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How Virtual Space Technology has Changed the World Since 1962

Don’t be fooled — there’s nothing new about virtual spaces, which are essentially spaces online where any number of users and devices can interact.

Virtual Space Technology: A Brief History

Without going too deep into the history of the Internet, let’s just say that virtual space technology has evolved on a common trajectory to the Internet — which (from a historical perspective) is fairly new.

The Lens of Virtual Space Innovation

Looking back through the lens of “virtual space” innovation: In the 1980s and 1990s, we saw state-controlled “information-sharing” projects blossom into startup-led initiatives that use virtual spaces to change how we discovered things and ideas (Lycos, Infoseek, and Google). The information-sharing projects changed how we shop (, Craigslist, eBay, CDnow) and how we communicate (ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger).

Enter the 2000s and 2010s

Then in the 2000s and 2010s, we witnessed the rise of numerous startup-led initiatives that advanced the use of virtual spaces to address other needs, from how we connect with others (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to how we share videos (Vimeo, YouTube). Could you have imagined how people began to get around (Uber, Lyft, Didi, Gojek)? And now, we could stream our favorite entertainment (Pandora, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu).

Virtual Space Technology: Now and in the Future

Ultimately, it’s clear that virtual space technology is not new but has indeed changed our lives in ways that are not limited to the more literal alignment with AR, VR, and the Metaverse. Without virtual space technology, there would be no such thing as online gaming, social networks, the on-demand economy (rideshare, food delivery, etc.), streaming services, e-learning, telemedicine, connected fitness, smart home, smart city, and much more.

The big question is how will the use of this technology evolve now?

I asked Philip Rosedale (Inventor & Founder, High Fidelity, and Second Life) and Avi Bar-Zeev (HoloLens Co-Inventor and Co-Founder of Keyhole, (which later became Google Earth) for their thoughts on how virtual space technology will change the world by the year 2030. While their predictions and supporting opinions varied, key themes emerged:

  • The primary downside to the increasing use of virtual spaces globally is that tangible/real-world interactions like touch will be diminished.
  • Due to the accelerating use of AI in virtual spaces, there’s a real danger that our trust and attention will be exploited in ways that are worse than what we’ve seen in social media.
  • Knowing how easily we can be monitored and manipulated in virtual spaces, our right to privacy will require legislation (particularly for virtual worlds).
  • As virtual space technology becomes invisible and our ‘technical prosthetics’ blend into how we live our lives, the ‘super-human’ impact will be real, and we need to ensure everyone has equal access (particularly in the Metaverse).


The history of virtual space technology indeed goes back to 1962, and our world has been forever changed by the many pioneers who’ve used this technology to transform the way we live, work, play, and interact (including human-to-human, human-to-AI, and device-to-device scenarios).



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