After 15 years of riding a boom in mobile computing that has turned tech's biggest companies into giants worth trillions of dollars, the power brokers of the industry believe that controlling the doors into the metaverse and virtual reality could be the centerpiece of a new business, like smartphones and apps or personal computers and web browsers in the 1990s.

Fifteen years is a long time for the industry to wait for a new tech trend to come along. Ideas that many hoped would take central stage by now, like advanced artificial intelligence and quantum computing, are taking longer than some had anticipated.

And the technology behind cryptocurrencies and newer ideas like decentralized computing appears promising, but its mainstream appeal is still unclear.

So tech companies are lining up to see their devices that let consumers into this virtual world and control their experiences once they are inside it.

Suddenly, building new things for the metaverse is offering the kind of fresh appeal that comes along ever so often in any industry.

Mark Zuckerberg is so excited about the metaverse that he recently made an attention-grabbing decision to change his company's name from Facebook to Meta.

Google has been working on metaverse-related technology for years.

Apple, arguably the biggest winner of the mobile boom, has its own devices in the works. Microsoft is putting a corporate spin on the metaverse, offering a headset to businesses and government agencies.

''Most companies now see that the metaverse is around the corner,'' said Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist and an essayist who has written about this concept and the hype around it.

One research firm estimates that the market for metaverse technologies - including games,virtual reality headsets, and other emerging gadgets and online services - topped $49 billion in 2020 and will grow by more than 40 percent each year.

''THIS is the evolution of the Internet,'' said Alex Kipman, who has spent more than a decade shepherding this kind of technology at Microsoft. ''If you are a company like Microsoft, you want to participate.''

Focusing attention on the Metaverse also allows companies like Facebook to focus on something other than their problems with content moderation, misinformation and regulators accusing them of monopolistic practices.

But it could also lead to new scrutiny of old issues like privacy and managing - who does what to whom in a virtual world.

The metaverse is not a new idea. The science fiction writer Neal Stephenson coined the term in 1992, and the concept is commonplace among video game companies.

For decades, massively multiplayer online games have served as digital worlds where people can meet, chat and do business.Some, like Second Life, an online fad more than a decade ago, were designed as  purely social places.

In 2014. in a deal valued at more than $2 billion, Facebook acquired Oculus, a start-up that made virtual reality headsets - goggles that trick your brain into thinking you are inside a digital landscape. 

Mr. Zukerberg began describing virtual reality as the next big computing platform, though exactly when that would happen was hard to predict.

Mr. Zuckerberg says the metaverse will pervade daily life in ways that games do not, offering new avenues for buying goods and services, communicating with friends and family and collaborating with colleagues. But at the moment, Meta's headsets are big and cumbersome.

Sometimes, they make  people sick.They completely cover the eyes, separating people from the world around them.

Apple, a company known for building enormously popular consumer friendly devices, is among the many companies working to improve these headsets, a person familiar with the project said.

But there are physical limitations holding the technology back.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Cade Metz.


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