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Facebook says it doesn’t want to own a metaverse, just run it


Here’s what Facebook’s metaverse isn’t: it’s not an alternative world that would help us escape our dystopian reality, a la Snow Crash. It won’t require VR or AR glasses (at least not initially). And, most importantly, it’s not something Facebook wants to keep to itself. Instead, as Mark Zuckerberg described to the media ahead of today’s Facebook Connect conference, the company is betting that it will be the next big computing platform after the rise of smartphones and the mobile web. Facebook is so sure that Zuckerberg has announced that it will be renamed “Meta”.

After spending the last decade becoming obsessed with our phones and tablets – learning to look down and scroll practically as a reflex – the founder of Facebook thinks we’ll spend more time watching 3D objects hovering around us in the digital realm. Or you might follow a friend’s avatar as he wanders through your living room like a hologram. It is basically a digital world layered on top of the real world, or the “embodied internet” as Zuckerberg describes it.

However, before he stepped into the weeds for his big new vision, Zuckerberg also prevented criticism about looking to the future now, while Facebook Papers portrays the company as a bad management that constantly prioritizes profit over security. Acknowledging the seriousness of the problems the company is facing, noting that it will continue to focus on solving them with the investments of “industry leaders”, Zuckerberg said:

Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

“The reality is that there will always be problems for some people too … they may have the attitude that there is never a really good time to focus on the future … From my perspective, I think we are here to create things and we believe we can do it and that technology can improve things. That’s why we think it’s important that we move forward. “

Given the extent to which Facebook, and Zuckerberg in particular, have shown themselves to be distrustful managers of social technology, it is almost ridiculous that the company wants us to buy its future. But like the rise of photo-sharing apps and group chats, Zuckerberg at least has a good feel for what’s to come. And despite all his stories about turning Facebook into a metaverse company, he is adamant that he doesn’t want to build a metaverse that is wholly owned by Facebook. He doesn’t think other companies will either. Like the mobile web, he thinks any big technology company will contribute something to the metaverse. He just hopes Facebook will make him a pioneer.

“Instead of looking at the screen, or today, as we look at the internet, I think you’ll be in the future in experiences, and I think it’s just a qualitatively different experience,” Zuckerberg said. It’s not exactly virtual reality the way we think about it, and it’s not just augmented reality. But ultimately, he sees the metaverse as something that will help provide a greater presence for digital social experiences – the feeling of being there, instead of just trapped in a zoom window. And he expects that there will be continuity on all devices, so you will be able to start chatting with friends on your phone and join them imperceptibly as a hologram when you put on AR glasses.

Facebook Horizon Home
Simulated Horizon Home Review.

Facebook

But, of course, the metaverse will not be built in one day. On Facebook Connect today, the company announced several ways in which it is moving towards being more accessible. First of all, Facebook will transform the initial interface of Oculus Quest into “Horizon Home”, a more complete environment in which you can invite friends and socialize virtually. Eventually you will also be able to build and customize your home space. The Venues app is also becoming “Horizon Venues,” where it will continue to serve as Facebook’s main venue for live virtual events. (The company also says NBA games return to the field in early November.)

The company also makes a big boost for developers: its new Presence platform offers a series of APIs that will allow developers to create more inventive VR applications. The Insight SDK will allow them to take advantage of Quest 2 cameras to bring the real world to VR; The Interaction SDK opens the door for more hand tracking interactions; and the Voice SDK will – you guessed it – allow you to use your words in multiple ways.

The Insight SDK, in particular, could redesign what the Quest VR experience might look like. It includes spatial anchors, which will allow virtual objects to survive in sessions in space. So, if you put a VR bunny pet on your coffee table, it should always be there every time you log into the app. In addition, there is a scene understanding feature, which can help developers gain a better sense of your physical space. A character talking to you in VR could, for example, wander your living room without bumping into furniture.

Facebook Polar

Facebook

When it comes to augmented reality, Facebook also has plenty of upgrades for its Spark AR platform. First, it plans to launch an iOS app called Polar that will allow people to design their own AR effects and objects without any coding. It is intended for creators who could use it to create unique 3D inscriptions or make-up effects that their companions can apply. More experienced developers will also be able to create geo-anchored objects, which are tied to specific locations in the real world, as well as AR effects that track your hands and body. They can also try building group video chats for Messenger, something that will eventually be supported in other apps.

Like HoloLens and HTC Vive, Facebook plans to make a bigger breakthrough in businesses with Quest for Business. It’s a way for employees to sign up for Quest 2 headsets with secure work accounts (probably not great for your boss to see how often you play Beat Saber, after all). Because they are designed for office environments, IT departments will also be able to manage work orders, specific devices, and integrate their own security features. Crucially, all of this will be available on Quest 2 consumer headsets, Facebook won’t have to make brand new hardware for work environments.



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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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