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TRENDING SCIENCE: What is the metaverse, and why is Facebook planning to hire 10 000 in the EU to build it?

CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to invest in European talent over the next 5 years to help create his vision of an online world.

Fundamental Research

The metaverse is an immersive virtual world where you use a headset to enter a space that connects all sorts of digital environments. You’ll roam, play, learn, work and buy. In this space you’ll have a 3D avatar. It’s through this digital representation that you’ll interact.

Where physical and digital worlds meet

“The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social and economic opportunities. And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start,” commented Nick Clegg, Vice President of Global Affairs, and Javier Olivan, Vice President of Central Products, in a Meta news post in October. “No one company will own and operate the metaverse. 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.” Why is Facebook, now rebranded as Meta, looking to Europe to build a new version of the internet? “The EU has a number of advantages that make it a great place for tech companies to invest — a large consumer market, first class universities and, crucially, top-quality talent,” the news post explained. “Beyond emerging tech talent, the EU also has an important role to play in shaping the new rules of the internet. European policymakers are leading the way in helping to embed European values like free expression, privacy, transparency and the rights of individuals into the day-to-day workings of the internet.” As with any digital world, critics warn of the dangers. “The metaverse has huge implications - it comes with fantastic advantages and terrifying dangers. And we need a highly robust system in place to police the metaverse,” Dr David Reid, Professor of AI and Spatial Computing at the United Kingdom’s Liverpool Hope University, told the US online edition of ‘The Sun’. “We’re clearly in the very early stages but we need to start talking about these problems now before we go down a route we can’t reverse away from. It’s crucial for the future.” Dr Reid further elaborates: “The data this will generate will be vast…..and extremely valuable. And that’s why we need a system in place to police it. No single company should ever exert control - it’s simply too important for that to happen.” Today, we’re not living in virtual worlds yet, just visiting them through our digital devices. Will users struggle to distinguish between what is real and not with the metaverse? “It’s always been an overwhelming question: where do you draw the line at what is and isn’t too much immersion in the virtual world?,” digital culture observer Julian Dibbell told the ‘Washington Post’. “We’re all going to be channeled into these worlds even harder. And we’re already pretty well-channeled into them.”

Becoming a (virtual) reality

The metaverse is still about 10 years away, and we don’t have a clear idea of the range of possibilities and implications, from work to education, it will have. What we do know is that we’ll all be connected there, just like on the internet today. Let’s ask ourselves what kind of metaverse we want to create. How much a part of our lives do we want 3D virtual worlds and virtual reality headsets to be? For such questions, we shouldn’t wait a decade.

Keywords

metaverse, Facebook, Meta, virtual world, digital, online, virtual, internet, virtual reality