Brit political has-been and Facebook global affairs veep Nick Clegg fired off a missive over the weekend announcing that the antisocial network would be hiring 10,000 people from across the European Union to help “BUILD THE METAVERSE” (VERSE-VERSE-VERSE-VERSE).
What’s the metaverse? Well, no one’s quite sure – it doesn’t exist yet – but Cleggers and pal Javier Olivan, Facebook’s central products VP, define it as “a new phase of interconnected virtual experience using technologies like virtual and augmented reality.”
“And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start,” they added.
Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality with its acquisition of Oculus for a cool $2bn in 2014, which we suppose is why it’s so interested in making the metaverse work. Seven years later, VR headsets are still a long way from being in every household – 3D replicas of stores are in short supply – and even in gaming, its most obvious application, VR remains a gimmicky niche.
However, commentary about the metaverse suggests that it could be more than a VR rehash of Second Life (aka Sadville to Reg readers) – a “game” where adult losers create an avatar and a trashy house to play out depraved fantasies with other adult losers within a virtual shared world.
“Unlike current VR, which is mostly used for gaming, this virtual world could be used for practically anything – work, play, concerts, cinema trips – or just hanging out,” burbled the BBC.
On the “work” point, Facey B has already taken a punt to suck what little fun it can out of VR with its Horizon Workrooms conferencing system, around which time CEO Mark Zuckerburg first started to talk up a Facebook Metaverse.
But the metaverse won’t solely belong to the ad giant, or so it claims.
“No one company will own and operate the metaverse,” the company said. “Like the internet, its key feature will be its openness and interoperability. Bringing this to life will take collaboration and cooperation across companies, developers, creators and policymakers. For Facebook, it will also require continued investment in product and tech talent, as well as growth across the business.”
James Morris-Manuel, EMEA MD of spatial data platform Matterport, said of the venture: “With the use of digital twins – digital replicas of the built world – spaces can be transferred and visited in a virtual, social space.” He added that his firm was “already working with Facebook to provide the largest-ever collection of digital twins made up of residential, commercial and civic spaces exclusively for academic purposes. These will play a significant role in teaching robots and virtual AI assistants to understand and interact with the complexities of the physical world. From the evolving worlds of property ownership to AI experiences that underpin our experiences, digital twins will be used to build the mirror world and to help businesses soar to new heights.”
Another titan of the tech scene, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, also has the hots for the metaverse, which he jabbered on about during the developer’s long-running court dispute with Apple over its App Store policies.
Pretty much Epic’s only product aside from the Unreal game engine, Fortnite has been the setting for metaverse-esque events like concerts by rapper Travis Scott and popstrel Arian Grande.
OK, it’s pretty cool, we admit.
As the Beeb noted, other tech orgs like Unity and Nvidia are also taking steps to develop similar concepts – and Facebook isn’t one to be left behind on “the future of the internet”.
“So today, we’re announcing a plan to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the European Union over the next five years. This investment is a vote of confidence in the strength of the European tech industry and the potential of European tech talent,” Facebook continued.
“We have long believed that European talent is world-leading, which is why we have invested in it so heavily over the years — from funding grants at the Technical University of Munich, to opening our first major European AI research lab and FAIR accelerator programme in France and Facebook Reality Labs office in Cork.”
This distinctly EU-fixated announcement appears to rule out the UK, though, which we all know left the bloc in 2020. We’re sure Brit Reg readers will absolutely GUTTED to miss out on such a wild opportunity to work for a company widely believed to be responsible for too many contemporary social ills to list here.
As for the metaverse more generally, The Reg would say call us when it’s like Ready Player One. In the tween-friendly novel and cinema adaptation, the concept is called the OASIS and it was developed by an obsessive programmer who really liked Rush and the 1980s.
On the other hand, the OASIS sucked people in to the point that they neglected their real lives and the real world around them – something that already seems to be happening without a metaverse. Do we really want a pencil-necked nerd like Zuck having such a major hand in it? ®