Can the Meta Universe prosper if it is wholly owned by Facebook?

MC: Lauren, have you ever visited the metaverse?

LG: Yes, I think so. I think there was a time when I met the head of Microsoft in a HoloLens 2 headset, and then I had to switch between the HP Reverb G2 VR headset, which was connected to some giant powerful PC. I went to my kitchen counter and said, “I think I just got into the metaworld.” Such a sound?

MC: Yes, that sounds good to me. I’ll take it.

LG: So.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

MC: Hi to all. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I’m Michael Calor, senior editor of WIRED.

LG: And I’m Lauren Hood. I am a senior writer at WIRED.

MC: WIRED writer Peter Rubin also joined us today. Hi, Peter. Welcome back to the show.

LG: Hello, Peter.

Peter Rubin: Hey guys. It’s great to be here again.

MC: Peter, we are with you because, yes, we are talking about the metaverse, and we are talking about VR, and you have written a book about VR. It is called Future Presence: How Virtual Reality Changes Human Connections, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life. How did I do? This is the full name.

PR: You did great. It is now also available in paperback, and there are additions to it around the world. So even if you listen to it in Korea or elsewhere, you can get a copy.

LG: It doesn’t sound very high-tech. Paperback, what is it?

PR: I know. There is an audio and an e-book.

MC: Peter used to be an editor at WIRED, but even though he moved from our virtual four walls, he’s still a regular WIRED contributor and a regular guest on the show, so it’s good that you have, man.

PR: Oh, man. It’s so great to be back. I just told you before we started performing, I miss how our knees are knocking under the table and the too small studio we used for this recording.

MC: And we share our lung juice.

PR: And share, as Lauren said, our lung juice, which …

LG: I have to pay tribute to Alan Henry from our WIRED team. He’s the one who first said “lung juice,” and now I just can’t get it out of my mind.

PR: Even if it was invented in 2019, it would be rude, but now it’s almost too much.

MC: Twice as rude. Well, we could record it in person, but instead we record it virtually. We are all now in our own space, which seems to be appropriate for today, because we are talking about virtual reality in the workplace. Sounds really boring, but stay with me here. A few days ago, Facebook demonstrated a new beta version of VR called Horizon Workrooms. It is a combination of virtual and augmented reality technologies that allows you to simultaneously interact with both the real world and the simulated environment. Sounds cool, but it’s for meetings, so it’s kind of like that The first player is ready if The first player is ready took place entirely in the office conference room with PowerPoints and boards. But Facebook’s new VR experience is exciting because it combines the real world with the virtual world in new and exciting ways.

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