In July, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees that the Big Tech giant would be embarking on a new initiative. As The Verge reported at the time, “the future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them,” and instead the company would “strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.”
On Monday, in a blog post titled, “Building the Metaverse Responsibly,” Facebook announced a “$50 million investment in global research and program partners to ensure these products are developed responsibly.”
“The ‘metaverse’ is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you. You’ll be able to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create, and more. It’s not necessarily about spending more time online — it’s about making the time you do spend online more meaningful,” explained VP of Facebook Reality Labs, Andrew Bosworth, and VP of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg. “The metaverse isn’t a single product one company can build alone. Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not. And it won’t be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years. While that’s frustrating for those of us eager to dive right in, it gives us time to ask the difficult questions about how they should be built.”
The company said that such efforts would be carried out “responsibly,” working with “experts in government, industry and academia to think through issues and opportunities in the metaverse,” as well as involving “human rights and civil rights communities from the start to ensure these technologies are built in a way that’s inclusive and empowering.”
Facebook listed several key areas, which included “economic opportunity,” “privacy,” “safety and integrity,” and “equity and inclusion.”
”There’s a long road ahead,” the post continued. “But as a starting point, we’re announcing the XR Programs and Research Fund, a two-year $50 million investment in programs and external research to help us in this effort. Through this fund, we’ll collaborate with industry partners, civil rights groups, governments, nonprofits and academic institutions to determine how to build these technologies responsibly.”
The initial partners working on the project include the “Organization of American States,” who will work on “job training and skills development for students, creators and small business owners.” In addition, “Africa No Filter,” “Electric South” and “Imisi3D” will be supported across Africa “to support creators who have been pushing the boundaries of digital storytelling using immersive technology through ‘Amplifying African Voices.’” Finally, Facebook will be partnering with “Women In Immersive Tech” to support “women and underrepresented groups driving Europe’s virtual, augmented and mixed reality sectors.”
Facebook will also be partnering with numerous research institutions, including Seoul National University, The University of Hong Kong, The University of Singapore, and Howard University.
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