I don’t know if you remember, but Mark Zuckerberg changed his company’s name from Facebook to Meta in 2021, and since then, he has been focused on building the metaverse, a three-dimensional virtual reality where future leisure and work activities will take place… or so they told us.
But the metaverse has lost some of its luster since 2021. Companies like Disney have closed their metaverse divisions and stopped using the term, while cryptocurrency-based startups’ metaverses have quietly languished or imploded.
In 2022, Meta’s Reality Labs division reported operational losses of $13.7 billion. However, at Meta Connect 2023, Zuckerberg hasn’t given up on the metaverse; he has just changed the way he talks about it.
Previously, he focused on the metaverse as an entirely new digital world. Now, his goal is to convince the public that the future is a blend of the digital and the physical.
The metaverse has changed to adapt to us
At Connect this year, Zuckerberg emphasized that the modern “real world” combines the physical and the digital world that is still being constructed, all built into “this concept that we call the metaverse.”
Meta has been working for years on the integration of virtual and physical spaces. However, the discourse was notably different from his presentation in 2021. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he promised that, in the next decade, most people would spend time in a three-dimensional and fully immersive version of the Internet, primarily on Meta’s Horizon Worlds platform.
In his opening speech, he put on virtual reality glasses to meet with his friends in space and play poker as a cartoon avatar.
The presentation emphasized the wonder of being in an unreal world, showing cards and players floating in zero gravity. This year’s keynote, however, focused much more on the living room and playing real video games.
Meta can’t abandon the metaverse like many companies have done. After all, it’s right there in their name. Fortunately for Meta, the metaverse has always been a slippery term. Is it VR? Is it AI? Is it gaming? We’ll see.