What is the metaverse? Here’s what’s behind the new Facebook name: NPR

In essence, the metaverse is a world of endless, interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work, and play.

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Laurent Gilleron / AP

In essence, the metaverse is a world of endless, interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work, and play.

Laurent Gilleron / AP

The term “metaworld” is the latest buzzword that captures the imagination of the technology industry – so much so that one of the most famous online platforms is rebranding to demonstrate its acceptance of the futuristic idea.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement Thursday that he is changing the name of his company to Meta Platforms Inc., or Meta for short, may be the biggest thing that has happened to the metacosm since science fiction writer Neil Stevenson coined the term for his novel. 1992 “Snow Catastrophe”. “

But Zuckerberg and his team are hardly the only technical visionaries who have ideas on how to form a metacosm that will use a mix of virtual reality and other technologies. And some who have thought about it for some time are worried about the new world associated with the social media giant, which may gain access to even more personal data, and accuse it of failing to stop the spread of dangerous misinformation and other harm on the Internet. exacerbate the problems of the real world.

What is the metaverse?

Think of it as the Internet that has come to life, or at least reflected in 3D. Zuckerberg described it as a “virtual environment” that you can access, not just look at the screen. In essence, it’s 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.

According to Victoria Petrok, an analyst who monitors new technologies, it will also include other aspects of online life, such as shopping and social networking.

“This is the next evolution of communication, when all these things begin to unite into a seamless universe of twins, so you live your virtual life just as you live your physical life,” she said.

Facebook unveiled its new Meta sign at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

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Facebook unveiled its new Meta sign at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Tony Avelar / AP

What can I do in the metaverse?

Things like attending a virtual concert, traveling online, viewing or creating works of art, and trying on or buying digital clothing.

Metaverse can also change the game to change the work from home against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of seeing colleagues on the video call network, employees could join them in a virtual office.

Facebook has launched meeting software for companies called Horizon Workrooms, which can be used with its Oculus VR headsets, although previous reviews have not been very good. These headsets cost $ 300 or more, which makes the state-of-the-art capabilities of the metauniverse inaccessible to many.

For those who can afford it, users will be able to use their avatars to move between virtual worlds created by different companies.

“Much of the meta-universe experience will be about the ability to teleport from one experience to another,” Zuckerberg said.

Technology companies still need to figure out how to connect their online platforms to each other. For this to work, competing technology platforms will need to agree on a set of standards, so there are no “people in the Facebook meta universe and other people in the Microsoft meta universe,” Petrok said.

Does Facebook make an all-in to the metaworld?

Zuckerberg is actively developing what he sees as the next generation of the Internet because he thinks it will become an important part of the digital economy.

Critics question whether an attempt to divert attention from the company’s crises, including antitrust, testimony by informing former employees and concerns about misinformation, could be a potential core.

Former employee Francis Haugen accused Facebook platforms of harming children and inciting political violence after copying internal research documents and passing them on to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

They were also released to a media group, including The Associated Press, which reported numerous stories of Facebook preferring profits over security and hiding its own research from investors and the public.

Is Metauniverse just a Facebook project?

No. Other companies discussing the metaworld include Microsoft and chipmaker Nvidia.

“We think there will be a lot of companies creating virtual worlds and environments in the metaworld, as well as a lot of companies doing something on the World Wide Web,” said Richard Kerris, vice president of Nvidia Omniverse. “It’s important to be open and expandable so you can teleport to different worlds, whether it’s one company or another, just as I move from one web page to another.”

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

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

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

Zuckerberg’s acceptance of the metaverse is in some ways contrary to the basic principles of his greatest enthusiasts. They see the metaworld as freeing online culture from technology platforms such as Facebook, which have taken ownership of people’s accounts, photos, publications, and playlists, and shared what they’ve learned from that data.

“We want to be able to navigate the Internet easily, but we also want to be able to navigate the Internet in a way that we are not tracked or controlled,” said venture capitalist Steve Zhang, managing partner of Kindred Ventures. which focuses on cryptocurrency technology.

It seems obvious that Facebook wants to move its business model, which is based on the use of personal data to sell targeted advertising, to the metaworld.

“Advertising will continue to be an important part of the strategy on social media, and it is likely to be an important part of the metaworld,” Zuckerberg said in a recent call about the company’s profits.

Petrok, she said, is concerned that Facebook is trying to pave the way for a virtual world that may demand even more personal data and offer more potential for abuse and misinformation if it does not address these issues on its current platforms.

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