Facebook sets up an internal group to build “the Metaverse".
Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed to the world about an ambitious new project. Facebook is starting to shift its focus to building an interconnected virtual reality experience straight out of Sci-fi. A work in progress called The Metaverse.
The Metaverse is an idea that has been discussed around quite a lot recently. Lately, New York Times also pointed out how one of the most famous platforms like Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft and even Animal Crossing had some evident metaverse-like elements present in their interactive environment. Google has a history of investing heavily in Augmented Reality, a technology you can use to view the real world with 3D visuals and objects layered on top. Apple also hinted on building VR glasses for specific virtual experiences.
The term metaverse not only means an online 3D environment where any story takes place, it also refers to other virtual worlds like virtual reality, augmented reality, and the internet itself. You might recognize this concept as it was shown in Steven Spielberg’s 2018 film adaptation of the 2011 novel Ready Player One.
Facebook’s AR/VR research and development team, Facebook Reality Labs, has created a Metaverse product group that is focused on creating the company’s vision for ‘The Metaverse.’ Apparently, Facebook has pretty high expectations for it too as they are fixing on the idea of being viewed as a metaverse company in the future.
As the idea of a metaverse gains popularity, it will bring a great number of opportunities for individual creators and artists. Especially for individuals who want to stay far from today’s urban hubs and people who live in areas where educational and recreational opportunities are limited. “A realized metaverse could be the next best thing to a working teleportation device”, Zuckerberg added. Telling the media, they intend to hire “hundreds of new employees for this project.” Facebook also claimed that it will be spending billions on Facebook Reality Labs.
This is not the first time we have heard Zuckerberg talk about such an idea. Back in 2014, when Facebook acquired a virtual-reality startup Oculus for $2 Billion, he focused on the idea of being able to create immersive virtual experiences. Facebook hopes to improve its headset technology. As Zuckerberg said in the earning call, the metaverse cannot work unless the hardware provides the user a realistic sense of presence in the virtual world.
Owning three of the most prominent and widely used social media platforms; Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook along with Oculus, can prove to be a major helping hand for Zuckerberg. These three social media platforms can provide Zuckerberg with some important data on customer relations and all the necessary knowledge for creating a desirable metaverse.
Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook is also financing in different methods to make its place in the not-so-distant future by creating the metaverse. Facebook Horizon, the company’s upcoming customizable online VR Video Game platform, will be a part of this product group.
Zuckerberg’s remarks about this immersive and interconnected future may sound indistinct for now, but Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook Reality Labs announced in his Facebook post that they are actually setting up a product team specific to the task, which will be scrutinized by a number of Facebook executives. The group leadership has been granted to former Instagram VP of Product Vishal Shah, who will directly report to Bosworth.
At first it might seem that the metaverse revolves around Facebook Horizon. But Horizon is only a part of the whole thing. Vivek Sharma, head of Facebook Gaming will be looking over the team responsible for the company’s social VR platform Facebook Horizon, which is still in its beta testing stages. The only clue we have from the recent announcement is that there will be ‘a connective tissue between the spaces’. This sounds similar to what Zuckerberg told The Verge that the idea of metaverse won’t rest solely on VR devices, but rather they want to make it accessible across all platforms, VR and AR, but also PC, game consoles and even mobile devices.
Zuckerberg hopes that in the course of the next five years, the company will enter a new phase to which he refers to “a metaverse company.” This description doesn’t seem to match the current Horizon app with its current features and store model. Suggesting a major shift in the development strategy. It’s also possible that Facebook is working on creating its own game engine, specifically designed for the needs and limitations of an online metaverse.
Not much can be said for now. Changing the business model of a company as big as Facebook is not an easy goal. A single operable virtual reality future is likely a long-term and continuous effort that will only require extraordinary technology that can surpass our current traditional computing platforms. Not to mention, an immense amount of workforce and talent, requiring Facebook to take a lead role in the virtual reality field and move further than its current traditional social network ideas.