What does the Metaverse look like in 2032? This short fiction story paints a picture.
Oly looked at her bag. It was one of those fancy ones; the very last specimen with gorgeous algorithmic print, which she ran into in a remote corner of the Sanctum Mall not far from the Old Hospital World. She remembered it well. She had performed at the Genesis VR club and was on her way to her lakeside home when huge lasers piercing through the Somnium night caught her attention. Not that lasers were an uncommon sight. Not since Oasis Meta Games had released their new programmable laser show NFT, which was a real bestseller these days. What really caught her attention weren’t the lasers; it was the fact they had burned her name in the Somnium sky.
Geo location was not a thing in Somnium. Thank god her whereabouts were not tracked on this side of the Metaverse, as opposed to in Horizon, which had become an advertisement hellhole. Adformation-fatigue they called it, the syndrome where your brain is being overloaded from a constant stream of intrusive ads. It was an unknown phenomenon over here. But on the Horizon grid many people suffered from it, despite ad-free zones in undeveloped corners, which were supposed to give your fried brain some relief from the ever present ad-bots, flashy, flying saucers and cacophony of sounds, next to you and above you, from voices urging you to buy now. Do you believe it, some people even purchased in the idle hope to be free, only to discover it got worse. People ended up in mental hospitals because of it. The omnipresence of ‘buy now’ and the awareness that every single step could trigger another ad-bot to jump on you, made people irritated, anxious, stressed. Unlimited possibilities, freedom, a happier future; buried forever. People were asteroids, ad-bots were swarming out on asteroid-mining missions.
In the early days the logical response was ‘then don’t go to Horizon’. But over time, more and more people had based their entire lives and futures on that place. If you built your business and your social life in a world as siloed as Horizon, then sooner or later you’d find yourself trapped. As many had discovered.
Somnium was heaven compared to that. There were ads alright, but not the intrusive kind. You weren’t lured into zones full of ad-bots waiting to ambush you. Even better, you could let others access your data through NFT datasets and live data streams of which you were the undisputed owner. Access for Cubes that is. Oly knew people who generated a solid income that way. The democratization of data had come a long way in Somnium.
There was no geo-tracking involved. It was a coincidence that she saw her own name being painted in the sky, almost artistically, while she was out walking. And she went from ‘why in Cube’s name…’ to ‘Yes! yes! yes!’ in a matter of milliseconds. She has been elected Performer of the Year in Somnium Space. Hell yeah. Recognition, not only for her, but also for the thousands of party happy people who gathered each week under the virtual sky of her EDM World and danced to beats she entirely composed using in-world sequencers and plugins. What began as the virtual reality version of the immensely popular Untold festival in Cluj, Romania, had outshone its physical counterpart in recent times. That was an understatement. The sheer scale of her weekly sets, with lightshows, changing decors and lineup of famous guest DJs had enchanted an entire generation. But it wasn’t the whole story. A Somnium and Teslasuit innovation turned simulated in-world soundwaves into electrical currents so the partying crowds did not only hear the beats, but actually felt them. And when visiting EDM legend Armin van Buuren came on stage and in a immersive trance explosion shouted ‘are you having fun Sooooomniummmmm!’, the accumulated response from the audience took the set to new, surreal levels. It was like a hole was being punched, like a supersonic plane punches a hole in the sky when breaking the sound barrier. Only this hole was in the sceptics wall. It was the final thrust for the inevitable to happen: Mass adoption of the Metaverse.
Walking home from one of those epic nights, when those lasers crafted her name, she decided to make a little detour and visit the new Sanctum Mall that had opened a few days ago. Sanctum malls were the latest in immersive shopping and she much preferred going to those VR malls rather than the physical kind, which were impersonal, standardized, concrete and glass shells. Sanctum malls were a treat, beautiful, functional, revolutionary. Her favorite store was Hotzhouse. They specialized in event planning and décor design and their immersive ‘experience before you buy’ concept was so overwhelmingly convincing that she tried them all just for the thrill. Their new ‘Go before you Go-Go’ offering was even better. She’d walked around on Elafonissi Beach on Crete and stood on Table Mountain in Capetown, before physically being there. Wearing her Teslasuit in her Somnium solar/wind VR box, which allowed her to experience simulated heat from the sun and wind currents, added to the overall immersive quality. The technology had come so far that the first VR retreat offerings had seen the light of day. You’d check into a local hotel equipped with VR boxes and spent time walking around on the Maldives. Or in the snow in Lapland. For a fraction of the cost. She’d heard of spaces that could host entire classrooms where students studied human cells, from the inside, strolled among pyramids, constructed space ships and flew them to the moon and beyond. Long, boring monologues from teachers were gone and kids were begging to go to school even when they were sick. The Metaverse had unlocked doors humanity didn’t even know existed.
The bag with algorithmic print? She found that in a little gallery next to Hotzhouse. A real Natural Warp. Precious.