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‘Snow Crash’ author Neal Stephenson: future of the metaverse won’t require goggles

“It seemed like a logical assumption at the time that would be the the output device” for the metaverse, Stephenson said. “But that’s not what happened.”

Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his seminal science fiction novel Snow Crash, published in 1992. Sotheby’s is auctioning off rare items associated with the book 30 years later, and Stephenson is working on a new layer-1 blockchain enterprise for the metaverse, Lamina1. The stated mission of the company is to help creators construct the “open metaverse,” a term Stephenson uses to distinguish it from existing corporate metaverses.

Calling it an “open” metaverse, Stephenson said on the latest episode of Decrypt’s gm podcast, “works pretty well. I think people understand the way it works: companies latch on to a word and use it for their purposes in a way that helps them achieve their goals as a business, and and it’s left up to we as consumers to kind of look at that and hopefully cast a skeptical eye on it.”

what is the open metaverse?

Stephenson said that when people talk about the metaverse these days, they usually get two things wrong.

One mistake people make, Stephenson said, is “to talk about a metaverse, or multiple metaverses, which I think is wrong, that’s always a signal to me that somebody doesn’t get it.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t still be games with closed realms. Stephenson said that game designers who make “coherent worlds that are exquisitely crafted” aren’t going to make their games completely open realms where you can bring a digital item from a different game.

“If somebody brings a sniper rifle into my soccer game, or whatever, it’s just an abomination from an aesthetic point of view, and it shows disrespect for what I do as an art director or a game designer,” Stephenson said. “I hope that games will continue to exist as pure works of art, just just like they are now. But there are also games, very popular games, that aesthetically are mashups, right?”

His examples of such games: Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox—games that have a “mashup kind of feel, which I think is a much closer match for the spirit of the metaverse as described in Snow Crash.”

People also make the mistake of thinking that goggles are always needed, which is a reasonable assumption ,” Stephenson said. “I mean, that’s how it is in the book and in other depictions of virtual reality and fiction. It seemed like a logical assumption at the time that that would be the the output device. But that’s not what happened. What happened is that everyone is accessing these 3D worlds through through two-dimensional flat rectangles on flat screens. And that works really well. In some ways, it works better than using goggles, for various reasons.”

Stephenson isn’t saying that no one will ever make VR headsets or sell them. The long-awaited mixed-reality headset from Apple is coming soon.

“To be clear, I’m not anti headset,” Stephenson cautioned. “I know people who who build those things for a living and their capabilities are amazing and getting better all the time. It’s just that you have to look at the reality of how people access these things. Today, you can’t spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars making an experience that can only be be be used by the tiny minority of people who own these things. So you’ve got to make it work on flat screens as well.

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'Snow Crash' author Neal Stephenson: future of the metaverse won't require gogglesTina concentrates on all matters related to NFT and Web3. Tina uses social media to spot NFT trends and report unique news.

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