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Metaverse: What it is & how it will work

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The term "metaverse" is the latest buzzword to capture the tech industry's imagination — so much so that one of the best-known internet platforms is rebranding to signal its embrace of the futuristic idea.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Thursday announcement that he's changing his company's name to Meta Platforms Inc., or Meta for short, might be the biggest thing to happen to the metaverse since science fiction writer Neal Stephenson coined the term for his 1992 novel "Snow Crash."

But Zuckerberg and his team are hardly the only tech visionaries with ideas on how the metaverse, which will employ a mix of virtual reality and other technologies, should take shape. And some who've been thinking about it for a while have concerns about a new world tied to a social media giant that could get access to even more personal data and is accused of failing to stop the proliferation of dangerous misinformation and other online harms that exacerbate real-world problems.

What is the metaverse?

Think of it as the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. Zuckerberg has described it as a "virtual environment" you can go inside of — instead of just looking at on a screen. Essentially, it's a world of endless, interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work and play, using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps or other devices.

It also will incorporate other aspects of online life such as shopping and social media, according to Victoria Petrock, an analyst who follows emerging technologies.

"It's the next evolution of connectivity where all of those things start to come together in a seamless, doppelganger universe, so you're living your virtual life the same way you're living your physical life," she said.

What will I be able to do in the metaverse?

Things like go to a virtual concert, take a trip online, view or create artwork and try on or buy digital clothing.

The metaverse also could be a game-changer for the work-from-home shift amid the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of seeing co-workers on a video call grid, employees could join them in a virtual office.

Facebook has launched meeting software for companies, called Horizon Workrooms, to use with its Oculus VR headsets, though early reviews have not been great. The headsets cost $300 or more, putting the metaverse's most cutting-edge experiences out of reach for many.

For those who can afford it, users would be able, through their avatars, to flit between virtual worlds created by different companies.

"A lot of the metaverse experience is going to be around being able to teleport from one experience to another," Zuckerberg says.

Tech companies still have to figure out how to connect their online platforms to each other. Making it work will require competing technology platforms to agree on a set of standards, so there aren't "people in the Facebook metaverse and other people in the Microsoft metaverse," Petrock said.

Is Facebook going all in on the metaverse?

Zuckerberg is going big on what he sees as the next generation of the internet because he thinks it's going to be a big part of the digital economy.

Critics wonder if the potential pivot could be an effort to distract from the company's crises, including antitrust crackdowns, testimony by whistleblowing former employees and concerns about its handling of misinformation.

Former employee Frances Haugen has accused Facebook's platforms of harming children and inciting political violence after copying internal research documents and turning them over to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

They also were provided to a group of media outlets, including The Associated Press, which reported numerous stories about how Facebook prioritized profits over safety and hid its own research from investors and the public.

Is the metaverse just a Facebook project?

No. Other companies talking up the metaverse include Microsoft and chipmaker Nvidia.

"We think there's going to be lots of companies building virtual worlds and environments in the metaverse, in the same way there's been lots of companies doing things on the World Wide Web," said Richard Kerris, vice president of Nvidia's Omniverse platform. "It's important to be open and extensible, so you can teleport to different worlds whether it's by one company or another company, the same way I go from one web page to another web page."

Video game companies also are taking a leading role. Epic Games, the company behind the popular Fortnite video game, has raised $1 billion from investors to help with its long-term plans for building the metaverse. Game platform Roblox is another big player, outlining its vision of the metaverse as a place where "people can come together within millions of 3D experiences to learn, work, play, create and socialize."

Consumer brands are trying to jump on the trend, too. Italian fashion house Gucci collaborated in June with Roblox to sell a collection of digital-only accessories. Coca-Cola and Clinique have sold digital tokens pitched as a stepping stone to the metaverse.

Will this be another way to get more of my data?

Zuckerberg's embrace of the metaverse in some ways contradicts a central tenet of its biggest enthusiasts. They envision the metaverse as online culture's liberation from tech platforms like Facebook that assumed ownership of people's accounts, photos, posts and playlists and traded off what they gleaned from that data.

"We want to be able to move around the internet with ease, but we also want to be able to move around the internet in a way we're not tracked and monitored," said venture capitalist Steve Jang, a managing partner at Kindred Ventures who focuses on cryptocurrency technology.

It seems clear that Facebook wants to carry its business model, which is based on using personal data to sell targeted advertising, into the metaverse.

"Ads are going to continue being an important part of the strategy across the social media parts of what we do, and it will probably be a meaningful part of the metaverse, too," Zuckerberg said in a recent company earnings call.

Petrock she said she's concerned about Facebook trying to lead the way into a virtual world that could require even more personal data and offer greater potential for abuse and misinformation when it hasn't fixed those problems in its current platforms.

https://www.npr.org/2021/10/28/1050280500/what-metaverse-is-and-how-it-will-work

 

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As if younger citizens of Western countries are disconnected from the real world enough already now they will be answering the siren call of further dissociation from actual life. Someone needs to be outside of the looming virtual world. You know to learn how to grow food, make fire, cook, care for babies the elderly and the sick. Volunteer to help less fortunate people and let's face it defend the developed countries from real world dangers which seem to multiply each time a new technology comes to life.

I'm not worried for myself. I won't be here when the bottom falls out. It will fall out. Nature has a way of balancing things.

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1 hour ago, Merlin said:

As if younger citizens of Western countries are disconnected from the real world enough already now they will be answering the siren call of further dissociation from actual life. Someone needs to be outside of the looming virtual world. You know to learn how to grow food, make fire, cook, care for babies the elderly and the sick. Volunteer to help less fortunate people and let's face it defend the developed countries from real world dangers which seem to multiply each time a new technology comes to life.

I'm not worried for myself. I won't be here when the bottom falls out. It will fall out. Nature has a way of balancing things.

This drawing unequivocally shows your gloomy predictions about young people in the dystopian future that they are creating for themselves by being totally enslaved by social media

jz6dPSm.jpg

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doesn't matter what he calls facebook ie Meta everyone else will call it facebook and nothing will change he will still dominate social media and his platforms will not change except for cosmetic changes in the layout and governments and sinister characters will still use the platform to control the masses as there is to much money for Zuckerburg to change his ways 

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Plenty of pitfalls await Zuckerberg's 'metaverse' plan

When Mark Zuckerberg announced ambitious plans to build the "metaverse" -- a virtual reality construct intended to supplant the internet, merge virtual life with real life and create endless new playgrounds for everyone -- he promised that "you're going to able to do almost anything you can imagine."

That might not be such a great idea.

Zuckerberg, CEO of the company formerly known as Facebook, even renamed it Meta to underscore the significance of the effort.

During his late October presentation, he effused about going to virtual concerts with your friends, fencing with holograms of Olympic athletes and -- best of all -- joining mixed-reality business meetings where some participants are physically present while others beam in from the metaverse as cartoony avatars.

But it's just as easy to imagine dystopian downsides.

Suppose the metaverse also enables a vastly larger, yet more personal version of the harassment and hate that Facebook has been slow to deal with on today's internet? Or ends up with the same big tech companies that have tried to control the current internet serving as gatekeepers to its virtual-reality edition? Or evolves into a vast collection of virtual gated communities where every visitor is constantly monitored, analyzed and barraged with advertisements? Or foregoes any attempt to curtail user freedom, allowing scammers, human traffickers and cybergangs to commit crimes with impunity?

Picture an online troll campaign -- but one in which the barrage of nasty words you might see on social media is instead a group of angry avatars yelling at you, with your only escape being to switch off the machine, said Amie Stepanovich, executive director of Silicon Flatirons at the University of Colorado.

"We approach that differently -- having somebody scream at us than having somebody type at us," she said. "There is a potential for that harm to be really ramped up."

That's one reason Meta might not be the best institution to lead us into the metaverse, said Philip Rosedale, founder of the virtual escape Second Life, which was an internet craze 15 years ago and still attracts hundreds of thousands of online inhabitants.

The danger is creating online public spaces that appeal only to a "polarized, homogenous group of people," said Rosedale, describing Meta's flagship VR product, Horizon, as filled with "presumptively male participants" and a bullying tone.

In a safety tutorial, Meta has advised Horizon users to treat fellow avatars kindly and offers tips for blocking, muting or reporting those who don't, but Rosedale said it's going to take more than a "schoolyard monitor" approach to avoid a situation that rewards the loudest shouters.

"Nobody's going to come to that party, thank goodness," he said. "We're not going to move the human creative engine into that sphere."

A better goal, he said, would be to create systems that are welcoming and flexible enough to allow people who don't know each other to get along as well as they might in a real place like New York's Central Park.

Part of that could rely on systems that help someone build a good reputation and network of trusted acquaintances they can carry across different worlds, he said. In the current web environment, such reputation systems have had a mixed record in curbing toxic behavior.

It's not clear how long it will take Meta, or anyone else investing in the metaverse, to consider such issues. So far, tech giants from Microsoft and Apple to video game makers are still largely focused on debating the metaverse's plumbing.

To make the metaverse work, some developers say they are going to have to form a set of industry standards similar to those that coalesced around HTML, the open "markup language" that's been used to structure websites since the 1990s.

"You don't think about that when you go to a website. You just click on the link," said Richard Kerris, who leads the Omniverse platform for graphics chipmaker Nvidia. "We're going to get to the same point in the metaverse where going from one world to another world and experiencing things, you won't have to think about, `Do I have the right setup?"'

Nvidia's vision for an open standard involves a structure for 3D worlds built by movie-making studio Pixar, which is also used by Apple.

Among the basic questions being resolved are how physics will work in the metaverse -- will virtual gravity cause someone's glass to smash into pieces if they drop it? Will those rules change as you move from place to place?

Bigger disagreements will center on questions of privacy and identity, said Timoni West, vice president of augmented and virtual reality at Unity Technologies, which builds an engine for video game worlds.

"Being able to share some things but not share other things" is important when you're showing off art in a virtual home but don't want to share the details of your calendar, she said. "There's a whole set of permission layers for digital spaces that the internet could avoid but you really need to have to make this whole thing work."

Some metaverse enthusiasts who've been working on the concept for years welcome the spotlight that could attract curious newcomers, but they also want to make sure Meta doesn't ruin their vision for how this new internet gets built.

"The open metaverse is created and owned by all of us," said Ryan Gill, founder and CEO of metaverse-focused startup Crucible. "The metaverse that Mark Zuckerberg and his company want is created by everybody but owned by them."

Gill said Meta's big splash is a reaction to ideas circulating in grassroots developer communities centered around "decentralized" technologies like blockchain and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, that can help people establish and protect their online identity and credentials.

Central to this tech movement, nicknamed Web 3, for a third wave of internet innovation, is that what people create in these online communities belongs to them, a shift away from the Big Tech model of "accumulating energy and attention and optimizing it for buying behavior," Gill said.

Evan Greer, an activist with Fight for the Future, said it's easy to see Facebook's Meta announcement as a cynical attempt to distance itself from all the scandals the company is facing. But she says Meta's push is actually even scarier.

"This is Mark Zuckerberg revealing his end game, which is not just to dominate the internet of today but to control and define the internet that we leave to our children and our children's children," she said.

The company recently abandoned its use of facial recognition on its Facebook app, but metaverse gadgetry relies on new forms of tracking people's gaits, body movements and expressions to animate their avatars with real-world emotions.

And with both Facebook and Microsoft pitching metaverse apps as important work tools, there's a potential for even more invasive workplace monitoring and exhaustion.

Activists are calling for the U.S. to pass a national digital privacy act that would apply not just to today's platforms like Facebook but also those that might exist in the metaverse.

Outside of a few such laws in states such as California and Illinois, though, actual online privacy laws remain rare in the U.S.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/plenty-of-pitfalls-await-zuckerberg-s-metaverse-plan-1.5655748

 

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