Facebook will create 10,000 EU jobs to help build its ‘metaverse’
Facebook has grand plans to build an online ‘metaverse’ that everyone can log into for working, playing and socialising.
If that sounds like Ready Player One, it’s because it is.
That’s because as well as running WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook also owns Oculus – the virtual reality platform that kicked off with video games a few years ago.
‘I think of the metaverse as the next generation of the internet,’ Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said recently.
‘So you can kind of think about it as, instead of being an internet that we look at, right, on our mobile phones or our computer screens, it’s an internet that we are a part of, or that we can be inside of.’
In an effort to build this creation, Facebook is investing £36 million to hire 10,000 highly skilled workers in the EU to build it.
Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg made the announcement in a blog post.
‘Today, we’re announcing a plan to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the EU over the next five years,’ Clegg wrote.
‘This investment is a vote of confidence in the strength of the European tech industry and the potential of European tech talent.’
None of the hirings will occur in the UK, where Facebook already employs around 4,000 people.
‘No one company will own and operate the metaverse. Like the internet, its key feature will be its openness and interoperability,’ wrote Clegg.
‘Bringing this to life will take collaboration and cooperation across companies, developers, creators and policymakers. For Facebook, it will also require continued investment in product and tech talent, as well as growth across the business.’
So, what exactly is the metaverse?
In essence, it is the internet in 3D.
The metaverse is an online world in which people can meet, play and work virtually, often entering this world using virtual reality headsets.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has described it as being a place where rather than just viewing content ‘you are in it’ and as an early example has used the idea of people watching a concert video on their smartphone but then jumping in it using the metaverse to create the sense they are really there.
The metaverse would not be run by one company, Facebook says, but would instead be an open internet which different companies could build on and offer their own experiences to people.
Some of the virtual experiences already exist in some form, but they are all independent and not seamlessly linked together – that is the aim of the metaverse.
Facebook’s metaverse idea would see all the experience accessible in one place and at any point, with users able to enter it not just via VR headsets, but also PCs, games consoles and mobile devices in much the same way they do now with mobile internet.
But what could I actually do in it?
Anything – meet friends and chat around a fire, take a fitness class on top of a mountain, play the latest video game, watch a movie or take part in an experience such as deep-sea diving.
The idea is that you can jump in and have any real-life social experience in virtual reality, with holograms or avatars representing the user and their friends and colleagues.
And given the world’s reliance on video conferencing over the last 18 months, one key usage of the metaverse could be as a new type of virtual meeting space.
So instead of staring at a grid of faces all sat in their kitchens, imagine putting on a VR headset and finding yourself sat in a hilltop villa surrounded by avatars of colleagues and having the meeting ‘in-person’ no matter where everyone is based.
And not just for meetings – Facebook has even suggested that these spaces could become an ‘infinite office’ where people all feel like they are working in the same place, even when they could be in different cities or even countries.
Speaking to The Verge earlier this year, Zuckerberg also suggested meeting in the metaverse could replace some analogue phone calls or video calls.
‘In the future, instead of just doing this over a phone call, you’ll be able to sit as a hologram on my couch, or I’ll be able to sit as a hologram on your couch, and it’ll actually feel like we’re in the same place, even if we’re in different states or hundreds of miles apart,’ he said.
And this idea applies to any type of social situation, for example, gaming.
Lots of virtual reality gaming experiences already exist, and these could be woven into the metaverse so you could play any game on a virtual video wall in front of you, with your best friend sat next to you like they are at home with you cheering you on, or you could jump into a more immersive game and move around a haunted house hunting zombies together.
How long before I can use it?
There is a while to wait yet.
Facebook has insisted it is only at the ‘start of the journey’ to build the metaverse, and Zuckerberg has spoken about transforming the company into a metaverse-based one in five years.
The plans to hire thousands of new engineers and other staff in Europe to help build the platform shows Facebook is serious about the idea, but for now it still remains several years away from reality.