The metaverse has been described as the next phase of the internet: interconnected and persistent 3D spaces where we will work, play, and, so it seems, purchase virtual real estate. But metaverse-related technologies have failed to keep up with the considerable hype, the vision of ultrarealistic virtual environments offered by tech vendors miles away from the current reality of cartoony avatars and cumbersome, expensive headsets.

As the hype spotlight has shifted sharply to generative AI and all its dangers and possibilities, talk of the metaverse — or “Meh-taverse” — these days largely centers on its demise. And not without reason: Meta (formerly Facebook), which changed its name in 2021 to reflect its new focus, has spent billions on VR development with comparatively little return, at least so far. Sales of VR and AR headsets have fallen short of expectations. And Microsoft shuttered AltspaceVR, the social VR platform it acquired in 2017, and has reportedly laid off workers focused on mixed reality development while making AI its clear priority going forward. 

The metaverse’s association with other struggling “Web3” technologies, namely blockchain, NFTs, and crypto — considered by some to be essential to the future decentralized metaverse — hasn’t exactly helped either.The metaverse: Not dead yet ]

“We are in a winter for the metaverse, and how long that chill lasts remains to be seen,” said J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst on Forrester’s Future of Work team. Late last year, the analyst firm predicted a drop-off in interest during 2023 as a more realistic picture of the technology’s current possibilities emerged. “The hype was way exceeding the reality of the capabilities of the technology, the interest from customers — both business and consumer — and just the overall maturity of the market.”


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