“Meta”: This is what Mark Zuckerberg’s “metaverse” project looks like

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Facebook, the social network, is not dead, but the company is now called Meta. Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg set course for the future – and tried to turn his back on the controversies of the present – by unveiling a new name for the company he founded 17 years ago. “Our brand is so tied to a single product that it can no longer represent everything we do today. Ultimately, I hope that we will be seen as a metaverse », He explained. So what is this “metaverse” (in French), which came out of the imagination of cyberpunk science fiction 30 years ago? For Zuckerberg, it is nothing less than the “future of the Internet”. Which will blur the lines between the real and the virtual and could upset all sectors, provided that the general public does not reject it overwhelmingly.

Social: avatars and shared experiences

This metaverse is going to be built brick by brick. By Facebook, but also users. First step: create your virtual home, as in Second life, the ancestor of persistent connected worlds. Are you stuck in a 20m² two-room apartment? With a virtual reality headset, you are transported to a chalet overlooking a lake, or to an orbital station.

With the Horizon Home and World shared virtual space suite, currently in beta, Facebook offers easy-to-use creation tools, much like on Minecraft. We can then get together with friends to play poker or just chat. Each is represented by a virtual avatar – Mark Zuckerberg’s is as emotionless as the original. For now, the avatars remain very cartoonish, but in the long term, Meta promises photo-realistic holograms with tracking of emotions transcribed in real time.

Video games: a mix of virtual and augmented reality

The metaverse will also offer a “mixed” reality, which mixes virtual and augmented reality. As in this game of chess, with a player sitting in a Manhattan park, who sees a synthetic chessboard on the (real) table through AR (augmented reality) glasses, and challenges an opponent on the other end of the world immersed in a virtual environment.

School and work: collaborative productivity

Horizon Workrooms wants to establish itself as the videoconferencing of the future. Instead of having a video grid of the heads of your colleagues, you can chat in a virtual room, admire a 3D model from all angles. Ditto for school, with vast educational and visual potential for biology or geography. It is also possible to work on virtual PC screens. And because the Web is still 99% 2D, Mark Zuckerberg promises a library to easily import the “old” Web into the metaverse.

The potential: Major technological and societal limits

Mark Zuckerberg admitted it: building the multiverse will take “years”. Some products, like real glasses for augmented reality, called “Project Nazare”, do not even have a release date. Hand tracking has made progress but the gestures with the arm raised remain tiring. Meta relies on its neural interface project on the wrist to write with micro-movements, then, ultimately, just by thought.

The economy of the metaverse remains to be invented, but the building blocks are there, with cryptocurrencies and NFTs that can serve as title deed for a virtual object. In the end, the main obstacle remains above all societal: some are enthusiastic about this vision of the future, others terrified by the scarcity of human interactions in the flesh. Especially when that future is built by a business with Facebook’s liabilities. It will take more than a name change to regain a trust that was lost long ago.

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