The Metaverse: A Dream That Was Never Fulfilled
In recent years, the tech world has been buzzing with talk of the Metaverse, a virtual world where people interact via avatars using devices like headsets and goggles. Although the term was coined in 1992 by author Neal Stephenson in his sci-fi novel Snow Crash, it was introduced in 2021 as the next big thing in the world. It was presented as a revolutionary technology that would transform our lifestyle, work, and social interactions. However, it seems that the metaverse is now dead, and the dream of creating this virtual alternate world has remained unfulfilled.
The Rise and Fall of the Metaverse
The metaverse concept became more popular as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as people across the world were looking for better ways to escape the reality of lockdown. Several big companies like Facebook, Nvidia, Microsoft, and Roblox started investing in the technology. In fact, for strategic reasons, Facebook had to rebrand to Meta. But despite all the hype and money poured into its development, the metaverse never really took off.
Apart from its crazy hype, the metaverse faced numerous challenges that made it fail to take flight. A primary challenge was the lack of interest from people as a result of security and data privacy concerns. Also, there is the challenge of cost and mobility, as people find VR devices expensive and difficult to carry around. The difficulty in explaining and understanding what the metaverse is about also led to the fall of the technology.
Artificial Intelligence Quietly Made Strides
While the world was buzzing with the excitement of the metaverse, artificial intelligence (AI) was quietly making progress in the tech world. Many experts in the tech industry have described AI as a game-changer. In fact, some even assume it is equal to the internet, if not superior. Just like the metaverse, AI is expected to transform how we live, and it has already started doing so through self-driving cars, maps, face detection technology, and even chatbots like ChatGPT.
To this effect, big tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and even Meta are now shifting their focus to AI. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg recently announced the creation of a new top-level product group at Meta focused on generative AI. This shows that the company’s focus has shifted to improving AI. And this shift has effectively killed the metaverse, Zuckerberg’s dream technological revolution.
Elon Musk Bids Farewell to the Metaverse
While Zuckerberg watched his dream die, Elon Musk, who never believed in the dream, recently said goodbye to the metaverse. He compared the metaverse to a pandemic that had affected nature and believes that the world is now in the process of healing from it. This happened following the tweeted news that Disney had decided to eliminate its metaverse division, according to the Wall Street Journal. To this tweet, Musk replied, “Nature is healing.” And to this reply, many Twitter users shared their opinions on the ‘meta-matter’.
So, What’s Next for Social Media?
With Zuckerberg's recent announcement, many are left wondering what's next for social media. Because initially, the metaverse was seen as the next big thing in social media, but now, Meta has shifted its focus to contributing to AI technology.
Well, one certain thing is that social media will continue to grow in terms of content creation. Developers are building more generative AI products. In response, people are now creating more written, visual, and audio content using artificial intelligence. This has led to the rise of more influencers who share their content and monetize their following on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
Also, chatbots, like ChatGPT, Bing chat, and You Chat, have transformed how we search for information online. Although these machines still have a long way to go to overcome their limitations, they are already demonstrating the potential to transform how we search for information and how we interact with technology. Their natural and conversational way of interacting makes it easier for people to find information.
However, it all goes beyond using AI for content creation and search. With Meta's new focus on generative AI, it's possible that creators will soon be able to use AI to create content right on social media platforms. Nevertheless, this possibility raises questions about privacy and ethics, as AI could be used to manipulate users or collect data without their consent.
As expressed, the metaverse may have been a dream that never came true, but Meta and other big tech companies’ shift towards AI shows that there is still hope for a technological revolution. And it doesn’t matter what channel, AI is likely to play a major role in how we live, behave, and interact in the future. However, it's essential we use AI in an ethical way to ensure that the internet remains a healthy place for us to search for information and interact.