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A Day in the Metaverse: Abandoned Clusters, Flirting with Avatars and Kids Talking to Strangers | Technique


I’m in a metaverse pool and can’t get out. There is no ladder. I also don’t know how to swim. I look down and see the bottom, I am still floating even though I have no legs and am not touching the ground. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s not sad because nothing is really going on. or if.

The owner of this metaverse gym taught us how to take some flip boards and go swimming. He jumped into the pool and swam very fast. I grabbed the last two boards, jumped up, and they slipped out of my hands. I wanted to move on, but I couldn’t. People looked at me and I looked at them and asked for help, but they ignored me. I had to get out of the metaverse to save myself, or save my avatar. This scene that goes from curiosity to misunderstanding and loneliness sums up my long journey through the virtual reality of the meta.

The metaverse is a concept that has come to mean many things. Perhaps the most popular idea is a computer-generated space accessed with virtual reality glasses. Meta, formerly Facebook, is the company that bet the most in this new niche: it has invested billions in technologies and resources over the past decade. For this walk, I’ve focused on the most well-known metaverse, Horizon Worlds, which is the social banner of the Meta show for the metaverse. The worlds are hundreds of scenarios where you can chat, play games, watch shows, or just show that you’re drinking something. You’ve been to squares, western towns, islands where you’re shot at, theaters, empty city streets, apartments, and many futuristic paper-dollar sets where little actually happens. This social meaning of worlds where meeting people is only one option: there are also traditional video games and other games to work out and you can even meet in virtual rooms to work with other avatars.

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To enter, all you need is a pair of virtual reality goggles and a Meta account. For this experiment, I used Meta Quest 2, which in Spain costs 450 euros, provided by the company. Before arriving, you must create an avatar: you choose eyes, hair, glasses, clothes, and everything you want to wear in the metaverse. Everything but the pants, because the avatars are still legless for now. Then they walk you through to teach you how to pick up things and move around, thanks to the controller. The first thing I discovered is that if I slide through the metaverse I get dizzy. I have to jump Meta gives both options.

where are the people?

Once you have an avatar, Game Worlds presents you with a list of worlds to enter: The Chosen Ones, Favorite Worlds of the Day, Worlds to Play, and Watch. In these lists he specifies how many people were in all the world at the time – I never saw any more than 100 visitors and most had only a few. The most surprising of all was one morning, about 10:00 (Spanish peninsula time), which is early morning in the United States: there was no one, absolutely no one, in any of the worlds I visited. It was easy to feel like the side-scrolling John Travolta meme: Where are the people?

Horizon Worlds is only available in seven countries, including Spain. The other European territories are Ireland and France. In my travels around the world, I have heard French many times, but never Spanish. She tried to talk to an avatar named Ramiro, but he ran away, and two others who had their names “Spanish” or “Spain”, but they didn’t answer. In the metaverse, we all have our names written on our heads; I put mine real.

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EL PAÍS editor Jordi Pérez Colomé immerses himself in the metaverse with virtual reality goggles.
EL PAÍS editor Jordi Pérez Colomé immerses himself in the metaverse with virtual reality goggles.Alex Onsi

The metaverse was one of the major innovations of 2020. With confinement, a virtual world to work, meet, or just enjoy seemed a must. Since then his weight has decreased. There were barely 280,000 active Metaverse users for entertainment, according to documents he reviewed Wall Street Journal in October. The company’s goal was half a million. Meta has two other equally serious problems. On the other hand, the battery lasts between 1-2 hours depending on usage. On the other hand, people get tired of the glasses and come back a bit after trying the experience, even the Meta staff themselves seem unenthusiastic. Continued use causes fatigue and some dizziness. My walk through the metaverse was in lonely moments because my head was heavy. There are those who sit and plug glasses in to spend more hours. I couldn’t.

Young children’s voices

When you enter a world where there are a few dozen people, you see avatars moving quickly, like Minions. In some worlds, there are psychics who will greet you upon your arrival: “Hi Geordie” (Hello, in English). The big difference right now with other internet environments is that the audio is real. You hear real voices. It’s a major distinction. That is why it is so easy to identify, for example, young children. I asked one of them about his age, and he said: My mother told me not to answer this question or give out personal information. The recommended age is 13 and up, but there are plenty of younger kids roaming the metaverse. And they act like children. The woman had wings and the boy wants them off. The woman said to him: “A little bit of manners.” And the boy replies: “Manners are boring!”

Avatar is a little personal, but the voice gives relationships a different reality. It’s not the same unrealism as writing a text message. It’s like talking on the phone. As a journalist, when I got close to someone, the feeling was akin to the jitters of a phone call: It wasn’t me, my face didn’t have an expression, I could turn and walk away or just disappear without anything happening, but that was my real feeling. A speaking voice: He was being listened to and in the tone of his response felt contempt, relief or tension.

Most of the interactions I’ve seen or experienced have been vulgar or pure trolling. In one of the theaters, there is a bar with cakes, and the avatar eats, one after another, a dozen cakes, while another character, pretending to be a waitress, looks at her with a face of supposed surprise. In a world called “A Very British Pub” (A Very British Pub), two avatars debate whether potatoes are called “crisps” or “chips”.

virtual flirting

But I’ve also heard conversations more adaptive to the place. Elle and Steven were flirting in the lobby outside of the Soapstone comedy club. “You can take a picture of something as it was 2.5 billion years ago,” he said, bragging about something I hadn’t heard. “What do you like? What are your passions? Apart from me, of course,” Stephen continued. An advantage of the metaverse for journalists is that you can stand still a few virtual feet away and no one thinks you’re listening to everything they have to say. This sounds perfect. Then Ellie replied: “I have devoted myself to cinema and photography, but there are many things that I love, without mastering anything.” Their virtual hands seemed to be intertwined. Avatars have safety modes where you can banish other avatars, mute them, or mute yourself. A similar problem in the real world for Ellie and Stephen is that after a while a guy was added with the typical excuse of “let me introduce you to a friend of mine”. Another day I saw Stephen in another bar chasing another female avatar: “This is your father, baby,” he tells her.

A lovey-dovey conversation was one between a child or teen with an older man spending time on a bench. The boy asked him if he remembered, a year and a half ago they had greeted each other and that now he was home unable to go to school due to illness. “I went out to see people,” he added. The man replied in an affectionate voice that he did not remember him at that time. “I want to go to this concert. Will you come with me?” asked the boy Concert For a rapper: a virtual stage with some kind of huge screen on which Notorius BIG appears. “Perhaps Jordy would like it,” replied Al-Rashid. I was looking at them, but the boy left without a word. In difficult situations in real life, such as health issues, a sense of companionship in the metaverse can be very helpful.

in the metaverse there Tours, as in any world. I got to the pool where I drowned because the creator of the gym invited us to a a tour. Some of the worlds were created by the Meta, but most of them were developed by individual designers. For example, you visit a train station with the Madrid Metro logo. The guy at the gym showed us the punching bags, the yoga room (“come and take a class whenever you want”), juice Bar, squash room and large gym: beach volleyball, climbing and basket. There I put my first basket from the metaverse (the normal thing is not being able to hit the backboard). Before he jumped into the pool, A.J like To promote your gym.

Today it is impossible to know whether in the next few years there will be enough people interested in virtual reality to turn it into a business. Video games seem like an obvious candidate for an attractive showcase for virtual glasses. But there are fewer people playing video games than there are social media, which is the goal of Horizon Worlds: A Place to Meet. Strolling through the backstreets of the city, I entered an empty theater and saw skyscrapers and cars in the distance. There were empty shops that rented out their windows for $79 (€72.6) a month. Is it possible that enough people will pass this sidewalk to make renting this store a viable business? Today it seems impossible, but who knows.

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