radical Insights.

Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.

The Metaverse — Much Ado About Nothing.

Oct 11, 2022

Dear Friend,

Niels Bohr once quipped, “It is very difficult to predict, especially the future.” The last week surely was a good reminder of that — from driverless grocery delivery in Canada to robots delivering takeout on US college campuses on one hand to the rather disappointing Metaverse-related news (see below)… It’s been quite a ride.

Read on to why Shakespeare had it right when it comes to the Metaverse, our weekly insight into the thin wisps of tomorrow, and the mystery of who invented the high five.

Practical Futurism // Decode. Disrupt. Transform.

The Metaverse today might be best summarized in Shakespeare’s famous line: “Much Ado About Nothing.”

This last few weeks saw headlines ranging from Tim Cook’s dismissal of the Metaverse (“Leven zonder AR binnenkort ondenkbaar” (English version) — Cook’s comments during his recent visit to the Netherlands) to Meta’s VP of Metaverse, Vishal Shah, admitting to Meta’s VR platform Horizon being not good nor compelling enough for its own employees to use it.

The latter brings up an important and interesting point: Besides the point that in software development, it might be one of the biggest red flags when the very people developing something don’t actually use the product they develop, Horizon looks a lot like it simply doesn’t muster our favorite litmus test for its usefulness: Our friend Chris Yeh measures the utility of a product or service by looking at the frequency, density, and friction of the problem it aims to solve.

In the case of Horizon — considering the business use case of meetings and online collaboration — there surely is frequency and density (most of us meet other people multiple times a day and sometimes for hours on end), but the important question is: What is the friction we experience using the tools we currently have? Ever since Skype, and surely since Zoom, online meetings have been, by and at large, a solved problem. It takes you about as much time to hop into a high-quality video conference on Zoom as it takes you to pick up the phone and call someone. Once inside your conference, you can rather seamlessly chat, screen share, collaborate in documents using Google Workspace or Microsoft Office 365, and so much more.

Contrast this with Horizon: To even get started, you need to put on a somewhat awkward pair of goggles (which prevent you from seeing your surroundings — drinking a cup of coffee while wearing your Oculus headset becomes a challenge in spatial perception), wearing VR goggles make a good 20% of us motion sick, they become hot and uncomfortable after a few minutes, and are a pain to wear with glasses… And this is not even considering that many simple tasks, such as typing, are much, much harder once you wear a headset.

We should not be surprised that Horizon (and other such applications) aren’t the runaway success its creators promised us — they try to solve a problem largely solved today. And do so in a significantly worse way…

That is not to say that there might not be compelling use cases for VR and the Metaverse. But business meetings in Horizon (and all the other platforms like it) surely aren’t it. (via Pascal)

What We Are Reading

🍀 4 Myths About In-Person Work, Dispelled There are many myths when it comes to what in-person learning can actually achieve. Discover which ones the authors (thank you, Tal, from the be radical community!) hear most often and how to really maximize connection from in-person learning events. JaneRead

🧑‍💻 As More Workers Go Solo, the Software Stack Is the New Firm New software stacks are enabling a future of work beyond the firm for the professional class. JeffreyRead

🏪 B2B ecommerce sales surpass $1 trillion—with more growth to come Fascinating data point on the remaining potential of digital B2B commerce. There’s still quite a market of manual B2B transactions that awaits to be shifted to digital. JulianRead

📉 Computer Saturation and the Productivity Slowdown What do the slowdown of productivity in the western world and the proliferation of computers have in common? Turns out, a lot when it comes down to productivity. In this context — do not forget that AI adoption is still in its infancy. PascalRead

The Thin Wisps of Tomorrow

👗 The Metaverse is Real! Pixelated Clothing at Paris Fashion Week.

🚛 Driverless Grocery Delivery In Canada Gets Real.

🚚 And The Delivery Revolution is in Full Swing.

🔭 Not to Be All Doom and Gloom: A Step-By-Step Guide to Our Solar System’s Demise.

🌱 Bad News for the Plant Eaters: Plant-Based Meat Analogues Weaken Gastrointestinal Digestive Function and Show Less Digestibility Than Real Meat in Mice.

🌐 Leveraging Google Maps Data to Figure Out if You Could Have Met your Boyfriend Earlier.

📼 A Blast From the Past: Xerox Parc’s Alto System Promo Video

Internet Finds

Ever wondered When the high five invented was invented? Wonder no more.

In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: Best Practices Are (Usually) Temporal

🧨 Disrupt Disruption: We got to speak with Natasha Gedge, COO at Signal and former Chief Operating Officer of the UK Ministry of Defence’s most successful innovation team. In our conversation, Natasha and I explore her approach to innovation in a highly complex and interdependent environment, why and how organizations fail and what to do about it. Listen now.

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

— Pascal, Mafe, Vivian and the three Js (Jane, Jeffrey, and Julian)