A photo of a modern XR headset next to a copy of "Metaversed"
XR & Immersive Journalism, Best Practice

Metaversed – Book Review

First of all: Metaversed – See Beyond The Hype, written by XR industry experts Luis Bravo Martins and Samantha G. Wolfe, is a solid book for your computers/internet/general shelf. You can learn a lot from the authors, especially when you're new to the subject of metaverse technologies. However, there are also a couple of flaws. Let's take a closer look.

Just as promised in the full title, Martins and Wolf don't drink the Kool Aid. That's really good. Early on, they tell readers that the metaverse (or rather: a network of metaverses) can be all kinds of things, and that nobody has a 100% clear vision or definition at the moment. The book then does a good job in making readers understand what could play a crucial role in a potential phase of transition (and is already hotly debated): web3 as well as web 3.0 / spatial web concepts (note that they're not the same), games and avatars and 3D objects and virtual worlds, digital twins, cloud computing, headsets and smart glasses, AI and ML, distributed ledgers and NFTs – and all of the above woven together. The authors introduce old and new players in virtual space, including outlines of their plans, products, and research.

Further on in the book, Martins and Wolfe take a long look at "opportunities" in the metaverse; after all, it's a business guide. While I enjoyed reading (sub)chapters on the metaverse and the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs), digital/digitized humans (embodiment, identity etc.), or wallets and tokens, I found the "metaversed markets" section overly long and not always compelling. I was also surprised to see that the book has almost nothing to say about XR / immersive tech / metaverses for journalists and news media organizations, even though this is a sizable market as well.

At some point, Metaversed gets really repetitive: A couple of core solutions and concepts are presented over and over again in fields of business that aren't so different at the end of the day. This is also a problem with the "challenges" part of the book: Yes, it's important to discuss privacy and safety and risks and rights and regulations in the context of the metaverse. And yes, it's also a good idea to dedicate a couple of pages to the "assess, inform, manage, prevent" approach. But there's no need to discuss the same issue two or three times. Another point of criticism would be that the authors digress from the core topics every now and then, e.g. when they talk about robotics, exoskeletons, and post-humanism. I know that the concepts and technologies are all connected somehow, but this was just a little too much for me. It almost feels like the publisher didn't invest enough resources in the editing process here. This feeling is confirmed by several wobbly sentences and only half-structured lists throughout the book.

Back to the good stuff: Most of the time, Martins and Wolfe manage to give readers a comprehensive and level-headed report of what's going on in the (really complex) world of metaverse stakeholders. They share reasonable conclusions, and never forget to stress the important message of "we don't know for sure yet". At the end of the book, they also provide a very useful collection of stakeholder names, websites, books, articles etc. for further research.

A final remark: Metaversed is a business guide that offers basic, easy-to-digest information on XR / immersive / web of the future technologies to executives, strategy people, and project managers. If you're looking for geeky developer insights ("How to supercharge Unity-based applications?" "How to get started with NeRFs?") or deeper socio-economic perspectives ("Can an AI-driven avatar capture value in the Marxist sense?" "What about virtual worlds and alienation?"), you need to find another book.

Luis Bravo Martins / Samantha G. Wolfe Metaversed: See Beyond the Hype

Wiley | 2023 | 330+ pages

ca. 25 Euros (paperback) | 18 Euros (e-book)

Alexander Plaum