Van Gogh’s Starry Night projected on the walls of a large warehouse. Immersive Van Gogh, Minneapolis. Photo: Eben Kowler

Immersion: Overhyped, Underhyped, Justhyped?

Coronavirus, climate change, democracy in peril. If the real world is overwhelming, are experiences where you can simply escape it all right on trend?

The concept of Overhyped, Underhyped, Justhyped? is that I will describe a trend, and then you vote on whether it is Overhyped, Underhyped, or Justhyped. Periodically, I’ll check in on the trend and share the voting results.

For my birthday, my Dad bought me tickets to Immersive Van Gogh, which is either an apocryphal or innovative aesthetic experience where Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings have been deconstructed, animated to music, and projected on all sides of the interior of a big empty room. Personally, I was into it.

Two days before we went to Immersive Van Gogh, Facebook announced its rebrand to Meta in a much meme’d keynote. The concept of the metaverse had broached the mainstream. Mark Zuckerberg described his vision for the metaverse: in the next stage of the internet users will interact as embodied avatars in an immersive and persistent digital world accessed through a video headset.

Meta née Facebook is far from the only company pursuing the metaverse. Minecraft, Fortnight, Roblox, and Microsoft are just a few of the competitors in the space. The concept of the metaverse originates in Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, which takes place in a cyberpunk dystopia where users’ minds are corrupted by a computer virus spread through the metaverse.

If you think persistent virtual worlds are far fetched, or that Immersive Van Gogh is only a marketing gimmick, consider these other examples:

The depth and prevalence of immersive experience are poised to explode, offering us more lifelike but also more creative environments – physical and virtual – for work and play.

Some urge caution, citing the haphazard roll-out and negative outcomes of social media technology. Extreme critics point to humanity’s pod-based existence The Matrix as a possible outcome of these emerging immersive technologies.

As you consider your vote, ask yourself: What is the opportunity cost of building a second world as the first faces such significant challenges? And how does that compare to the potential benefits?

December 10, 2021 Overhyped Underhyped Justhyped Immersion Trends Metaverse


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