Buzzwords are aplenty these days. NFT, crypto, Elon Musk – these words all stack to inherently make something look and feel far more interesting or important than they generally need to be. That’s why Snap’s CEO, Evan Spiegel, isn’t too keen on utilizing the rather overused and seemingly overhyped metaverse term regarding various Snapchat products.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Spiegel relayed his various thoughts on the so-called metaverse, which he termed as but a “hypothetical” entity. Within Snap, Spiegel says, this term “metaverse” isn’t used due to the fact that everyday humans “actually love the real world.” To Snap, augmented reality, a concept it has largely championed over the years, is not only its main driver but its own metaverse to Facebook’s Meta.
“The reason why we don’t use that word is because it’s pretty ambiguous and hypothetical. Just ask a room of people how to define it, and everyone’s definition is totally different,” says Spiegel. “Our fundamental bet is that people actually love the real world: they want to be together in person with their friends.”
It only makes sense, given Snap’s long history in the field and its seamless interconnectivity with AR technology. When most think of the heights that AR capabilities can provide, the majority turn to the 2016 smash hit Pokémon GO, which broke multiple records with a whopping $207 million revenue in its very first month. While Snap’s tech may not be on par with the likes of Niantic’s just yet, AR and Snapchat itself still fit like a glove, given the various photo filters, animated backgrounds, stickers, and more the platform provides.
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Beyond that, Snap even released its own AR sunglasses, aptly coined Spectacles by Snap. The company’s first-ever foray into AR support wouldn’t be met until the Spectacles’ fourth generation, and while the tech-fueled sunglasses aren’t exactly the most foolproof – or even, for that matter, up for sale to the general public – they still act as proving ground for the company in an era wherein Web3 and metaverse real estate reign supreme.
Although Snap’s Spectacles aren’t the best point to make in terms of its current standing in the AR space, they are evidence that Snap is peering into more engaging avenues with long-term goals. In The Verge’s review of the Spectacles, published in December of last year, Snap’s head of AR platform partnerships, Sophia Dominguez, says, “We’re building this really insane distribution system of augmented reality that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
“There’s now like 250 million people engaging with AR everyday on the smartphone alone,” Spiegel explains to The Guardian. “And that’s on this tiny little screen that you’re looking through and you’re using your thumbs on. So we believe that trying to break some of those constraints, and go into a truly immersive and interactive AR experience, will be really important for the future.”
Snap’s CEO isn’t the only one to be hypercritical of the metaverse, evidenced best by the inventor of the PlayStation, Ken Kutaragi, who explained to Bloomberg “the metaverse is about making quasi-real in the virtual world.” Even Phil Libin of Evernote fame called the digital space of the future “uncreative” and an “old idea.”
Still, while the metaverse certainly has its many critics, the metrics somewhat prove otherwise. According to statistics via Techjury, virtual reality itself is only on the cusp of an ever-expansive integration, with VR headset demand growing 16 times between 2018 and 2022. The report also posits that a total of 171 million VR devices currently live out in the wild, highlighting that while the metaverse may not have its roots based in the real world, more than most seem adamant about escaping anyway.
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