Facebook announced on Monday that it will hire 10,000 workers in the European Union to help construct the “metaverse,” a virtual reality version of the internet that the company envisions as the future.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has been a key figure in the Silicon Valley hype surrounding the concept of the metaverse, which would blur the barriers between the physical and digital worlds.
For example, the technology might allow someone to put on virtual reality glasses that make it appear as if they’re face-to-face with a friend, even when they’re hundreds of miles apart and linked via the internet.
“The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social, and economic opportunities. And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start,” Facebook said in a blog post.
“Today, we are announcing a plan to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the European Union (EU) over the next five years.”
“Highly specialized engineers” would be among the European hiring, but the business provided little additional specifics about the new metaverse team.
“The EU has several advantages that make it a great place for tech companies to invest — a large consumer market, first-class universities, and, crucially, top-quality talent,” the blog post said.
An image-building strategy?
The news comes as Facebook deals with the impact of a damaging scandal, severe service failures, and growing calls for regulation to rein in its tremendous power.
After former employee, Frances Haugen leaked internal studies suggesting Facebook knew its sites could be harmful to young people’s mental health, the business has faced a barrage of criticism in the last month.
“Facebook became a $1 trillion company by paying for its profits with our safety, including the safety of our children,” Haugen said in her prepared statement for the Senate hearing quoted by Bloomberg News.
“I came forward because I recognized a frightening truth: almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook. The company’s leadership keeps vital information from the public, the US government, its shareholders, and governments around the world.”
The Washington Post last month suggested that Facebook’s interest in the metaverse is “part of a broader push to rehabilitate the company’s reputation with policymakers and reposition Facebook to shape the regulation of next-wave Internet technologies”.
Zuckerberg, on the other hand, appears to be a true proponent of the metaverse age, forecasting in July that Facebook will shift from “mainly being a social media company to being a metaverse company” over the next five years.
In 2014, Facebook paid $2 billion for Oculus, a virtual reality headset business, and has since been working on Horizon, a digital environment where users can engage using VR technology.
Horizon Workrooms, a tool that allows coworkers using VR headsets to attend meetings in a virtual space where they all appear as cartoonish 3D versions of themselves, was released in August.
Metaverse proponents argue that the internet is already blurring the borders between virtual and “real” encounters.
Stars like Ariana Grande and rapper Travis Scott have performed for large crowds at home via the popular video game Fortnite.
You can already work as a croupier at Decentraland’s virtual casino, which is often regarded as a predecessor to the metaverse.
“No one company will own and operate the metaverse. Like the internet, its key feature will be its openness and interoperability,” Facebook said in its blog post.
It isn’t the only corporation investing millions of dollars in researching the technologies that could make a fully realized metaverse a reality.
Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, said earlier this year that it had raised $1 billion in new funding, with some of it going toward their metaverse ambition.