"Metaverse" is a term used to describe a set of parallel universes "is the newest buzzword to catch the attention of the tech sector, to the point where one of the most well-known internet platforms is rebranding to reflect its embrace of the future concept. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, just announced that his firm will be renamed Meta Platforms Inc., or Meta for short.
Facebook's 37-year-old founder had previously stated that the firm would "successfully move from people seeing us as primarily a social media company to being a metaverse company." So, what is this new world for which Facebook is preparing? Here's everything you need to know about it.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A METAVERSE?
The prefix "meta" signifies "beyond, after, or across" in Greek. As a result, the metaverse, a combination of "meta" and "universe," connotes a location beyond the world or universe as we know it, one that lives in the virtual realm but feels just as real.
However, the concept isn't new. If you've ever watched a movie like The Matrix or Real Player One, you'll be familiar with the concept: a virtual reality realm that individuals can enter and access using a gadget or device. Consider a video game like Fifa or Minecraft.
With the use of commands and buttons, the player can control a character or events on the screen. What if, instead of sitting at the console and watching the game unfold on the screen, the player could be immersed in it, interacting with it as a character embedded within it?
While gaming companies have made the first forays into the metaverse, the virtual world envisioned by the tech behemoths will be far more expansive, encompassing everything from office to entertainment.
IN THE METAVERSE, WHAT WILL I BE ABLE TO DO?
It's a notion that encompasses an online environment where people may connect, collaborate, and communicate without having to be physically there. You could, for example, be in New Delhi and your family could be in Kolkata, but you could still have supper together at the same table.
It's like Zoom or Google Meet, but more powerful. Instead of staring at a device, you'd be looking across the table at your family.
Virtual reality has enormous promise, particularly in the corporate world. Consider being able to try on the dress you've chosen online before making a purchase. Or, better still, getting inside the car you wish to test drive while sitting in your living room?
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the metaverse could be a game-changer for the work-from-home shift. Employees could join their coworkers in a virtual office instead of seeing them on a video call grid.
The VR, or virtual reality, headset looks to be the gadget of choice for the metaverse in the outset, at least according to Facebook. And, following its acquisition of Oculus VR for USD 2 billion in 2014, Facebook already has its own in-house product – the Oculus VR headset.
Horizon Workrooms, a meeting software for businesses that works with Facebook's Oculus VR headsets, has received mixed reviews thus far. The headsets are priced at around $300, placing many of the metaverse's most cutting-edge experiences out of reach. Users who can afford it would be able to flit between virtual worlds established by different corporations using their avatars.
HOW IS IT GOING TO WORK?
With the debut of Facebook Horizon in 2019, Facebook launched its first excursions towards constructing a virtual reality world. Facebook Horizon is an invitation-only immersive environment that users can visit by donning an Oculus headset. Horizon Workrooms, a tool that allows coworkers using VR headsets to attend meetings in a virtual space where they all appear as cartoonish 3D versions of themselves, was released in August.
However, the metaverse is expected to become a far more evolved space in the future. The metaverse will be "a fully functional economy... where individuals and businesses will be able to develop, own, invest, and sell" things, according to venture capitalist Matthew Ball in a blog post. There are already monetisable gaming tokens, as well as a new class of assets known as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) that only exist digitally.
Ball also believes that the metaverse will provide "unprecedented interoperability of data, digital items/assets, and content" and will "cross both the digital and physical worlds."
"The metaverse isn't simply virtual reality," Zuckerberg said in an interview with The Verge "It would be available on a variety of computing platforms, including virtual and augmented reality, as well as personal computers, mobile devices, and gaming consoles.
The metaverse, the Facebook founder said, will be "a persistent, synchronous environment where we can be together, which I believe will resemble some kind of hybrid between the social networks that we see now, but an environment where you're embodied in it."
HOW IS IT BEING BUILT?
Andrew Bosworth, VP of Facebook Reality Labs, and Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs, said on their blog in September that "the metaverse isn't a single product one firm can produce alone," and that it will exist "whether Facebook is there or not." According to the essay, such a metaverse won't be "constructed overnight" and will most likely take another 10-15 years to materialise.
The company also stated in a blog post announcing the proposed hire in Europe to drive its metaverse plans that "no single company will own and operate the metaverse." ""Its key feature will be its openness and interoperability," according to the report, which means "collaboration and cooperation among companies, developers, creators, and policymakers."
Virtual immersive worlds have been experimented with in online games like Fortnite and gaming platforms like Roblox, with Fortnite hosting a virtual reality concert with popstar Ariana Grande. Nvidia, a graphics company, is rumoured to be working on a "Omniverse" project ", which is described as a platform for connecting virtual worlds in three dimensions.
The Facebook metaverse, however, will "demand continuing investment in product and tech skills, as well as expansion throughout the business," according to the firm ". It has already committed USD 50 million to work with industrial partners, human rights organisations, governments, nonprofits, and academic institutions to "identify how to properly construct these technologies." ".. It has recently announced plans to hire 10,000 high-skilled professionals in Europe in order to accelerate the building of the metaverse.
WHAT ABOUT PRIVACY OF DATA?
The timing of Facebook's European employment announcement couldn't have been better, coming on the heels of disruptions and whistleblower revelations that have sparked unfavourable press for the social media behemoth.
Following the release of internal documents by former Facebook employee Frances Haugens, which suggest the company knew its products could harm children and may have backed off on its hate speech crackdown, The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, said last month that Facebook's metaverse push is "part of a broader push to rehabilitate the company's reputation with policymakers and reposition Facebook to shape the regulation of next-wave Internet technologies".
While the firm hasn't revealed much regarding data privacy and use in the metaverse, previous disputes over Facebook's treatment of user data have raised questions about how it would handle the qualitatively different, and likely more intimate, data that users will generate in the metaverse.
"You'll be able to socialise with your pals, work, play, learn, shop, and create." "It's not about spending more time online — it's about making the time you do spend online more meaningful," the business stated in a September blog post, referring to time spent on its platforms.
Focusing its metaverse development on Europe, where the European Union has enacted some of the world's tightest data privacy and processing rules as part of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), could be part of a strategy to stay ahead of authorities while developing new technology.
"The EU also has a significant role to play in creating the new internet rules." "In the context of its ambitions to expand its metaverse push in Europe, European politicians are leading the way in helping to cement European principles like free expression, privacy, transparency, and individual rights into the day-to-day workings of the internet," the business stated.
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