Interview with Niantic CEO John Hanke about the company’s vision for the metaverse and how it could become a dystopian nightmare — The metaverse, the concept of an alternative, shared digital world that originated in sci-fi, has bubbled up to the surface of tech chatter during the later days of the pandemic.
In the late days of the pandemic, the concept of the metaverse has emerged from the realm of sci-fi, a concept based on the idea of an alternative, shared digital world that was developed in the 1960’s. Some of the biggest tech and gaming companies in the world, such as Facebook, Roblox, and Epic Games, are striving to make this concept a reality by introducing new technologies.
There is a possibility that augmented reality could be one of the key technologies that allow a future metaverse to be interacted with through a smartphone screen today and with the use of AR glasses in the future to integrate digital content with the real world. In fact, Niantic created the game that was responsible for introducing many people to augmented reality, Pokémon Go, so it has a vested interest in introducing its own version of digital reality to the world. A new app called Scaniverse has been acquired by Niantic, which will allow it to crowdsource images from the smartphone cameras of game players using the app called Niantic 3D Scanner. As a result of those images, Niantic will be able to form a map that will allow them to anchor digital objects to real-world places using 3D mapping.
It has been noted by a number of people that early conceptions of the metaverse are presented in dystopian terms in novels such as Neuromancer by William Gibson, Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson, and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The CEO of Niantic, John Hanke, believes that things can easily move in that direction if things are handled properly. Metaverse technology, as well as the business motives of the companies that build it, matter a lot when it comes to experiencing the metaverse and creating it.
In a recent interview with Hanke, I discussed the reasons and how the metaverse might be able to become, in his words, a dystopian nightmare.
There have been some edits made to the following interview in order to make it more concise and clear.
I find it a bit bizarre that the word metaverse is suddenly becoming so common that many people hear it and read it. This term does not seem to conjure up many images in people’s minds when they hear it.
The metaverse can be viewed as a kind of over-VR escapist alternative to reality, but it is also very different than things like wearables or devices that assist us when we are out and about in the world being human beings, so I think we are at a crossroads. There is no doubt that this is a serious issue.
There seems to be no doubt that technology is becoming less visible and less prominent as time goes on. As a matter of fact, it is only there to support us, to serve us, and to help us. The thing that is taking over our interactions isn’t the thing that is taking over our interactions, though.
In the early 1980s, Xerox PARC proposed the concept of ubiquitous computing, and it became an integral part of their design. The trajectory that was painted for ubiquitous computing was that it would just melt into the surfaces around us.