IT ONLY TAKES four words to sum up the absurd trajectory of the tech world in 2022: “Legs are coming soon!”
This October, Meta announced an improvement to its metaverse, Horizon Worlds. To show off the new feature, the company released a clip of Mark Zuckerberg’s Horizon Worlds avatar happily lifting each leg, then jumping. Previously, people who strapped on a $400 headset to explore Meta’s virtual space saw avatars with floating cartoon torsos. Now they would have lower bodies, too. Even feet.
Did Meta expect this to impress? Well—it didn’t. Instead, the cheerful message about impending appendages was met with mockery. Legs couldn’t save Horizon Worlds’ crumbling reputation. Meta had spent $36 billion to morph into a metaverse company, to manifest an immersive, globally accessible virtual-reality world that runs permanently alongside this one. Yet Horizon Worlds was a glitchy ghost town. The people who did use it were creeps or children (even though they’re technically not allowed). Not even Meta’s own employees took to it. Here was one of the most powerful corporations on the planet pouring Bond-villain-level resources into the creation of its next transformative tech project … and the best it could do appeared to be a janky Second Life knockoff nobody likes.
Zuckerberg’s not the only mark here. Microsoft also placed a bet on the metaverse (the avatars in its iteration, Mesh, also lack legs). In the past few years, a comically wide variety of companies have hired their own “chief metaverse officer,” from Disney and Procter & Gamble to the Creative Artists Agency and the accounting firm Prager Metis. Meta placed its bet on the metaverse in the flashiest way, changing its name, spending all that dough, et cetera, but it’s not alone in its conviction that these virtual worlds are the inevitable future. Even writer Neal Stephenson, who coined the word metaverse in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, founded an actual metaverse company in 2022.