instead of being on a screen, the story is all about you, and you are in it."
It’s been called “a comprehensive and specific fictional model for virtual reality,” — but it also describes the metaverse.
As Charlie Fink told us on an episode of the .metaverse podcast, “There have been dark rides for hundreds of years, and dark rides also seek to replace the input of the real world with a virtual world. So the idea of creating virtual worlds has been with us for a long time.”
In 2003, Lindon Labs released a proto-metaverse called Second Life, a massive, persistent 3D world where you could buy, sell, build, attend events, and socialize.
Since then, new platforms like Roblox, Fortnite, Decentraland, and Sandbox have all delivered metaverse-like virtual worlds for users to visit and transact in.
Although the metaverse isn't new, it was predominantly inhabited by gamers before the pandemic. With millions of people moving online, interest in the metaverse skyrocketed. Major companies began to invest heavily in the technology and applications that could create new types of digital experiences.
The metaverse is not new or futuristic. It’s been around for a long time — and will continue to grow and flourish.
Metaverse Myth #2 - The Metaverse is a Video Game
Gaming has sped up the development of the metaverse, and many of the technologies (like the Unreal Engine) that power video games will also build the metaverse. This has led some to think that the metaverse is just another video game, and the metaverses currently online, like Roblox and Fortnite, have a firm footing in the gaming world.
But the metaverse has a potential that reaches much further than online gaming. For instance, in the future, you might visit your doctor in the metaverse, and see a digital twin of your next X-Ray to get a comprehensive picture of your health.
Purchasing a car in an auto dealership could be replaced by an immersive virtual experience that marries the convenience of e-commerce with the experience of a branded showroom.
Although it’s tempting to think about the metaverse in terms of gaming, a more accurate comparison is the internet — or the mobile phone. These technologies became thoroughly transformative for almost every industry, and the metaverse is on the cusp of being the next major shift in how we operate our digital lives.
Metaverse Myth #3 - The Metaverse Only Exists In VR
Fictionalized accounts of the metaverse, from Ready, Player, One to Snowcrash, all involve wearing a specialized device to access the metaverse. Although the concepts are often used interchangeably, virtual reality and the metaverse are not synonymous.
Virtual reality describes the hardware and software required to visit a virtual environment, and the metaverse is the virtual environment itself. The metaverse can be accessed without virtual reality, as platforms like Touchcast, Roblox, and Decentraland have demonstrated.
The metaverse lets us create and interact with 3D virtual spaces. Whether shopping for a new car, training people to use new machinery, or collaborating on developing a new drug, the metaverse lets people come together in an immersive experience, even when apart.
Virtual reality, on the other hand, focuses more on what a 3D experience looks like when you’re entirely surrounded by it, which is usually achieved by wearing a headset.
Headsets are becoming popular with consumers who use them to play games or visit virtual worlds. But for other industries, like the enterprise metaverse or remote work — they are still an obstacle to accessibility. Some are uncomfortable to wear, and others can’t afford to invest hundreds of dollars in a piece of new equipment.
But the metaverse can already be accessed without any headsets, special hardware, or expensive software — you can simply use your web browser.
Metaverse Myth #4 - You Need An Avatar To Enter the Metaverse
Like VR headsets, another common theme around the construct of a metaverse involves the use of 3D avatars. In environments like socializing or gaming, avatars can add another fun layer to the experience. But for business or commerce, avatars can be distracting — or unprofessional.
The metaverse is a huge opportunity for businesses that sell complex goods — like cars or expensive machinery. When a salesperson is essentially wearing a mask, it can be hard to build authentic relationships and trust — especially when handling payment information.
eCommerce has always lacked human connection, and this is one of the gaps the metaverse hopes to bridge. But conversing with an avatar can feel just as impersonal as clicking “add to cart.”
Most metaverse providers require you to take the form of an avatar to enter their virtual world, but some companies are exploring different solutions.
As one of the first metaverse platforms to render a live video feed into a virtual environment, Touchcast offers avatar-free metaverse experiences, making it ideal for enterprise use.
Metaverse Myth #5 - There’s Only One Metaverse
After Meta, formerly known as Facebook, planted the virtual flag in the ground, the term ‘metaverse’ spread faster than wildfire. For many, it was the first time they encountered the concept, and as a result, many think that Meta and the metaverse are one and the same.
Just like the internet isn’t Amazon or Google, the metaverse won’t be tethered to one product or platform. The metaverse will require a huge constellation of services, experiences, and products built by many companies.
The truth is that there are already multiple metaverses, each one designed for different purposes. From gaming to the enterprise metaverse, there are many platforms to choose from. One day, we may see the emergence of the interoperable metaverse, where we can travel from one platform to another with the same assets linked together on the blockchain.
An interoperable metaverse would allow for data sharing between different platforms and ensure no single platform owns our personal information.
No matter what the future holds for the metaverse, one product or platform will not hold the keys to the metaverse — it will be a matrix of different experiences built by different innovators.
Metaverse Myth #6 - The Metaverse is the Matrix
In a recent study, 32% of participants revealed that the metaverse made them feel scared, compared to 7% that felt excited.
The metaverse concept can feel scary, especially if the dominant idea is that we collectively plug into a photo-realistic simulation from which there is no escape, like in The Matrix.
A photorealistic metaverse is still years away from becoming a reality, and the metaverse is not intended to replace real life, but to scaffold our digital experiences in a more meaningful way. The metaverse can also help address important issues — like sustainability and accessibility — more effectively than our current technology allows.
The metaverse isn’t scary or alarming. It’s just the next step in building the future of how we work, live, and play.