In 2021 alone, the company formerly known as Facebook, now called Meta, invested nearly $10 billion in its metaverse division. The company has also announced that it is expected to spend a lot more in the next several years in the process of crafting the metaverse.
Will they be able to do it now? How and when will they recover from what has been dubbed the worst stock market crash in history. Meta’s value plunged 26% yesterday and erased nearly $251.3 billion in market value. Zuckerberg lost around $24 billion in a day, making it one of the steepest wealth losses in history.
Just last week, Meta Inc. announced that they have designed the AI Research Supercluster (RSC) which, they said, they believe to be “among the fastest AI supercomputers running today and will be the fastest in the world once fully built out in mid-2022.” Essentially, the newer generation of advanced AI will need powerful computers that can process quintillions of operations per second. The RSC will help them build technologies for the metaverse where AI will be the order of the day.
So, what exactly is Meta’s endgame here? Let’s take a look.
If you are wondering what the metaverse is, we think you have been living under a rock, or beyond the reaches of the internet. Zuckerberg describes it as “an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it”
The bottom line is that we still do not have a complete definition of what it entails and the word is being thrown around pretty much everywhere…
‘A virtual world where you can be anything you want to be’,
‘a universe where people are paying to own a recording of flatulence’ (yes, it is a real NFT!),
‘a whole new era of commerce and communication in a virtual world’
All true but still not entirely familiar. With the metaverse at its nascent stages, the entire range of its impact is yet to be seen.
The Zuckerberg-led Meta seems to be leading the charge. What is it that they are building towards?
Since the announcement in October 2021, Meta has been working incessantly to rebrand itself. The timing has also been suspicious, as this news overshadowed Haugen’s testimony on the social media platform’s adverse effects on mental health. Facebook has stepped down a few levels as just one of its products while the metaverse has taken the primary spot. The CEO paints the metaverse as this utopian universe wherein the opportunities for self-expression, freedom, and a whole economy of virtual goods and services will be endless.
In December, the company released Horizon Worlds, a free VR, online game with an integrated game creation system for Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest 2. Players can collaborate and explore the spaces around them, including the user-generated ones.
At the moment, the company has the Occulus series that allows one to slip from the real to the fringes of the virtual world. Meta is working on introducing Project Cambria in 2022. It is a high-end, mixed reality headset that mixes virtual graphics with the real world in full colour. It will have a face and eye tracking to allow for more realistic avatars. We are already talking about the cutting edge of what is possible in wireless virtual reality.
Meanwhile, Nazare is also in the works. While it may take a few years to hit the market, the Nazare can augment reality while looking like a normal pair of glasses. The difference is that a VR headset disconnects you from the real so you can immerse in the virtual. The Nazare will superimpose computing and data onto the real world.
In his definition of the metaverse, Zuckerberg was also careful to admit that the metaverse will not be built by one company. In his idea, Horizon Worlds, a collaborative platform exemplifies what the metaverse might look like. However, it is still heavily bound to Quest and your Facebook identity.
This questions the ‘meta’ in the metaverse? How are we going ‘beyond’, if it is going to be just another walled garden? Will Horizon Worlds just be a starting point? Will they collaborate with Roblox, Vibrela, or other players? Can data or virtual currency be shared across the universes? We will have to wait and watch.
But, at the moment, one thing is clear. Meta Inc. wants to be synonymous with the metaverse and is going to lay its claim all around it.