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The immediate reason for Facebook to make such big investments in AR and VR technologies is to help the company control its own hardware platform.
Facebook is creating a product team to develop its ‘metaverse’ which will be headed by Vishal Shah, the executive in charge of product at Instagram.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB) has started work on its ambitious plan to create accessible digital worlds which different people can experience at the same time sitting at home. The use of AR and VR will be crucial in making this dream come true. The company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees the Metaverse as a likely successor to the mobile internet and a form of embodied internet wherein you are not just a viewer but you are present in the virtual world experiencing everything in 3D.
The Metaverse Team by Facebook
The other significant team executives will be Facebook Gaming VP Vivek Sharma and Executive Jason Rubin, who in the past, has led the content team for Oculus, a Facebook subsidiary that manufactures virtual reality headsets. A lot of hiring still need to be done in order to put the plan in motion of creating a Metaverse where people can have shared experiences which is not just limited to work or gaming but will take up a wider role and create a bigger social impact.
This team will work alongside Facebook’s virtual reality group, Reality Labs as confirmed by executive Andrew Bosworth in a Facebook post on Monday. He further elaborated the difference between the current technologies namely Portal and Oculus that teleport users irrespective of physical distance and the Metaverse. According to him, Facebook’s vision of the Metaverse will require building the connective tissue to remove the boundaries of physics so that you move virtually in the same way as you would do in the physical realm.
The Verge Interview
Mark’s vision of the Metaverse that the company is building can be better understood in his recent interview with the Verge. Below are some of the highlights from the interview:
- Facebook’s Metaverse will not just work on VR headsets but will be functional on mobile devices and gaming consoles too.
- The Facebook CEO expects the company to transition from being called a social media company to a Metaverse entity in the next 5 years.
- The Metaverse is seen as an ecosystem and not just a product wherein there will be complete focus on its role in creating economic opportunities and being totally inclusive.
- The social media giant founder also justified Facebook’s net impact with respect to Vaccine promotion in the context of President Biden’s ‘Facebook is killing people’ statement. He used quite an interesting analogy to give further impetus to his point.
- Discussion on the likely gender skewness that will emerge within the Metaverse bringing forth a number of integrity questions. Mark has shown his commitment to tackling these issues by giving examples of the current tools that help deal with some part of the problem. He sees this issue as a critical one on which they would start working from the beginning and not wait till the issue goes out of hand.
- A brief dialogue on Metaverse’s interoperability feature in the context of the essay on the concept of ‘Metaverse’ written by Matthew Ball, the venture capitalist.
- Mark’s ultimate dream is to build a product that will create innumerable economic opportunities for a wider variety of people. They can do creative work, build virtual experiences and items or create digital art. He is most excited to play a significant role in this next big thing on the Internet.
Challenges and Concerns
The term Metaverse was first used by novelist Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. In the book, it functioned as a VR-based successor to the Internet which is no different from its current place in emerging technologies.
The immediate reason for Facebook to make such big investments in AR and VR technologies is to help the company control its own hardware platform. It doesn’t want to act on the rules set by competitors like Apple and Google.
However, there are other problems associated with the development of this shared space the CEO is so excited about. There is this background of constant threats from the government by way of bills that could affect Facebook’s future acquisitions or hardware products. Apart from that, there will be concerns about how this virtual space will be governed and moderated.
The worry regarding the use of such granular data from the platform is best expressed by Verity McIntosh, a VR expert at the University of the West of England. In her statement to the BBC, she said such data would provide a direct route to the user’s subconscious and that would be gold to a data capitalist. She further added, “Tech giants like Facebook defining and colonising the space, while traditional governance structures struggle to keep up with the technological change could cause further issues”.