Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg spoke on Wednesday about his company’s efforts to build the metaverse, an immersive virtual world that he heralded as the future of Facebook’s father.
Doubts have arisen over whether the metaverse’s major investments will pay off for Meta, which changed its name from Facebook last year to highlight its shifting focus — though critics say it was to distract from negative media reports.
Meanwhile, formidable rivals like Apple, Google and Microsoft look set to compete with Meta in the new virtual terrain.
The metaverse is a 3D virtual world where people will be able to interact using sensors, headgear and other gadgets.
Meta’s initial metaverse platform, called Horizon Worlds, already allows people to socialize virtually while represented by avatars.
“The kinds of experiences you’ll have in the metaverse are beyond what’s possible today,” Zuckerberg said as he opened a conference aimed at offering a glimpse into Meta’s development labs.
“This will require advancements in a whole range of areas, from hardware devices to software to building and exploring worlds.”
Artificial intelligence is the key to unlocking these advances, according to Zuckerberg, who noted that future platforms will need to understand virtual worlds and provide translation services for the various languages used in them.
Successful global video games like Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox that run on traditional gaming platforms are seen as harbingers of the metaverse.
But rivals aren’t letting Meta’s claim to the metaverse go unchallenged.
Google, which stumbled upon augmented reality glasses early on, has a team of engineers, designers and scientists “laying the foundations for great immersive computing,” according to an online job posting.
Meanwhile, Apple has bought up specialist startups and is rumored to be working on its own mixed reality helmet.
Microsoft, a powerhouse in the video game industry through its Xbox system and titles like Minecraft, has struck a $69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard, citing the metaverse as part of its motivation for the merger.
Meta’s share price has plummeted since its most recent quarterly earnings showed growth slowed and its revenue took a big hit due to Apple’s changes to its ad targeting rules.
In addition to Facebook, Meta’s products include Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and the Oculus VR headset.
On Wednesday, Meta shares dropped below $200 (approximately Rs. 15,000) for the first time in nearly two years.