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Facebook invests $70 million to build a ‘Metaverse’: What is it?

The Facebook login page on a smart phone and a woman wearing virtual reality goggles.
Facebook is pumping $70 million into the creation of the Metaverse. This si what you need to know (Source: Getty)

Social media giant Facebook is jumping into the world of virtual reality by investing $70 million (US$50 million) into the creation of a Metaverse.

Facebook said it will be collaborating with policymakers, experts and industry partners to bring the project to life and promised it will be “developed responsibly”.

Here is a breakdown of what a Metaverse is, and how you might be using one.

What is a Metaverse?

Essentially, the metaverse is a set of virtual spaces where you can speak, collaborate and explore with other people who aren’t physically in the same place as you.

For example, you could pop on some virtual reality goggles and meet up with clients in a virtual boardroom.

Facebook said however, that the purpose in creating the virtual world is not to encourage people to spend more time online, but “making the time you do spend online more meaningful”.

“The metaverse isn’t a single product one company can build alone. Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not. And it won’t be built overnight,” vice president of Facebook Reality Labs Andrew Bosworth said.

“Many of these products will only be fully realised in the next 10-15 years. While that’s frustrating for those of us eager to dive right in, it gives us time to ask the difficult questions about how they should be built.”

  • Also watch: Facebook halts plans for 'Instagram kids' app after criticism

What are the concerns about the Metaverse?

Even though Facebook said this is not about spending more time online, it is hard to go past that thought that our entire lives may be moved online.

For example, working from home may be migrated towards working in a virtual office instead.

Facebook said it will be working with experts in government, industry and academia to think through issues and opportunities in the metaverse.

Some of these issues include:

  • Economic opportunity: how to ensure people have choice, encourage competition and maintaining the digital economy

  • Privacy: minimising the amount of data that’s used, build technology to enable privacy-protective data uses and give people transparency and control over their data

  • Safety and integrity: keeping people safe online and give them tools to take action or get help if they see something they’re not comfortable with

  • Equity and inclusion: making sure these technologies are designed inclusively and in a way that’s accessible

“We also need to involve the human rights and civil rights communities from the start to ensure these technologies are built in a way that’s inclusive and empowering,” Bosworth said.

What are the benefits of the metaverse?

The events of the last 18 months have proven how much technology can improve our lives and make working easier.

Having a virtual office could enable people to work from anywhere but still be able to participate in ‘face-to-face’ interaction with their co-workers.

Likewise, enabling kids in rural areas to gain access to better education could be a potential outcome, with the ability to access a virtual classroom.

While Facebook has not revealed what metaverse they may be building, the possibilities are already being discovered.

Virtual worlds already exist online for people to join and interact with anyone around the world who is also in the world.

Imagine being able to visit cities from all around the world without leaving your living room, or even venturing into worlds that are a figment of the imagination.

As more of our lives depend on technology, virtual worlds can seem like the next logical step.

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