Maryland today | Well versed in the metaverse
While those of a certain age may remember exotic novelties like accessing primitive chat rooms, logging into AltaVista, or receiving an “email”, the sense of wonder that accompanied the beginnings. Internet is long gone.
Today, a group of companies are betting on a new internet frontier, which they hope could rekindle that sense of technological awe and endless possibilities for connection, with the intention of creating a 3D virtual world online. in which users can explore and interact, called the “metaverse”.
Tech watchers noticed in April when Epic Games, founded by CEO Tim Sweeney ’93, announced that it had raised $ 1 billion in funding to develop its metaverse vision after players on its hit Fortnite hit. started hanging out in the game world (for example, for a virtual Ariana Grande concert) when not in competition.
Interest in the idea increased, however, when Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced last month that the world’s dominant social media company sees its future in the metaverse. Just as the appearance of the Metaverse is unclear, so are the details of Facebook’s planned change. But expect the company to deploy enormous resources and energy both to stay ahead of the technology curve and to distract from some of its current issues, said Jennifer Golbeck, Information science professor, computer scientist at the University of Maryland who studies social media algorithms.
Golbeck spoke to Maryland Today about what the Internet of the future might look like:
The Metaverse seems like a big deal, but what is it, anyway?
The idea of a metaverse has been around for years. Facebook didn’t just develop it, and it wouldn’t be a Facebook product, like Instagram. It is a company that is part of it. What it really is is still somewhat undefined; you could possibly see it interacting with the real world through augmented reality, like with the old Google Glass, with a visual overlay on the real world providing information as you walk around. Where Facebook really focuses is virtual space. Most of us have seen or maybe tried the Oculus VR glasses – Facebook owns Oculus, and that seems to be their take on how you experience the metaverse.
What would you actually see while wearing the glasses? A cartoon or photorealistic universe?
I think it will be a mix. As with many online experiences, its appearance will largely depend on your hardware. It will not be a platform run by a single company or an app like (online 3D virtual world) Second Life. It would suggest that you have a bit more heterogeneity in how it looks and works. So, theoretically, you could go from something built by one company or organization to another, and the world would change completely.
Does Facebook interest make the metaverse more likely to take hold?
Facebook is definitely going to invest a lot of money in it, and they have access to a large user base, so yes. If you want to see the metaverse done in a way where it presents a lot of interesting stuff and a place where you can interact with people, this is good for that. But Facebook tries a lot of things that people don’t want, and I wondered if this was a solution looking for a problem. Are people really clamoring to leave the real world behind? I’m not so sure they are.
Why is Facebook betting so much on this, then?
After all the problems they’ve had, Facebook wants to restore the reputation they originally had, which is someone who comes along and does new, really innovative things that make the world a better place, like something that helps us maintain relationships with people we may have lost touch with. I have no insider knowledge of what’s going on on Facebook, but I think there must be intense pressure to figure out what the next big thing will be and stay ahead.
How could it go wrong?
I think any issues Facebook has had with people using its platform for bad purposes will be intensified in a metaverse app, as a lot of what is happening on Facebook these days is just trying to deal with the bad ones. things. There’s a lot of talk about anti-vax stuff and insurgency stuff, but there’s also child pornography and a lot of other things that don’t get a lot of attention, and I have to say Facebook is doing really good. work by stopping a lot of that content, and their moderators suffer.
The problem for the Metaverse is that we have technology that can automatically flag text or images that might contain child pornography or certain types of violence, but we don’t know how to deal with this virtual world space. This means that it will likely be effectively unregulated for some time. You’ll have a lot of techies who want to try new things there, and that will include a few assholes. So I don’t think the “Facebook is evil” idea they’re dealing with is going to go away.
What could be good?
I went to a National Science Foundation review board that was held in Second Life about five years ago, and it was awesome. You could talk to yourself in a much more natural way than on Zoom, and you had visual cues that also aided in communication. Because you have a visual avatar, you don’t have to be in front of the camera, you don’t have to stare at your silly face all day.
So, just because I don’t really think people are going to want to spend their lives in VR doesn’t mean that there aren’t good uses for it, like better ways to telecommute. I think if Facebook neglects this aspect, they are missing out on an opportunity. But I think they have a bigger and more global view than just a zoom. I don’t think it will work.