Horizon Worlds is the metaverse equivalent of your neighborhood.

The word “metaverse” is all the rage right now, and Meta’s new Horizon Worlds app is giving Oculus Quest users a taste of the future.

The concept of a metaverse is a shared virtual platform that people can use to move around digital environments. For now, Horizon Worlds is a casual multiplayer game that could become much more. The software requires a Facebook account and allows you to meet up to 20 people at a time in a virtual space.

You can switch between “worlds” in the software by clicking on your controller. Once you’re in your virtual space of choice, you can chat with other users and play rudimentary games or interact with other users in a huddle space.

Avatars galore

When you start Horizon Worlds, the software gives you plenty of options to customize your avatar, though they’re all cartoonish.

Once you’ve established a virtual version of yourself, a message tells you that by turning your left hand, a handy menu appears on your virtual wrist. You can use this menu to switch between environments: Play, Assist, and Hang Out. However, switching between areas is far from intuitive and often resulted in faulty graphics during my short time in Horizon Worlds.

The play area has a primitive and retro feel to it, but Roblox fans might find it fun to play. One game called Action Island Teams uses guns to let players shoot each other, while another is about mowing down zombies. You can chat with other players using the headset’s built-in microphone.

The real potential is in the Plaza, a place to mingle and chat with other Horizon Worlds visitors. It was great fun to strike up random conversations with people exploring the new software, just like me.

Safety first

The random nature of interactions in Horizon Worlds could be problematic. A beta tester reportedly posted in Horizon’s official Facebook group that a stranger tampered with his avatar.

I haven’t noticed any untoward behavior during my hours of exploring Horizon Worlds. But it’s only a matter of time before something unpleasant happens, given human nature.

Meta takes several steps to make the software more secure. You can access a personal safe zone through the menu on your wrist. Once in your safe zone, you can mute, block, or report people and content around you.

“If you mute, block or report someone, a trained security specialist, who will not appear as an avatar, can observe and record the situation remotely to ensure your safety,” writes Meta. on its website. “That way they can submit additional evidence for us to review, and they can temporarily ban someone from Horizon while we review the reports. »

Many other companies are working on software that will allow you to experience a metaverse. For example, computer chip maker Nvidia Corp is building its Omniverse platform to connect 3D worlds in a shared virtual universe. The company says Omniverse can be used as the “plumbing” on which metaverses could be built.

Epic, the maker of the Fortnite game, is experimenting with social experiences like dance parties and virtual music concerts. Users can dress up their avatars in different costumes and build virtual locations and games.

Many tech companies claim that the metaverse will evolve into a full virtual universe where you’ll spend real money, though there’s no way to do that right now in Horizon Worlds. A metaverse platform is currently selling virtual real estate for millions of dollars.

Horizon Worlds is a small step in the direction of a metaverse, and with its primitive graphics and limited options, it feels more like a demo than a full-fledged product. But it’s free, and it’s an exciting glimpse of what could come as hardware and software evolve into a highly detailed virtual world that blurs physical boundaries.

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