The biggest VR and AR flops of all time

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While AR and VR technologies focus on the experience of an individual user, the logical end point of these technologies is a shared digital world where we can all work and play. In 2021, Meta (formerly Facebook) announced the Metaverse, an immersive and collaborative virtual world. If Meta is to be believed, the Metaverse will one day be where humanity spends a lot of time. We’ll go to our virtual offices, shop in virtual stores, and hang out with our virtual friends in virtual pubs (via Interesting Engineering).

They’re probably right in their concept, but this particular launch probably missed the mark. Time will tell us. Yet this latest metaverse is just the latest in a long line of similar products, each with varying degrees of success.

Active Worlds was launched in 1995, allowing users to create their own virtual worlds to share with others. You can think of it almost like a Minecraft server, where you’re responsible for not only populating the world, but also creating it. Today, several decades later, Active Worlds is still operational, but only has about 400 users at a time.

Perhaps the most well-known metaverse aside from Meta is Second Life, but even that is in trouble. It was launched in 2003 and nearly 60 million people have signed up. In 2018, however, monthly active users were around half a million, up from one million five years earlier (via New World Notes).

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