Pokemon Go Founder Rails Against Metaverse, Calling It "Dystopian Nightmare"

The CEO of Pokemon Go maker Niantic Labs is not a fan of the so-called metaverse popularized in various science fiction properties like Ready Player One. Earlier this week, Niantic Labs co-founder John Hanke wrote a lengthy blogpost on Niantic's webpage about the metaverse and how it represents the opposite of what Niantic is trying to build with its augmented reality games and projects. The metaverse is the idea of a virtual reality that users escape into through the use of avatars. Examples of the metaverse include the digital worlds seen in properties like Ready Player One or Sword Art Online. "I'm not denying that the metaverse is a cool concept from a technology point of view; it comes from one of my favorite sci-fi writers, Neal Stephenson, who coined the term in his 1992 novel, 'Snow Crash,'" Hanke wrote. "A lot of people these days seem very interested in bringing this near-future vision of a virtual world to life, including some of the biggest names in technology and gaming. But in fact these novels served as warnings about a dystopian future of technology gone wrong."

While the metaverse is built around the idea of "escaping" from reality, Niantic's aim is to augment reality through the use of its apps and products, such as a set of AR glasses. Hanke spelled out the differences between these two ideas in his blogpost. "We believe we can use technology to lean into the 'reality' of augmented reality — encouraging everyone, ourselves included, to stand up, walk outside, and connect with people and the world around us," Hanke said. "This is what we humans are born to do, the result of two million years of human evolution, and as a result those are the things that make us the happiest. Technology should be used to make these core human experiences better — not to replace them."

Hanke also pointed out the ethical implications of Niantic's work, noting that they had a responsibility to grow AR technology in a way that "respects the people using our services, as well as people who don't." Hanke noted that "user privacy, responsible use, inclusive development processes and recognizing and mitigating the potential impacts of AR technology on societies all need to be considered now, not after the fact."

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You can check out Hanke's full blogpost about the metaverse here.