Facebook announced a $50 million investment in a newly-established XR Programs and Research Fund with plans to support research and collaborative efforts aimed at ensuring VR and AR technologies are “developed responsibly.”
The blog post is authored by Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of VR/AR and soon-to-be Facebook CTO, and Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs. The focus of the post is on building the metaverse — which Facebook describes as “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you” — and how it can be done responsibly over the next 10-15 years.
Facebook aims to work with experts across industry, government and academia to think through the opportunities and problems that the concept presents.
“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 blog post reads. “Success depends on building robust interoperability across services, so different companies’ experiences can work together. We also need to involve the human rights and civil rights communities from the start to ensure these technologies are built in a way that’s inclusive and empowering.”
It’s a two-year, $50 million investment and there are already a few partners lined up. The Organization of American States will work on “job training and skills development for students, creators and small business owners.” Africa No Filter, Electric South and Imisi3D will “support creators who have been pushing the boundaries of digital storytelling using immersive technology” across Africa. In Europe, Women In Immersive Tech are “supporting women and underrepresented groups driving Europe’s virtual, augmented and mixed reality sectors.”
Facebook also says it is “facilitating independent external research” with academic institutions across the world, as part of the fund. This includes research into safety and ethics at universities in Seoul and Hong Kong, along with research into privacy and data use at institutions in Singapore and research into diversity in IT at Howard University in Washington D.C..
The last few months have seen an increase in Facebook’s use of the ‘metaverse’ term — back in July, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg even proclaimed that the company will be ‘a metaverse company’ in 5 years time. But while the term is being used more and more, it’s not exactly clear what Facebook’s metaverse will look like. The XR Programs and Research Fund doesn’t clarify too much in that regard, but it does give us some insight into how Facebook is bringing external influences into the fold. You can read more details over on the Facebook blog post and expect to hear more about Facebook’s metaverse plans at at Facebook Connect next month.