In what many around the world see as an effort to take attention away from a slew of recent problems, many of them brought to light by a whistleblower, the media behemoth Facebook announced a new creation, a “metaverse” called Horizon, today at its annual conference.
The event, called the Connect Conference, is when Facebook co-creator Mark Zuckerberg normally unveils new features and tells the world what might be in the offing for the media giant.
But this year, Facebook itself appears to be at a crossroads, accused of looking the other way after its own research showed that its platforms have ripped apart the social fabric of the nation and abetted the damaging of teenage girls’ self-worth, among other issues involving the censorship of ideas.
Whistleblower Frances Haugen charged in testimony before a Congressional subcommittee just weeks ago that Facebook executives were well aware of the social damage that it was allowing to take place on its platforms but did nothing to address the issue due to purely financial concerns.
Zuckerberg spearheads metaverse “Horizon”
The metaverse (or “Horizon Home,” in its personal version) involves users working, gaming, and communicating in a virtual world with the use of VR headsets.
Zuckerberg, who has spearheaded the shift toward virtual reality, recently announced that the company would hire 10,000 skilled workers from the EU to help construct the metaverse platform.
First Zuckerberg began speaking about the Metaverse, the new virtual reality platform he is backing in order to create new ways to immerse users in a new experience. Getting yoghurt with friends and family, shop, etc.
“We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet. We will be able to express ourselves in completely new, joyful new ways,” he declared. When, he said, he shares photos of his children with his parents via the Metaverse, “They’re going to feel like they’re right there with us,” he enthused.
“When you’re in a meeting in the metaverse, you will feel like you are sharing the same space, not looking at disembodied faces.”
Going on to explain what this will be like, Zuckerberg said our experiences online will be “more natural” than they feel now, “Making the time we already spending online better,” he explained.
He told his audience that the new technology will allow “the deep feeling of presence” that is currently missing from our technology today.
“Many are asking why we are doing this right now. I believe we were put on this Earth to create,” Zuckerberg, who created Facebook in his student days at Harvard, noted.
Adding that avatars will be “living, 3-D images of us, making them much more stylized and malleable” than they are today, Zuckerberg said that people will soon be teleporting themselves — in the form of avatars — to different places as part of the Metaverse.
People will also be able to shield their avatars from others that they would like to remain private from. Holograms will take our places as part of augmented reality, across different devices. This could mean the use of specialized glasses, making it possible to take part in different experiences online.
“A lot of us will be creating and inhabiting worlds that are just as convincing as the real world around us,” Zuckerberg added, stating that a “Horizon workrooms” virtual reality utility has already been launched this past year for workplaces.
The tech maven introduced the audience to a slew of new VR games, including a new version of Grand Theft Auto, that will be available to metaverse users.
The business version of the metaverse will be used by people to interact using avatars like the personal version, he stated. Plus there will be new Facebook accounts that will be linked to work projects and entities, rather than our original Facebook accounts, which are mostly personal.
Facebook rebranding itself after damaging testimony, leaks
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg initially dismissed accusations that the company failed to stop the riots, telling Reuters in January that “We know this was organized online. We know that. We… took down QAnon, Proud Boys, Stop the Steal, anything that was talking about possible violence last week.
“Our enforcement’s never perfect so I’m sure there were still things on Facebook. I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate and don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency.”
But the documents from Haugen’s leak tell a different story about the company’s efforts to stop the spread of information involved in the demonstration at the Capitol on January 6. Documents show that Facebook scrambled to control the information being spread on its platform long after the bulk of the activity had taken place, effectively trying to stop the demonstrators when it was already too late.
Facebook is expected to restructure its current model by placing the social media site and all of its subsidiaries, including Instagram and WhatsApp, under the new, renamed parent company.