Facebook is making its idea of a "metaverse", announced earlier this summer, a reality. The tech giant announced this week it is looking to hire 10,000 people across the European Union to develop the computing platform. This technological approach has been touted as the next step in online connectivity, bringing more virtual and augmented reality features into the mix.
“Working with others, we’re developing what is often referred to as the metaverse — a new phase of interconnected virtual experiences using technologies like virtual and augmented reality,” the company wrote in a blog post.
“At its heart is the idea that by creating a greater sense of “virtual presence”, interacting online can become much closer to the experience of interacting in person.”
What Is A Metaverse?
The term metaverse was coined by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. In his story, it's a successor of the Internet, a completely virtual world where humans interact as avatars. Known as the Street, it appears to users as a 100-meter-wide road that circles a featureless planet. This technology has been fictionalized more recently, such as the OASIS in Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One and Steven Spielberg's subsequent film. It allows people to interact in a shared online space by using a headset and plugging in.
Now, it seems that life is really about to imitate art.
The metaverse, as it is being constructed now, will be a virtual three-dimensional space where people interact with an online environment, unlike the current web. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth a need for a realistic, practical, and enjoyable remote interaction, giving a new stimulus to invest in creating a virtual world where people can study, work, and play.
And the foundation for this potential new phase of our online experience is already here.
WHEN WILL THE METAVERSE Be A Reality?
CEO Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge in July that the company was going to go from being a social media company to a metaverse company in the next five years, the time they plan to hire those 10,000 new people.
There are companies that claim to already exist in the metaverse, mainly gaming developers like Roblox and Epic Games' Fortnite, which provide platforms that allow for more than just their gaming functions. Ariana Grande recently performed a virtual concert in Fortnite, which millions of fans plugged in for.
But shifting the entire Internet to a new mode requires new infrastructure, and that won’t be an easy task. Facebook doesn’t plan to run the metaverse but wants to be at the forefront of the shift.
“No one company will own and operate the metaverse. Like the Internet, its key feature will be its openness and interoperability. Bringing this to life will take collaboration and cooperation across companies, developers, creators and policymakers,” Nick Clegg and Javier Olivan said in the Facebook post.
Building a metaverse will also need people interested in interacting with online content in a radically different way, something easier said than done. The experiences of the last two years and the popularity of platforms like Fortnite may be hurrying the metaverse revolution forth, but whether this virtual reality becomes reality is yet to be seen.