I boarded the air taxi, sat in the driver’s seat, fastened my seatbelt, and prepared myself for takeoff. The South Korean city of Busan’s futuristic skyline vanished as a computerized avatar with a message appeared on the windshield.
As a wave of motion sickness hit me, I could not respond. Thanks to the virtual reality goggles and motion-simulating seats, I thought I was genuinely hovering and moving around in the air. Also, they gave me a stomachache that forced me to close my eyes for the remaining three minutes of the trip.
…kind of… Welcome to the metaverse.
The air taxi model from the South Korean business SK Telecom was among the show-stopping exhibits at MWC, or Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest telecom industry trade event.
At this week’s expo in Barcelona, tech giants and telecom carriers showcased developments to connect people and businesses online, increasingly in brand-new virtual reality realms termed the metaverse.
After trying the flight experience, visitor Mark Varahona also felt dizzy, but he is still considering getting a virtual reality headset, which is the equipment required to access any immersive digital realm.
“Before arriving here, I considered purchasing it. And perhaps now I’ll purchase them,” he remarked. They have a good appearance.
The popularity of the metaverse skyrocketed after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg declared it the upcoming internet phenomenon in late 2021, rebranding his social media company and investing tens of billions in the concept.
He pitched it as a 3D community where individuals could socialize, conduct business, and have fun while doing anything from running a conference virtually to taking an online vacation.
Yet, as the initial euphoria about the metaverse fades off, questions about its viability have begun to surface.
According to NPD Research, sales of virtual reality headsets in the U.S. fell 2% by December compared to the prior year. Meta Quest headset manufacturer Reality Labs reported a $13.7 billion operating loss in 2022.
According to Meta, 10,000 engineers will be hired throughout Europe to work on the metaverse.
The business responded, “Our expansion in Europe was always a long-term one planned over several years,” when asked for an update. We are still dedicated to Europe.
The “metaverse has not disappeared,” according to Ben Wood, the chief analyst at CCS Insight. But I believe there is a lot more doubt about the function it will serve, especially in the consumer arena outside of the obvious applications, such as gaming.
The difficulty in defining the metaverse only serves to increase distrust. Tuong Nguyen, a Gartner researcher specializing in new technologies, noted that it is not the same as virtual reality or its cousin, augmented reality.
In the same way that computers are tied to the Internet, he explained, AR and VR are closely related to the metaverse.
Instead, consider it the Internet’s evolution, which modifies how we engage with the outside world.
So how should the flying simulator from SK Telecom be described?
Ken Wohn, a manager at the company, said: “Technically, it’s not metaverse, but kind of metaverse.
The largest telecom company in South Korea partnered with Joby Aviation in California last year to create an electric flying taxi service for the nation.
According to Wohn, air taxis may eventually use fast 5G wireless connections to function autonomously.
At French cellular firm Orange’s metaverse demonstration, users were taken to a futuristic neon-hued technoscape with lightning bolts, enormous robots, and a falcon holding a green ball in its talons.
A dancing figure that mimicked the movements of an actual dancer wearing motion capture equipment appeared. Although it was a stunning display, its intended use for consumers was not immediately apparent.
It highlights how brand-new 5G networks would remove lag for users of the metaverse seeing something distantly occurring, according to Miguel Angel Almonacid, Orange’s network strategy director for Spain.
Analysts suggested that the metaverse would be more suited for operational uses in the workplace.
The obstacles there won’t be as high; therefore, that’s where we’ll see traction initially, according to Nguyen of Gartner. For instance, a worker could utilize augmented reality glasses to get instructions or diagnostic information.
To conduct virtual meetings with “realistic avatars,” the Spanish startup La Frontera uses the metaverse, according to Marta Ortiz de Lucas-Baquero, a business development executive, who led me around the metaverse of the organization.
The beach we first arrived on had boulders, palm palms, and clear blue water. Her virtual representation first appeared as a head and shoulders with floating, inanimate hands in front of her chest.
We visited a neighboring conference room with a boardroom table, where I picked up 3D objects like a toy ray gun and a bottle of champagne using handheld controllers.
Training for risky, repetitive, or intricate procedures like surgery is one of the other uses for the metaverse.
The beach vanished and was replaced by a burning, engulfed tanker truck. An extinguisher was suspended in the air. Ortiz de Lucas-Baquero instructed me to grab it with my virtual hand and spray it toward the flames, which were beginning to go out.
The virtual environment might also be beneficial for displaying goods like private jets too large to move around effectively.
She claimed that La Frontera had digitally cataloged the fleet of NetJets so that customers could view various models online.
Or perhaps they are too little for people.