Meta needs help building its next-gen virtual world. And it could take a while.
The company changed its name from Facebook in October to reflect its vision for the metaverse — a future of avatars inhabiting a real-time virtual world accessible via state-of-the-art virtual reality headsets.
In a blog post on the eve of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Meta's VP of Connectivity Dan Rabinovitsj wrote, "making the metaverse a reality will require significant advancements in network latency, symmetrical bandwidth and overall speed of networks."
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"No single company, or industry, can do this alone," Rabinovitsj continued. "Creating the metaverse will require a global effort and we invite partners to collaborate with us on this new journey."
Meta points to its track record over the last decade of investing billions in partnerships with telecom companies and policymakers to improve global connectivity. One such initiative is its subsea internet cables, which it claims could contribute over half a trillion dollars to the European and Asia-Pacific economies by 2025. The company also announced today, February 28, at the MWC that it will collaborate with Telefónica to establish a Metaverse Innovation Hub in Madrid aimed at accelerating metaverse network innovations.
According to a CNET report, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said "today, we're at the start of the next transition as we build for the metaverse. But creating a true sense of presence in virtual worlds delivered to smart glasses and VR headsets will require massive advances in connectivity. Bigger than any of the step changes we've seen before."
The virtual space race
So Meta's unspoken, but largely hinted at, mantra at the MWC seems to be patience. During a panel discussion today, February 28, Chris Weasler, head of special initiatives at Meta, reiterated that the metaverse won't happen overnight, though he did say that "in the next 10 years, it would be amazing if we could bring a billion people onto the metaverse" and drive millions of dollars for the ecosystem.
Meta's message comes in stark contrast to Nvidia's communications surrounding its own Omniverse project. Ronnie Vasishta, senior vice president of telecommunications at Nvidia, highlighted the ways their version of the metaverse is already helping companies, such as BMW and Ericsson, to simulate real processes with immense accuracy, allowing them to transform their respective industries. The company is also building a "digital twin" of the Earth that Vasishta claimed will "take the argument out of climate change" by providing an accurate like-for-like simulation of the process.
The Mobile World Congress, which promised to edge the world back to normality with the first full-attendance show since the start of the pandemic, has once again been overshadowed by global events. Though Meta has a physical presence at the trade show, the company has partially shifted its focus to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in recent days. In a press statement, the company explained it is working hard to "fight the spread of misinformation" by expanding its third-party fact-checking capacity in Russian and Ukrainian.