Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse is happening, and this is making space for a whole new type of creator.
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No, you didn’t accidentally wake up in a science fiction movie. Facebook really did just announce that its next chapter is being called the “metaverse.” And with that in mind, the company is changing its name to Meta.
While Facebook, the platform, will still be called Facebook, and its other apps like Instagram will remain the same, they now all exist under the larger company umbrella, “Meta.”
Meta is a term that describes something self-referential or self-aware. But, if you take a look at its original Greek meaning, the word “meta” translates to something closer to “beyond.” Either way, both perfectly describe the feeling of watching Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg present his plan for the metaverse at Connect 2021 on Thursday. So what does this new chapter mean for you, exactly? Let’s dive in.
What is the metaverse?
The term “metaverse” was coined in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his science fiction book “Snow Crash,” and refers to a virtual, 3D experience that exists in its own digital universe. In the announcement, Zuckerberg says he believes it will be “the successor to the mobile internet.”
In other words, the metaverse exists entirely as a virtual reality that users can create, explore, connect, and even work in.
With plans to be accessible from several different devices with varying levels of immersion, the metaverse allows users to create avatars—from realistic depictions of their features to fantasy robots—and construct and decorate their own spaces. That means you, as an avatar, can walk around your virtual home, and not only fill that home with whatever virtual objects you want but put the home wherever you want. A floating house in the rainforest? Nothing is off-limits.
For people who use Facebook as a tool for staying in touch with relatives or shopping on the Marketplace, the introduction of the metaverse may come as a bit of a surprise. However, Facebook has been dipping its toe into the world of virtual reality for some time: 700 million people monthly are already using Facebook’s augmented reality tools across its family of apps, according to the presentation.
How does the metaverse work?
In 2016, Facebook launched its first Oculus VR headset called Oculus Rift, and then Oculus Quest in 2019. Following Meta’s announcement, the VP of VR/AR and incoming Meta CTO, Andrew Bosworth, announced that the Oculus brand name will be retiring in favor of the more unified Meta. While the headsets will remain, Facebook has already introduced some more VR natural alternatives, like a pair of smart glasses made in collaboration with Ray-Ban.
As for the metaverse itself, Zuckerberg’s vision builds upon features that Facebook recently released. Over the summer, Facebook launched the Horizon Workrooms app—a virtual-reality remote work app for anyone with Quest 2 headsets to hold virtual meetings with their coworkers as avatars.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. “Horizon” is an entire social platform for the metaverse. What started with Workrooms will soon also include Horizon Home, where users can construct their aforementioned custom home spaces, as well invite other friends over to their space as avatars. Future projects include Horizon Worlds, which allows users to construct spaces beyond work and home. This virtual world would also expand to include things like gaming and education. Also to come? A new high-tech VR headset called Project Cambria, which will allow avatars to maintain eye contact and mimic facial expressions.
All of this won’t be available immediately. Zuckerberg said that the metaverse will be expanding over the next five to ten years. While Meta is making the tools for the creation of the metaverse, it’s up to us—the users—to create it.
How can creators use the metaverse?
The metaverse brings an entirely new definition to the concept of “creator.” Right now, being a digital content creator means sharing visual and audio content for users to consume, and making money by partnering with brands. In the metaverse, however, digital creation could mean making digital objects—like clothing for avatars—to sell on the future “Horizon Marketplace.” For instance, creators could make virtual art that users buy to display in their homes or receive monetary tips from users who simply want to view and appreciate the art.
It may sound like being an influencer in this world requires extensive knowledge of virtual reality, but Meta’s plan to build the metaverse relies heavily on providing users with educational tools.
Novice and experienced users alike can learn how to create objects and other materials to build this virtual world. Already, the company’s Spark AR functions as an educational platform for users to experiment and build augmented reality features, and the newly announced Presence Platform is a way for users to create mixed reality experiences for virtual reality headsets.
What’s next for the metaverse?
“While Facebook isn’t the first company to explore the metaverse, the future is still open for exploration. Zuckerberg referenced concepts as bold as virtual objects appearing holographically in a physical space, users playing basketball with people on the opposite side of the world in a shared virtual space, and the ability to appear virtually at a concert that your friend is attending IRL. However, the most important element, according to Zuckerberg, is “the feeling of presence,” and creating the sense of connection it feels like many of us lost over the past few years of the pandemic.
Education, fitness, entertainment, work, and quality time with friends are all potential uses of the metaverse, and the unlimited possibilities of content creation make it more important than ever for influencers to store all their projects in one place on Linktree. One day, perhaps, your followers will be able to shop for virtual avatar clothing directly on your Linktree thanks to Spring or explore your favorite virtual spaces through direct links. The metaverse is truly what you make of it.
About the author: Kathryn Lindsay is freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. Find out more at www.kathrynfionalindsay.com.