With its social media biz underneath siege, Fb seems to construct a brand new ‘metaverse’ empire
Not happy with this world, Facebook believes it can build a new reality.
Amid bad publicity, government scrutiny, and growing competition for its social media business, the company is hiring and manufacturing products to create the “metaverse”.
On the company’s blog, Facebook Vice Presidents Nick Clegg and Javier Olivan described the Metaverse as a new computing platform and “a new phase of networked virtual experiences with technologies like virtual and augmented reality”.
The expansion of the Facebook empire would enable the social media giant to compete with technology makers like Google and Apple who also host Facebook apps.
The new products from Facebook are intended to remove barriers between the physical and the digital world. For example, Facebook said in March that it is building a neural bracelet so people can type while moving their fingers without using a keyboard. The company insisted that the product would not include “mind reading”.
Last month, Facebook introduced Ray-Ban Stories, glasses that people can use to take photos and videos, listen to music and make phone calls.
Facebook plans to hire 10,000 new employees in Europe over the next five years to build its augmented reality business. It has already started launching products and taking over businesses to make this happen.
The shift is dramatic for the giant social media company, which averaged 2.9 billion monthly active users in July. However, business and marketing analysts say the changes being introduced at Facebook are necessary as shareholders and potential investors feel pressure from governments to threaten regulation and public criticism after former employees alleged the company knowingly harmed children and political manipulation stirs up.
Rather than capturing allegations by US lawmakers that the tech giant was influencing elections, increasing child suicides and being linked to “big tobacco,” Aaron Barnes, a marketing assistant professor at the University of Louisville, said Facebook’s goal was to “To rewrite history”.
“You don’t play the 12 month game,” said Mr. Barnes. “A smaller company can change its name in no time. … They hope to be able to influence the memory of them in decades. “
Facebook continued to buy out companies and hire teams to grow its Metaverse business, despite previous acquisitions of well-known technology platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp being subject to antitrust scrutiny by regulators and lawmakers around the world.
Facebook recently acquired AI.Reverie, a company that created virtual worlds and environments in which people can train artificial intelligence products. Some of the company’s early funding came from US taxpayers through the US Air Force’s innovation arm AFWERX and In-Q-Tel, the strategic investor for US intelligence.
When asked about Facebook’s takeover of his company, AI.Reverie co-founder Paul Walborsky declined to answer questions and referred The Washington Times to Facebook.
Facebook confirmed that it had acquired AI.Reverie but was not aware of details of what exactly the acquisition would deliver. A Facebook spokesperson said the AI.Reverie team will “accelerate our synthetic data capabilities” and “unlock better user experiences in a range of use cases,” including the Metaverse.
Downpour Interactive and BigBox VR are among the other companies that Facebook acquired in 2021. The additions were announced by Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality hardware company. Both Downpour Interactive and BigBox VR are responsible for virtual reality games.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge in July that his company “will effectively move from people who see us primarily as social media companies to a metaverse company.”
More recently, rumors have spread that Facebook is considering adding a new name that will monitor its various products, from Instagram to Oculus. Business and technology analysts cited Alphabet, the parent company of Google and the companies it acquired like YouTube, as a potential roadmap for Facebook.
Facebook declined to comment on the speculated “rebranding,” which Verge said could include the name “Horizon,” as the word appeared repeatedly in various Facebook projects.
Facebook is hosting a conference on its augmented and virtual reality business on Thursday, and the rumored name change promises to draw more attention to the company’s new direction.
Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, said Facebook is trying to distance itself from negative perceptions of social media companies because of pressure on shareholders.
He thinks the company is also considering how new entrants in the social media industry can compete with different approaches to content moderation, such as former President Donald Trump’s TRUTH social platform due to launch next year.
“It’s a sensitive room if this is the room you want to go to,” said Mr Derdenger. He stressed that a “misstep” could lead to the work of Facebook being shaken if it interferes with the cycle of the people who use its platform and connect with others.
In Washington, Facebook is still facing federal antitrust action, but its new business model could change the way the company is perceived on Capitol Hill and potentially prevent a crackdown, said Neil Chilson, former acting chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission.
Mr. Chilson, author of a new book on leadership, “Out of Control,” said Facebook’s ability to create a metaverse is far from guaranteed.
In contrast to the current way of online interaction through websites and social profiles, Mr. Chilson described the Metaverse as an area where people can take their profile with them anytime, anywhere in the physical world.
“We are essentially talking about establishing physics in a new world and in a current environment where consensus is difficult to achieve,” said Chilson.