'Metaverse' is the hot buzzword at CES 2023, but no one knows what it is

AltSpace VR
(Image credit: Future)

The Metaverse — what is it? So many companies uttered the phrase during their CES 2023 keynotes, but as it turns out, absolutely none of them have a clue what it is.

From honest mistakes to cynical attempts to sound on trend with what the cool kids are talking about, practically every brand managed to force the turn of phrase into their promotional efforts. So let’s take a closer look at the worst offenders, and help them out with an actual definition.

What is a Metaverse?

Metaverse strippers

(Image credit: Virgo4u/Club Zodiac)

The term “Metaverse” came from a 1992 science fiction novel called Snow Crash, written by Neal Stephenson. In it, he talks about a three-dimensional virtual space that you explore as an avatar. 

And this very much sums up what the Metaverse is: a virtual-reality space and an extension of the internet into a living community you explore almost like a second world. At least, that’s what I and the rest of the world thought it was, until multiple companies at CES blurted out this buzzword with no relevance to its actual meaning.

What companies think it is?

LG Press Conference

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I mean let’s take a look at the most egregious offense, which comes courtesy of LG. When talking about its range of OLED TVs, which are mighty impressive for sure, the presenter talked about being able to explore the “TV Metaverse.” What the hell is a TV Metaverse? Tweet me if you figure it out, because it's bamboozled us all.

So, if we were to extrapolate from this and many other uses similar to this, it almost seems as if any social community with a pool of content is considered a Metaverse in the eyes of these companies. 

Everybody loves a trend

Meta Quest 2 VR headset

(Image credit: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

But I’m not mad. Like my Mum every time I was caught playing PlayStation past my bedtime, I’m not angry, just disappointed. CES is not only the place to see the future of tech, but it's the place where companies will brute force any trending terms into presentations for no reason whatsoever.

The result isn't an utter catastrophe, but it does muddy the waters and potentially hold back meaningful progress. Any buzzword that’s picked up becomes a bit of a running joke throughout the event, as it's shoehorned into any and all conversations without any real contextual understanding.

Ultimately this habitual misuse of a term can render it meaningless, so please stop trying to shoehorn the metaverse into your keynote before you kill it.

Jason England
Content Editor

Jason brought a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag, and he is now the Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.