Enter the metaverse: the digital future towards which Mark Zuckerberg is leading us | Meta

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg presented his vision for the social media giant’s future on Thursday, formalizing the company’s focus on the metaverse.

In a presentation at the company’s annual Connect conference, Zuckerberg announced that the company was changing its name to Meta and explained in detail how his company plans to create a new version of the Internet.

“We believe that the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, we can feel there – like we are there with people, no matter how far away we are,” he said.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is where the physical and digital worlds meet. It’s a space where digital representations of people – avatars – interact at work and play, meet in their office, go to concerts, and even try on clothes.

At the center of this universe will be virtual reality, a digital world that you can already enter through Facebook’s Oculus VR headsets. It will also include augmented reality, a kind of step back from virtual reality where elements of the digital world are superimposed on reality – think Pokémon Go or Facebook’s recent association of smart glasses with Ray-Ban.

Facebook already has a professional version of the current metaverse: Horizon Workrooms, an app that allows Oculus sports workers to enter virtual offices and hold meetings.

Indeed, Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs for Facebook, holds his Monday team meetings in the office metaverse, filled with a virtual table and a whiteboard. Speaking last month, Clegg said the metaverse will be a series of interconnected worlds, in which a user seamlessly moves from the world of Facebook to that of Apple or Google, or that of a game publisher. computer science. This month, Facebook announced the creation of 10,000 new jobs in the European Union as part of growth plans that include building a metaverse.

Recommended reading?

The term metaverse – a combination of the prefix meta (meaning “beyond”) and the universe – was coined in Snow Crash, a novel by American science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. The spiel on Amazon’s website says it was written “in the years 1988-1991 when the author listened to a lot of loud, relentless, and depressing music.”

The protagonist of the novel, Hiro, is a hacker and a pizza delivery man for the mafia and the first explanation of this virtual world in the novel states, “So Hiro is not here at all. He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer draws in his glasses and pumps into his headphones. In the jargon, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse. Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse. And if Facebook is successful, so are you.

Michael Abrash, chief scientist at Facebook’s Oculus company and a key figure in its VR efforts, said in a blog post: “It all started with Snow Crash. “

What are the legal concerns about the metaverse?

The main concerns, especially in the context of Frances Haugen’s revelations and widespread targeting of social media by state-backed hackers, are privacy and security.

For example, an advertiser targeting you in a virtual world might not just react to old world data like your age and gender: what about your body language, your physiological responses, knowing with who do you interact with and how?

Facebook has already announced a $ 50million (£ 36million) investment program to ensure the Metaverse is built responsibly, “with the money distributed between organizations and academic institutions such as the ‘Seoul National University and Women in Immersive Tech.

How much is Facebook spending on the metaverse?

Billions of dollars a year already. The company said this week that the investment in its Facebook Reality Labs division – where the company works on virtual reality and augmented reality – would cut operating profit by $ 10 billion (£ 7.25 billion) in 2021.

It’s a significant sum, but Facebook generates huge sums of money from its core business of collecting user data and then charging advertisers for access to those people with targeted ads (eg. focusing on things like gender, location, income, relationship). On Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and, of course, its eponymous platform, Facebook generated net income – an American measure of profit – of $ 29 billion last year from its 2.8 billion daily users. . He can afford $ 10 billion.

Will Facebook succeed?

Right now, it’s hard to imagine that Facebook could casually launch any product. Haugen’s revelations and testimonies have bolstered his status as a target of politicians, regulators and campaign groups on both sides of the Atlantic.

Facebook has been forcefully portrayed, through its own research, as a company struggling – whether willingly or not – to contain the damaging impact of its products on its own users. Indeed, last month Facebook halted development of a product – Instagram Kids – due to the fury over the Haugen leaks.

Clegg said the Metaverse will take 10 years to build. Will it have allayed the concerns of the public, watchdogs and governments about the company and its leadership by then?

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