Trapped in the Metaverse: Here’s What 24 Hours in VR Feels Like | WSJ

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- Now the best way to understand the metaverse is to experience it yourself.

(alarm beeping) (upbeat music) - I definitely dont feel very well right now.

And you wouldnt feel well either if you attempted to spend 24 hours living in virtual reality or the metaverse.

Dont know what the metaverse is? Thats okay, Im not sure anyone really does.

But Meta, formally known as Facebook, Microsoft and more are defining it as the virtual world that is the next phase of the internet.

In this world, we have digital versions of ourselves or avatars.

- And we call this the metaverse.

And youre gonna be able to do almost anything you can imagine.

Get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop.

- So I decided why wait? And stupidly I dared myself to visit the metaverse for a full 24 hours in its current not-so-great state.

In fact, Meta and others will tell you that the metaverse isnt even here yet.

But the best way to see the start of it is through virtual reality.

And since I didnt wanna pop into a headset with my kids running around, I packed my bags and moved to the Holiday Inn Express around the corner.

I set a few rules.

The headset can come off to eat and go to the bathroom.

Yes, I attempted to sleep with it on.

I checked my phone only if it was urgent.

I had notifications coming into the headset.

Its about to be 6 PM, which is the start of my metaverse journey.

Ive got two headsets in case of technical issues.

And lots of apps and other things preloaded for different parts of the day and night.

What could go wrong? - [Narrator] Welcome to Beat Saber.

Now, cut the cubes in the arrow direction and match the color.

That was too soon.

Wait for the beat, wrong direction.

Wrong direction.

- Shes very mean.

I started with games like Beat Saber since right now theyre the most popular use of VR.

And while many games allow you to play with others, I had no real friends to play Beat Saber with that evening.

So I decided to go elsewhere for some social interaction.

AltspaceVR, an app that allows you to hang out with other avatars in virtual venues.

Okay, Im gonna customize my avatar for a night out.

I guess in the metaverse I could have short hair.

I wasnt exactly prepared for what would happen next.

I guess Ill go to this campfire hub.

Hello? As soon as I was in the public area, I started hearing people talk and chat and.

(woman coughing) Apparently there are no masks in the metaverse.

I was dropped into an area with lots of trippy little LEGO-looking people, and I attempted to interview them.

- [Woman] Oh, a journalist are you? - I wanna learn what you guys do in here.

- [Man] Pretty much everything that you would do in the real world.

- I knew I had really made friends forever when they asked me to go to a comedy club by clicking on this portal thing.

The club was so obviously fake but my presence in it and the presence of all these other people felt really real.

Do you guys have wine? - Yeah, of course, wine, everything you want.

- I even felt awkward when the comedian hit on my avatar.

- You were the girl I was trying to find out your name but I cant cause Im trying to be subtle.

- I spent a good amount of time in Altspace and came away thinking its like an AOL chatroom evolved, which Im not sure is a good or a bad thing.

I need to relax for a moment.

(clock ticking) The meditation app is launched.

Okay.

- [Narrator] Kindness starts with you.

I highly recommend meditation apps like Guided Meditation or Trip.

Its oddly relaxing and peaceful.

And I could lie to you and tell you I slept with the headset on the whole night but we have this proof.

(playful music) (alarm beeping) I woke up feeling refreshed.

I pulled up some morning reading in my web browser.

Got Google News over here, The Wall Street Journal website over here.

And Instagram over here on the right.

And had breakfast at the foot of Machu Picchu with a llama in the National Geographic app.

Its funny, this animal has legs in the metaverse.

Why do animals get four legs in the metaverse and we get zero? And then I had a pretty fun and intense workout.

- Welcome to Supernatural.

Be ready for your first Flow workout.

- There are various types of workouts you can do in Supernatural, which involve everything from doing lunges to using controllers to hit targets.

Working out in the metaverse is great.

I got so into it, I actually lost track of time.

I have a meeting in Spatial in one minute.

I need to change, crap.

Yes, meeting in the metaverse are a thing.

Hi, Erin, Im Joanna.

Nice to meet you.

- Hi, thanks for coming.

- The idea is that instead of Zoom, you chat as avatars.

My first meeting was in an app called Spatial.

And, of course, it required a different avatar.

Yes, thats my actual face on a floating torso.

I met up with the co-founder of Spatial, Anand Agarawala, in an NFT art gallery with works from Ken Kelleher, AKA Anchorball on display.

And this is a great stop because it turns out Im in an NFT art gallery, which sounds like the metaverse to me.

- Heck yeah, I mean, you cant get more metaverse-y than a pixelated dog or these crazy heads and stuff or these beautiful sculptures.

- We also went to a campfire where I asked him about the lack of legs.

- The headset tracks your head and your hands and so we can make it do realistic stuff.

What are my legs supposed to do? We cant actually detect the signal from your legs.

Legs are coming, coming soon.

- I quickly had to jump from that meeting to another meeting as another avatar in Horizon Workrooms, an app made by Meta, formerly known as Facebook.

Oh I see, so its kind of like youve gotta really put it on the board.

You can even invite people from the real verse who happen to be on their webcams.

But again, there was this real feeling of presence in the room.

I felt like I was actually sitting across from my editor, Wilson, in this meeting.

- Its like in Ghostbusters, Im a full-torso apparition.

You dont need legs.

Oh no, Joannas looking under the table.

Thats so scary.

- Yes, meeting metaverse is fun if you dont do it for four hours on end.

That was so much time in avatar meetings.

My eyes hurt and my head hurts.

So what did I learn from this adventure other than Id never recommend you do this? Well, a few things.

Its clear why big tech companies are fighting over this.

Theres an opportunity to build the underlying platform here.

One avatar with legs living across games, workout apps, meetings and more.

Metas Meaghan Fitzgerald told me as much.

- And the metaverse is not gonna be built by one company.

That there are other companies, organizations, creators that maybe will use our avatars and allow people to move from one place to another while still feeling like themselves.

- Then theres the privacy tools and moderation.

Its gonna be insane judging from my brief comedy club experience.

And then headsets will need to be smaller and more comfortable and run for longer on a charge.

Thank you guys, my headsets gonna die in five minutes.

So yes, its certainly the early days of the metaverse.

But lock yourself in a room like this and you can really see the potential.

Wall Street Journal: Trapped in the Metaverse: Here’s What 24 Hours in VR Feels Like | WSJ - AR/VR Development