Meta Plans for the Metaverse

Facebook changed its name to Meta on October 28, 2021. Its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said this was to indicate the company’s focus on the metaverse. The company says that, for them, the term metaverse has to do with the integrated environment which links products and services across the entire company. The department in Meta that is leading the charge developing the metaverse is Reality Labs which lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Despite these losses, Zuckerberg reiterated in a February 2023 earnings call and again in a presentation to all of Meta’s staff his intent to press ahead with the company’s Metaverse plans. Here are some of the things we know about Meta plans for the metaverse.

Where Did the Term Metaverse Come From?

Metaverse was first used in the book Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, published in 1992. It described a world in which programmed avatars of real people interacted with each other and purely software entities in a three dimensional virtual space. In the book, the three dimensional space is a metaphor for the real world. Today in the real world, companies like Meta are working on the necessary software and hardware to bring their versions of the metaverse into people’s daily lives and thereby to make a profit.

Meta’s Metaverse Troubles

In response to horrific losses at Meta, the company laid off 13 percent of its employees (11,000) in November of 2022 and is in the process of laying off another 10,000 in order to cut costs. The company is reorganizing internally with the goal of being a more efficient and a leaner company economically. All of this is being done in order to maintain their focus on developing the metaverse as a viable entity. Meta’s vision includes artificial intelligence apps that are accessible to more people than those of its competitors.

Where Meta Wants to Head with the Metaverse

In a recent company meeting Zuckerberg and others in management laid out their thinking on Meta’s roadmap for where it is headed in metaverse development and with specific products and services. There are plans for their Reels product to improve how it competes with TikTok and development of the Project 92 social app similar to how Twitter works. While these plans are only peripheral to the metaverse they may be central to getting Meta’s finances back to where they can quit laying off employees.

Meta AI Plans

Meta has worked for years and spent lots of money on AI research. They have also been criticized for not generating profitable products and services such as those now provided by Microsoft and Google. In this regard Zuckerberg laid out company plans for AI assistants which will work in Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp to assist users. Perhaps key to how Meta is proceeding is how Meta intends to make AI models that are useful for more people than those of their competitors and will integrate into the evolving metaverse. In this regard Meta intends to create multiple AI entities instead of a single master AI. Their vision is a set of AI assistants that give advice, coach users, encourage them, and help them express themselves better. WhatsApp would be a place where individuals and businesses could have their own personalized artificial intelligence app using their own unique algorithm.

Open Source AI Technology in the Metaverse

At the heart of Meta’s plans to integrate AI into their vision of the metaverse is open source technology. On one hand, this is how Microsoft thrived while Apple suffered back before the return of Jobs and the iPhone. By making technology open source Meta can attract lots of smart people and generate better ideas. The downside of this approach with AI is that it may give powerful tech tools to bad actors who want to use AI to create malicious systems that spread misinformation and actually harm people. Zuckerberg’s response is that by making the tech open source it will be more transparent and easier to oversee.

Affordable Metaverse Products

Another hint as to where Meta is headed with the metaverse comes from Zuckerberg’s comments about the $3500 Apple Vision Pro headset versus their own upcoming version that will sell for $500. He contended that the Vision Pro will be for folks sitting alone on a couch while Meta’s will be for multiple people interacting within the metaverse.

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