Summary: John Hanke, the head of the gaming company behind ‘Pokémon Go,’ says the so-called metaverse could be humans’ greatest creation—or its worst nightmare.
Original author and publication date: Mark Sullivan – August 12, 2021
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Are we escaping from a challenging real world (whatever that may be) into a dystopian nightmare of our own creation? What kind of intelligent beings are we?
From the article:
The metaverse, the concept of an alternative, shared digital world that originated in sci-fi, has bubbled up to the surface of tech chatter during the later days of the pandemic. It’s a concept that a number of Big Tech and gaming companies, most notably Facebook, Roblox, and Epic Games, are trying to make real.
One of the technologies that may be used to interact with a future metaverse is augmented reality, which intermingles digital content with the real world through a smartphone screen right now and AR glasses in the future.
Niantic created the game that introduced many people to AR, Pokémon Go, which means that the company has a vested stake in its own version of a digital reality. Niantic said Tuesday it had acquired a 3D scanning app called Scaniverse, which it will use to crowdsource images from the smartphone cameras of game players. Those images will form a map that will allow Niantic to anchor digital objects to real-world places.
A number of people have pointed out that early conceptions of the metaverse in novels by William Gibson (Neuromancer), Neil Stephenson (Snow Crash), and Ernest Cline (Ready Player One) have been described in dystopian terms. Niantic CEO John Hanke believes things could easily go in that direction. The technology used to experience the metaverse matters a lot, as do the business motivations of the companies that build it.
I spoke to Hanke about why and how the metaverse could become, in his words, a “dystopian nightmare.”
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Fast Company: It’s a bit bizarre to hear the word metaverse suddenly become so commonly heard and read. I’m not sure what people imagine when they hear that term.
John Hanke: I think it’s a pretty important fork in the road between the metaverse as an über-VR escapist alternative to reality, and technology going down the road of wearables and things that support us when we’re out in the world being human beings. I really think it’s a big issue.