My two young daughters are both crying as I tell my husband that he’s on his own because I’m going to the metaverse. Shutting myself in my home office at 7 p.m. on a Friday, I put on Meta’s $399 virtual-reality headset: the Quest 2, a bulky, white visor loaded with all manner of cameras, microphones, speakers, eye displays and sensors.
When I power it up, the cries of “I want Mama to do bedtime” fade away, replaced by the sounds of a gentle breeze and birds chirping. I am transported to a mountainside villa. I turn my head to gaze at a distant river and a golden sky dotted with hot-air balloons. This breathtaking spot (which I can change, like desktop wallpaper) is a glorified lobby, where I choose an app to load.
I could meditate, cardio box or kill zombies, but I am here for Horizon Worlds, Meta’s V.R.-based social network, where at least 300,000 people hang out as cartoon versions of themselves, building virtual mansions, nightclubs, gardens and theaters — known as worlds.
I choose a world with a four-story comedy club under a starry sky. When I enter, a man in a gray hoodie comes up to me. “Hello,” I say. He stares at me in reply, so I float away.
Another avatar approaches me. He has a beard and a man bun, and wears a collared shirt unbuttoned to reveal a generous portion of his digital chest. “Kash Hill,” he says, reading the white card hanging above my head. “Can you speak French?”