Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a full rebrand of his $1001 billion company at the Facebook Connect 2021 event on Oct. 28.
A press release introduced the new company as Meta and defined it as a “social technology company” that will unify all of the Facebook technologies and applications, such as Oculus and Instagram, under a single brand. Their mission is to “help people connect, find communities and grow businesses.”
In his most recent Founder’s Letter, Zuckerberg said that the change is meant to reflect the dynamic nature of the internet. From Facebook’s beginnings as a desktop platform for text, he feels that the internet has become much more immersive. Meta strives to take that one step further by blurring the distinction between the physical and virtual worlds.
The Meta homepage outlines technologies that the company will utilize to further its mission, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and smart glasses.
Meta’s mission is to challenge the belief that technology has created distance between people and the world around them.
“Instead of getting in the way, [your devices] are gonna give you a sense of presence,” Zuckerberg said.
According to Zuckerberg, this feeling of presence is one of Meta’s defining features. Innovations are being developed to bypass the current limitations of technology, namely in its inability to detect the subtleties and nuances of human communication and connection.
Zuckerberg’s approach to this barrier would be the creation of avatars. Zuckerberg describes them as a parallel to today’s profile pictures, but “living 3D representations of your expressions and gestures” that make them more personalized and dynamic. Users could have multiple avatars for different purposes, such as a professional or realistic one for work settings and a stylized one for hanging out with friends.
“You are going to be able to bring things from the physical world into the Metaverse … and you’ll be able to take your items and project them into the physical world as holograms too,” Zuckerberg said. “Lots of things that are physical today, like screens, will just be able to be holograms in the future.”
Navigating between physical and virtual spaces will be facilitated by a multitude of devices, such as phones, computers, smart glasses and smart goggles, according to Zuckerberg.
Users will be able to interact with others in the Metaverse in the platform Horizon, which can be accessed through an Oculus Quest headset, a VR headset that is already widely used for gaming. This platform is currently in beta stage and includes Horizon Home, where users can create or choose their own virtual home space. According to Zuckerberg, Meta has released a social version of the platform in beta, called Horizon Worlds, where users can invite friends to hang out or build worlds together.
Beyond the social implications of Meta, the Facebook Connect 2021 presentation displayed how the Metaverse can be applied in almost any aspect of human life, even education.
According to Meta Chief Business Officer Marne Levine, students will be able to study and learn anything in the Metaverse. For example, medical students and doctors will be able to practice new surgical techniques on patients in VR, and students learning history will be able to visit different places and time periods.
A fully-fledged Metaverse is still five to 10 years away according to Zuckerberg; however, the company’s goals give the field of technology several goals to work towards. According to Levine, Meta is setting $150 million aside “to train the next generation of creators to build immersive learning content and increase access to devices.”
“While a lot of this may seem like science fiction, we’re starting to see a lot of these technologies coming together,” Zuckerberg said.