Metaverse: five questions about Facebook’s new virtual world

Facebook has renamed itself “Meta” to better underline its strategic shift towards the metaverse. This 3D universe could transform the Internet.

Facebook is making a strategic shift. Born as a social network, Mark Zuckerberg’s company no longer wants to be simply a group of mobile applications. It now intends to become a company of the metaverse, even going so far as to rename itself “Meta” to mark its ambitions detailed Thursday evening. During an online conference, the billionaire boss unveiled his vision of a technology that could transform the Internet as we know it today. Explanations.

1. What is the metaverse?

Inspired by science fiction, and in particular the novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson or “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, the metaverse is a virtual and immersive online world. Everyone can live a part of their life in it, in the form of an avatar or a hologram. For Meta, this world promises more social contact without having to go anywhere, whether it’s organizing a business meeting, taking part in a fitness class, or wandering around a pixel shop. But the competition has other ideas: for Epic Games, the world of the popular game Fortnite already hosts virtual mini concerts with 12 million viewers.

2. How do you access the meta-verse?

As imagined by Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse is open to those equipped with electronic devices such as virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses. The former, like the Oculus Quest developed by Meta and sold for around $300, totally immerse the user’s gaze in a 3D setting. To move, you also need to be equipped with hand controllers. To move around, some people are imagining a treadmill system. In addition to Meta, HTC and Sony already have their headsets. According to information from Bloomberg, Apple’s will be on the market in 2022.

By simply superimposing a digital image on top of the real view, augmented reality is considered by experts to be easier to adopt by the public. As a form of ubiquity, it will be possible to follow an event in the metaverse out of the corner of your eye while participating in a discussion in the physical world… Meta is also working on a pair of augmented reality glasses. It is not the only one. Microsoft already has its device with the HoloLens. Apple is also expected to be involved in these technologies.

3. Who will build the metaverse?

Mark Zuckerberg is keen to put on a brave face. The metaverse “is not limited to one company, and each of us is needed to make it happen”, he was careful to point out when presenting Meta. But he is especially interested in small developers who will enrich the world of Meta with immersive experiences (commerce, culture, tourism, entertainment, etc.), in the same way, that start-ups multiplied the services available on smartphones in the late 2000s.

4. Who is investing in the metaverse?

To create the framework these future partners will need – a virtual world, an online payment system – Meta will invest $10 billion in 2021 alone. Although it is making a big splash, Meta will have to get along or force many of its competitors out.

Epic Games announced last spring that it had raised a billion dollars to develop its vision of the metaverse, in direct competition with Roblox, another video game company. Microsoft intends to create a “corporate metaverse”. Not to mention the many start-ups hoping to make their mark, such as the British company Improbable.

5. Why are we talking about the metaverse again?

Like many science-fiction dreams, the metaverse has been stillborn several times. Some people believed in it more than they should have in the 2000s when the game “Second Life” seduced the masses. At its peak, this virtual universe hosted IBM conference centers, American Apparel shops, political offices of election candidates and a million simultaneous connections.

The game is still online, but the hype has quickly died down, while the game’s graphical experience remains a bit grotesque. In addition, the system became slow when too many people connected at the same time. Today, the experience of virtual and augmented realities is changing the game. Cloud computing would also allow more simultaneous visits to this new world.

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