A few months after CEO Mark Zuckerberg first said that Facebook will be creating a product team to work on the metaverse, the company is now investing US$50 million in a XR Programs and Research Fund for a period of two years. Through this fund, Facebook will collaborate with industry partners, civil rights groups, governments, nonprofits and academic institutions to determine how to build these technologies responsibly.
Facebook also facilitate independent external research with institutions across the globe. Seoul National University and The University of Hong Kong will focus on research into safety, ethics, and responsible design. Meanwhile, National University of Singapore's Faculty of Law's Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and the Law will study other topics such as privacy and data use. Howard University will conduct research to examine the history of diversity in IT and how that might inform access and economic opportunity in the metaverse.
At the same time, industry partners such as Women In Immersive Tech, the Organisation of American States, Africa No Filter, Electric South, and Imisi3D have also come on board. These partnerships involve job training and skill development for small business owners, students, and creators, digital storytelling and driving VR, AR and MR, Facebook said. Through its partnerships with governments, academic institutions and industry players, Facebook plans to anticipate risks in the areas of economic opportunity, privacy, safety and integrity, and equity and inclusion.
In particular, it will explore these questions:
- Economic opportunity - How can Facebook give people more choice, encourage competition and maintain a thriving digital economy?
- Privacy - How can Facebook minimize the amount of data that’s used, build technology to enable privacy-protective data uses, and give people transparency and control over their data?
- Safety and integrity - How can Facebook keep people safe online and give them tools to take action or get help if they see something they’re not comfortable with?
- Equity and inclusion - How can Facebook make sure these technologies are designed inclusively and in a way that’s accessible?
According to Facebook, the metaverse is a set of virtual spaces where users can create and explore with other people who are not in the same physical space as them. They will be able to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create and more.
"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," said Andrew Bosworth, VP, Facebook Reality Labs and Nick Clegg, VP, global affairs. Bosworth and Clegg explained that many of these products will only be fully realised in the next 10 to 15 years, giving time to ask the difficult questions about how they should be built.
Separately, Facebook also recently made headlines after it paused development on Instagram Kids, an app that would have provided age-appropriate content for kids under 13. US. lawmakers and advocacy groups have cited safety concerns and urged Facebook to drop the launch plans, according to Reuters. This comes shortly after an investigative series by the Wall Street Journal titled "The Facebook Files" described Instagram to be a "toxic" place for teen girls. The tech giant hit back at WSJ last week, claiming that the series contained "deliberate mischaracterisations" of what the company is trying to do. Clegg added previously WSJ also "conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees".
Separately, Facebook also said last week that it had underreported ad performance on iPhones as a result of the privacy changes made by Apple. The platform estimates that it is underreporting iOS web conversions by about 15%, VP of product marketing Graham Mudd said in a blog post, adding that there is a broad range for individual advertisers.
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Photo courtesy: 123RF
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