What is the Metaverse? What is Facebook's involvement?

‘The next major technological platform for creative expansion of the mind will be cyberspace, or more specifically the Metaverse, a functional successor to today’s 2D Internet, with virtual places instead of Webpages.’ - Alex M. Vikoulov

I am now consuming more information via YouTube (something I started in the pandemic), and subscribe to several channels. Sara Dietschy is someone I follow who undertakes lots of reviews of tech, shares some personal stories and is a fantastic communicator, particularly with complex topics.

What is the Metaverse? Meta (previously Facebook) contacted Sara to interview Mark Zuckerberg about the Metaverse; the interview begins lightly with some memes but has excellent insights throughout and is worth watching. Mark clearly states that he did not invent the Metaverse. We can expect it to be more interoperable than our phone, without the current mobile apps that create siloing experiences. No one body owns the Metaverse; it is like the internet with many organisations interacting there. Here are a couple of useful links;

  • some information from the BBC about the pros and cons (here) and;

  • five things you should know (here).

What technologies will enable its realisation? Oculus Quest 2 (virtual reality headset) owned by Meta and Rayban Stories (sunglasses with a camera, a Meta and Rayban partnership), provides virtual reality (VR) experiences, and the latter captures and enhances real experiences through augmented reality (AR). Note VR and AR are different. Mark refers to these as foundational technologies, and he anticipates they will be ubiquitous within five to seven years, with VR first. Oculus Quest 2 used case has moved from gaming initially to social interactions (particularly due to the pandemic) to fitness activities; boxing and dancing are great examples. VR is more advanced than AR as it is a headset. AR will take more time to develop as the glasses need to be like normal glasses. What are the used cases? VR headsets are now used for meetings, training, and doctors trained in VR for a particular type of surgery performed better than those lectured in class. The future for VR includes replacing the PC. Mark believes there will be more advantages to using a laptop, and VR will replace these devices. You will wear a headset or glasses rather than carry a device, and your PC will be there virtually for you to interact with. The PC could be like the smartphone that has replaced our camera and credit cards. Why did Facebook change their name? Mark explained why they changed the company’s name to Meta. The company was seen as a social media business, and they see the Metaverse as the next frontier in ‘social connection’, which is the core of their business. What progress has Meta (AKA Facebook) made? Mark cites how Facebook was predominately text, then evolved to pictures as smartphones were introduced and is now video, predominately due to better connectivity. Video is not the end; it is just the stage we are currently at. He believes realistic avatars and virtual goods will be the initial part of the Metaverse. The goods will be exchanged between people and taken to the different experiences in the Metaverse. Interesting related emerging technology? Varifocal is being built into the headsets enabling users to look at and interact with things at various lengths. Similar to how our eyes work, and different to the zoom capability of a camera. Mark said it is some of the most exciting technology he has ever worked on and will be available by the end of the decade. Future Metaverse business models? Mark spends a lot of time thinking about how many of our physical items today will be digital in the future, from chessboards to arts with transaction platforms that will not have the 30% application platform fee. In effect, the Metaverse could disrupt those who disrupted (i.e. Apple) as Meta wants to keep commerce fees as low as possible, enabling creativity and increasing Metaverse GDP.

As with anything digital, the higher the level of interactions, the greater possibility for revenues from things as advertising and other business models not yet invented.