Virtual Reality Swings | Time

Peter Hinsen

Innovation entrepreneur and nexxworks partner

Virtual reality has long been the eternal promise. Not anymore. The metaverse offers enormous possibilities, also for our region.

The View-Master has to be one of the most important artifacts from my childhood. Bright red plastic, two peepholes, and a slot at the top where discs with stereoscopic images could be inserted. When I talk about it in my keynotes, I see the audience split into two: those whose eyes light up when they see that icon from their childhood, and the younger generation who have no idea where all the excitement is coming from.

Rumor about the metaverse often reminds me of my old View-Master. I could spend hours looking through that red magic lantern, completely cut off from the world and with a growing appetite for images. Until I discovered television, and my addiction to the content only intensified.



My son is no longer a digital native, but a meta-native. To him, the metaverse is perfectly normal.

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, did not invent the metaverse. He wants to become very rich with it and, above all, give a new impetus to the Facebook of him aged and slightly agitated. Many skeptics commiserate about a future where we’re all sitting around with pots on our heads in virtual reality (VR). I think differently about that.

Virtual reality has a troubled technological past. The concept has been around for decades and was almost systematically advertised as “just around the corner”. Now it’s going to happen, now the world of virtual reality is finally coming. The eternal promise.

Evolution

But dig a little deeper and you’ll see systematic progress. Our 18 year old son is an avid gamer, especially in virtual reality. The quality of headphones, but especially of the representation of reality, has evolved dramatically in recent years. Billions are also being spent on research and development to make it even more realistic and user-friendly.



The chances of us becoming addicted to VR aren’t nil – just look at the hype when Pokémon GO as an AR game caught on. But the View-Master was also addictive. And television even more.

I am a believer in the vast possibilities of augmented reality (AR). You are not completely isolated from reality, but an ‘extra’ dimension is added to the real world with the help of glasses. If soon we can suddenly use a completely different world of information with the comfort of normal glasses, I will use it immediately. And surely if finally a player like Apple gets into this business.

Cynics focus primarily on the addictive nature of metaverse history. That soon we will be completely isolated from real human interactions, linked ‘to the Matrix’ to a world that is not right, and where we are ruled by evil artificial platforms.

The chances of us becoming addicted are not nil: just look at the excitement when Pokémon GO became all the rage as an AR game. But the View-Master was also addictive. And television even more. And when I look at how many TikTok Reels are shared on our family WhatsApp, I’m afraid it’s a recurring pattern.

Internet

But many will not feel that way. It will not be “normal” for them to work or relax in the metaverse. As at the end of the last century, a large number of directors and managers did not like the ‘internet’ and left it for the next generation. My son is no longer a digital native, but a meta-native. To him, the metaverse is perfectly normal.



I believe that the metaverse offers tremendous opportunities for our region.

What excites me the most is the vast opportunities to create content, create experiences and engage people in experiences that are totally innovative. Think of what that could mean for culture, entertainment, games, training and education.

With the creative industry that we have built in Flanders in recent decades, also thanks to the enormous support from tax havens, I think there are huge opportunities for our region there.

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