Yesterday evening, I finished work, had dinner with my family and then cycled up Alpe d'Huez.
Not the real, physical one, but a simulacra of one in Zwift, the virtual cycling app / game / training tool. I wasn't on my own, there were thousands of other cyclists on the mountain. Well not on the mountain - in their garages, sheds and living rooms.
Over the last few months there's been a lot written / spoken / tweeted about the Metaverse. Especially since the company that makes Facebook (previously also called Facebook) changed it's name to Meta. Of course nobody who regularly uses the Metaverse is calling it "the Metaverse". They are spending time in Roblox. Or playing Minecraft. Or even Second Life (for the retronauts).
This concept of a virtual world where people can interact in a 3D way has been around for some time. I remember working on virtual cafe for Nescafe, as a graduate at a small web agency all the way back in 1999. It was slow. People still had dial-up. Nobody was really interested in a branded cafe experience. Especially one sponsored by an instant coffee company.
The other day someone asked me if TodayTix Group had a Metaverse strategy. I can imagine the company selling tickets for virtual events. But so much of what the company does is about getting people together at live events. It sounded odd even verbalising it. For me the hours spend in Zwift are a means to an end. An attempt to do some exercise and get a bit less unfit in a fun and convenient way.
So what's next for the Metaverse? Maybe people will spend even more time in these places - the price of hardware will fall and faster internet connections become more ubiquitous.
Will people choose the Meta over reality? With better 3D googles? And more painfully realistic recreations of alpine climbs? I'm not so sure. I can't see people choosing the Meta in-place of reality. If you offered me a week cycling in France or 7-days on a virtual trainer I know which one I'd choose. But as a facilitator of convenience or entertainment there's a place in our connected world for these virtual spaces.