The Metaverse is a new and exciting way to experience reality, virtually, and it seems clear that the future is now. To better understand what the Metaverse is, and how it compares to real-life adventures, I talked with entrepreneur and thrillseeker, Rey Perez.
Rey, if you were to try to teach a second-grader, or Homer Simpson what a Metaverse is, how would you explain it?
The best way to understand is to watch the movie Ready Player One. Otherwise, I would show them through an Occulus [a product] which was purchased by Facebook a few years ago. You put it over your face and it’s virtual reality. After using it and seeing it I thought, “OMG, I see how this could be a real thing.”
You have a mind for business, you see the value of technology to enhance our lives, and you have an adventurous spirit. Share what your experience has been so far with the Metaverse?
Well, it’s brand new and evolving as we go. Recently I was walking through the airport and someone was using an Occulus, and I can see him sitting there really immersed. I watched him, recorded him, and had my buddy sitting next to him as I was recording them both. He was in a different world, even though he was sitting there in the airport moving his arms around. I felt like I wanted to jump in there with him and see what he was doing, rather than sitting there idly.
You said he was moving his arms around; please explain more of what that was like?
Think of the movie Minority Report (with Tom Cruise), where you can bring things up, swipe, and move images around. Once you experience this you realize, “Wow I can do so much with this!” You can do so much there that you can’t necessarily do physically. So, like waiting at the airport, instead of using the phone to pass your time, you can put on your Occulus and be in another world.
Is this something beneficial or just a lot of hype?
I would like to preface this with the fact that one of the things that humans spend the most money on is experience. Consider experiences like seeing a movie, a play, riding a bike, bungee jumping, going to the fair, amusement parks; people pay a lot of money for these experiences. We can also call it entertainment. Once you understand that humans will pay a lot for experience and entertainment, you can see that people can be entertained by these things which people can’t maybe afford or have physical access to, such as the Great Wall of China.
To see the actual Great Wall, you have to get a plane ticket, rent transportation, and speak the language. But turn it into a VR experience and now you can look around, feel like you’re there, turn your head, and see all around it. You can see the Great Wall now that the experience has become affordable, and the person who created the experience can charge a nominal fee for anyone to experience it.
What else is an important benefit of the Metaverse?
We can interact with others. Now the Metaverse allows people to come together from anywhere in the world to collaborate, share, and do things together that we could have never done in the real world. That, for humanity, is a game-changer.
What will it look like for people to accept this trend and engage in using the Metaverse on a broad scale?
It’s going to be a slow and long-term process but I definitely believe it’s the future. The technology is there, the opportunity is there, but people still have to accept it much like anything new such as cryptocurrency. If another pandemic were to happen, that would further push the Metaverse. And I think that is what pushed this idea: having people stuck in their homes to connect and socialize from their comfort.
Socializing is important to all of us. So, no matter what a person’s limitations might be, they can join in with others in the Metaverse?
Now everyone, even if confined to their homes, could still interact and connect no matter what. You can go for a run while talking to a friend who is in another part of the world. I believe it came to be to help people to accept this experience. It will also directly connect with blockchain, crypto, NFT, etc.
You mentioned some of the new types of currency available nowadays. There is a new trend where people can own virtual real estate. What do you think of this?
Like most people, I never considered owning virtual real estate because it doesn’t make any sense. However, once you can go into a virtual building where you can do actual activities and be there, interacting from your living room, you will understand.
Rey, you’ve done some real-life adventuring and have been fortunate to have many thrilling experiences. Can this Metaverse replace the real thing?
Once you put it on, you don’t notice the difference in what you are doing because the human mind doesn’t recognize the difference between doing something physically and doing it mentally. A study with Olympic athletes had them hooked up to observe the brain activity as they ran the race in their minds. The same muscles fired in their mind. The brain was reacting in the same way as if they were physically active.
There must be some differences though between VR and the real thing?
Consider snowboarding in virtual reality – it’s not cold. There will be a whole new market for devices to help you interact and give haptic feedback. Like a circular treadmill, you’re moving like a ball and you can feel like you are running and having that higher level of experience. Think about when we click on our keyboard – do you feel the experience? So take this little sensation and multiply it; that is what the experience will be, much like having the ability to pick things up. A slight vibration is detected when you pick up an object and again when you set it back down. Your brain is getting that input, while you see and hear it happen.
To use a real example, you were just snowboarding over in the Alps. How could this virtual reality experience measure up?
We played paintball on the mountain in the snow and the paintballs hurt because it was cold! There are companies creating equipment for the advanced real-life experience and at that point, you really wouldn’t notice the difference. Imagine a suit that can shock you or send vibrations as if you were hit or shot. If I were doing this in virtual reality, with the suit on and that thing zapped me, I would feel it and it would be just about the same experience, but without the cold!
Is there any downside that you see to this new movement in technology?
People are going to start losing real-life connections and connectivity. Like in Ready Player One, they aren’t enjoying their real lives, because in the multiverse you can do more and experience more. Just look at our newest generation: they only text or interact through social media. We are already aware of the difference in how humans connect nowadays. I am scared this will be the new norm with less human connection, which will change the whole world. This is going to be way into the future, not in this coming decade. I don’t even think the baby boomers are going to experience the full version.
So that may be a possible future. What about possibilities for business and using this now?
Right now you can attend a conference live in person or virtually through Zoom. This would be a new option! Imagine sitting there as if you are in the room, where you can turn around to see people behind you, next to you, even the cameraman. You are not just virtually watching the one speaker. Now you are looking around, and feeling like you are there. People could attend a Tony Robbins conference in their home but it would be as if they are actually IN his event.
Who is least excited about the Metaverse?
If I were to stereotype, it’s the older generation that wouldn’t get it, couldn’t even fathom it, and think everyone is crazy. However, consider the elderly who may have the financial means but not the health to travel. They have the option to put it on and experience places they couldn’t get to otherwise.
Who is most excited about the Metaverse?
Definitely the gamers and the younger generation are most excited because they understand it. In the example of seeing the Great Wall, young people may be healthy enough for more travel, but not have the financial means for such a big trip.
Thank you, Rey, for sharing your insights. Whether for business or the extremely adventurous, the Metaverse may just be the newest playground for young and old alike.