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Facebook Forms Metaverse Teams, Pushes To Create Shared Digital Worlds Amid Pandemic

On 26 July 2021, Facebook’s Vice President of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) Andrew Bosworth announced that the company is establishing a metaverse team to generate a digital world that multiple users can visit at the same time.

Bosworth explained that Facebook Reality Labs has been working towards this moment for years.

Facebook App
Credit: Twin Design / Shutterstock

"The Metaverse is already here as a collection of digital worlds each with its own physics to determine what’s possible within them. The defining quality of the metaverse will be presence -- the feeling of really being there with people -- and FRL [Facebook Reality Labs] has been focused on building products that deliver presence across digital spaces for years," wrote Bosworth in a Facebook post.

Coined by the 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash, the word "metaverse" speaks of a space where people interact with fellow players and non-human characters using simulated forms known as avatars. A metaverse is achieved when physical, augmented and virtual reality come together in a single space.

In The New York Times, it was explained how games such as Roblox, Fortnite and Animal Crossing: New Horizons have concepts of a metaverse in their worlds. Roblox launched its Metaverse Champions Hub on 13 April 2021. The user-generated 3D event ran until 20 May 2021 and it allowed players to experience a reimagined version of the annual Roblox egg hunt, featuring just one egg.

Fortnite Travis Scott
Credit: Fortnite

Meanwhile, Fortnite’s Travis Scott concert that happened last year as well as other crossovers signalled Epic Game’s plans to make a metaverse, which was confirmed by the company on 13 April 2021.

Since Animal Crossing: New Horizons let players enjoy recreations of apparel from luxury clothing brands Marc Jacobs, Valentino and more, it has merged the virtual and the real world they experience outside of the game.

Considering Facebook’s reach and its moves towards the metaverse, it could change the way users converse with one another in the online space.

"Today Portal and Oculus can teleport you into a room with another person, regardless of physical distance, or to new virtual worlds and experiences. But to achieve our full vision of the metaverse, we also need to build the connective tissue between these spaces -- so you can remove the limitations of physics and move between them with the same ease as moving from one room in your home to the next," Bosworth wrote.

A Harvard study conducted in October 2020 among 950 respondents revealed that 61% of Americans aged 18-25 felt lonely "almost all the time or all the time" during the pandemic. As Facebook's upcoming metaverse seeks to further connect people with one another, it could help isolated individuals form new relationships and strengthen existing ties to their communities.

Various Facebook personnel will join the metaverse team. Instagram’s Vishal Shah will spearhead the project, while FB Gaming’s Vivek Shirma has been named the team leader of Facebook Horizon. Meanwhile, Jason Rubin from Oculus will steer the Content team.

Mark Zuckerberg Oculus
Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Over the past few years, Facebook has made strides in the VR and AR scene with Oculus and Facebook Reality Labs. Oculus has developed VR headsets compatible with PCs and mobile devices as well as standalone units. Meanwhile, Facebook Reality Labs has been investing in research that could help the organization develop VR and AR technologies dealing with brain-computer interfaces, full-body tracking, computer vision and more.

With his intention to create a metaverse, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in an interview with The Verge that his company seeks to pivot in the future.

"And my hope, if we do this well, I think over the next five years or so, in this next chapter of our company, I think we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company," said Zuckerberg.


Written by Sophia Lopez

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