What is the metaverse and how will it work?

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AP – The term “metaverse” is the latest buzzword to capture the imagination of the tech industry, so much so that one of the most famous internet platforms changes its name to signal its adherence to the futuristic idea .

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement Thursday that he’s changing his company’s name to Meta Platforms Inc., or Meta for short, could be the biggest thing that has happened to the Metaverse since the science writer -fiction Neal Stephenson coined the term for his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”. “

But Zuckerberg and his team aren’t the only tech visionaries with ideas for how the Metaverse, which will use a mix of VR and other tech, should take shape. And some who have been thinking about it for some time worry about a new world tied to a social media giant that may have access to even more personal data and is accused of failing to stop the proliferation of dangerous fake news. and other online harms that exacerbate real world problems.

What is the metaverse?

Think of it as the animated internet, or at least rendered in 3D. Zuckerberg described it as a “virtual environment” that you can walk into – instead of just staring at a screen.

It is essentially a world of endless, interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work and play, using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps, or other devices. .

It will also integrate other aspects of online life such as shopping and social media, according to Victoria Petrock, an analyst who tracks emerging technologies.

“This is the next evolution of connectivity where all of these things start to come together in a sober and transparent universe, so you live your virtual life the same way you live your physical life,” she said.

In this file photo from Thursday, May 13, 2021, a view of a Gucci ad campaign featured for an exhibition celebrating the vision of Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele at the Gucci Garden Archetypes in Florence, Italy. (AP Photo / Antonio Calanni, File)

What am I going to be able to do in the metaverse?

Things like going to a virtual concert, taking an online trip, seeing or creating artwork, and trying on or buying digital clothing.

The metaverse could also be a game-changer for working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of seeing colleagues on a video call grid, employees could join them in a virtual office.

Facebook has released meeting software for businesses called Horizon Workrooms for use with its Oculus VR headsets, although early reviews weren’t great. Helmets cost $ 300 or more, putting the most cutting edge metaverse experiences out of reach for many.

For those who have the means, users could, through their avatars, navigate between virtual worlds created by different companies.

“A big part of the metaverse experience will be being able to teleport from one experience to another,” Zuckerberg said.

Tech companies have yet to figure out how to connect their online platforms to each other. For this to work, it will require competing technology platforms to agree on a set of standards, so that there aren’t “people in the Facebook metaverse and other people in the metaverse.” Microsoft, ”said Petrock.

Is Facebook Going Full On The Metaverse?

Zuckerberg is banking on what he sees as the next generation of the internet because he believes it will be a big part of the digital economy.

Critics wonder if the potential hub could be an effort to distract attention from the company’s crises, including antitrust crackdowns, testimonials from former whistle-blowers and concerns about its handling of disinformation.

Facebook employees take a photo with the company’s new name and logo outside its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., On Thursday, October 28, 2021, after the company announced it was changing its name for Meta Platforms Inc. (AP Photo / Tony Avelaire)

Former employee Frances Haugen accused Facebook’s platforms of harming children and inciting political violence after copying internal research papers and turning them over to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

They were also provided to a media group, including the Associated Press, which reported numerous stories about how Facebook prioritized profits over security and withheld its own research from investors and the public.

Is the Metaverse just a Facebook project?

No. Other companies talking about the metaverse include Microsoft and chipmaker Nvidia.

“We think there will be a lot of companies creating virtual worlds and environments in the metaverse, just as there have been a lot of companies doing things on the World Wide Web,” he said. said Richard Kerris, vice president of Nvidia’s Omniverse Platform. “It’s important to be open and expandable, so that you can teleport to different worlds, whether it’s through a business or another business, the same way I move from one web page to another. “

Video game companies are also playing a prominent role. Epic Games, the company behind the popular Fortnite video game, has raised $ 1 billion from investors to help them with their long-term plans to build the Metaverse. The Roblox gaming platform is another big player, describing its vision of the metaverse as a place where “people can come together in millions of 3D experiences to learn, work, play, create and socialize.”

Consumer brands are also trying to jump on the trend. Italian fashion house Gucci collaborated with Roblox in June to sell a collection of exclusively digital accessories. Coca-Cola and Clinique sold digital tokens presented as a stepping stone to the metaverse.

Will this be another way to get more of my data?

Zuckerberg’s adherence to the Metaverse in some ways contradicts a central tenet of his greatest devotees. They envision the metaverse as the liberation of online culture from tech platforms like Facebook that have assumed ownership of people’s accounts, photos, posts, and playlists and traded what they gleaned from those. data.

“We want to be able to move easily on the Internet, but we also want to be able to move on the Internet without being tracked and monitored,” said venture capitalist Steve Jang, managing partner at Kindred Ventures. which focuses on cryptocurrency technology.

It seems clear that Facebook wants to take its business model, based on using personal data to sell targeted advertising, into the metaverse.

Seen on a device screen in Sausalito, Calif., Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces his new name, Meta, at a virtual event on Thursday, October 28, 2021. (AP Photo / Eric Risberg)

“Ads will continue to be an important part of strategy in all social media parts of what we do, and it will likely be a significant part of the metaverse as well,” Zuckerberg said on a recent conference call on business results.

Petrock said she is concerned that Facebook is trying to pave the way for a virtual world that may require even more personal data and offer greater potential for abuse and misinformation when it doesn’t. resolved these issues on its current platforms.


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