Before the Metaverse Was Cool

Bad Sci Fi
2 min readFeb 9, 2024


In the vast expanse of extended reality (XR) literature, there lies a hidden gem that was undoubtedly ahead of its time: Nick Cottrell’s insightful exploration “The Reality of Designing for the Metaverse”. Written at a time a few years ago when the concept of mixed reality was scarcely more than a speculative fantasy for most, this book ventured into modern ideas and concepts that support the new paradigm’s constraints, charting a course through the nascent field of XR technology. Its significance, though not widely recognized, has become increasingly relevant with the introduction of the long anticipated, Apple Vision Pro, thrusting the XR market into the limelight.

Cottrell leverages a rich background in XR, marked by collaborations with pioneering companies — some of which were eventually enveloped by technology giants such as Microsoft, or shrouded their innovations in secrecy to rival that of Area 51. Through this lens, the book provides deep insights into the intricate process of designing immersive digital experiences, offering readers a privileged peek into the secretive world of Silicon Valley’s tech innovations.

This underappreciated work is distinguished not just by its analysis of past trends but by its forward-looking vision. The author meticulously delineates design principles and technological underpinnings that are as relevant today — perhaps even more so — as when the book was first published. This foresight underscores the book’s value in today’s rapidly evolving XR landscape, where new players like Apple are making waves.

Maintaining a pragmatic stance, Cottrell acknowledges the hurdles and failures that have marked the journey of XR development, while also highlighting the successes. This nuanced view ensures that the book serves not merely as a historical account but as a practical guide that has navigated the shifting sands of XR technology.

As the XR field continues to grow and capture the tech world’s imagination, Cottrell’s work emerges as a testament to the enduring importance of innovation and foresight. Essential reading for those seeking to delve into the origins of mixed reality design and to glimpse possible futures of this thrilling domain, the book is an invaluable resource for novices and experts alike. It promises to deepen your appreciation of what it means to design for the Metaverse, offering timeless lessons from the era filled with tangled cords, tower PCs, and developer kits.

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