On Thursday, social media giant Facebook announced that it is opening up its virtual reality world of avatars, known as Horizon Worlds, to anyone who is 18 years old or above in Canada and the United States. It was last year that the company had launched Horizon Worlds in beta to selected Oculus users, who had responded to invitations for joining the virtual world. Thanks to the company’s announcement on Thursday, users are no longer required to wait for an invitation to join. This broader launch of this virtual world is undoubtedly a major step for Facebook. The company had changed its name officially in the month of October to Meta.
The new moniker was adopted by the social media firm based on the sci-fi term that has become the newest buzzword i.e. metaverse. The name describes the mission of the company to play and work in the virtual world. Those who use the Oculus virtual reality headsets introduced by Facebook will be able to create a legless avatar in Horizon Worlds that will allow them to wander in the animated virtual world. They will be able to interact with the avatars of other users and also play games with them.
Back in 2014, Facebook had acquired Oculus for a price of $2 billion. Since then, the company has been struggling to gain traction in the market that goes beyond a niche audience. However, more recently, building products and services as well as technologies for the metaverse has become its primary focus. Operated by chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook had made an announcement in July of establishing a team that would be working on the metaverse. Within two months, the head of the hardware division at the company, Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth had been promoted to the position of chief technology officer, a role he would assume from 2022.
In October, when Facebook posted its third-quarter earnings results, it announced that in the fourth quarter, the Reality Labs hardware division would be integrated into its own reporting segment. In the same month, the company had added that it would be spending around $10 billion for developing technologies in the next year that could be used for building the metaverse. Zuckerberg had said back then that they wanted the metaverse to be able to reach billions of people in the next decade, provide jobs to millions of developers and creators and host billions of dollars in relation to digital ecommerce.
By all accounts, metaverse is a concept that’s only gaining strength and is being regarded as the next stage of the internet. There have already been massive land sales in the metaverse and properties in the virtual world have hit prices higher than actual real estate. Even Bill Gates commented that technologies like the metaverse had the potential to change the future completely. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic had already revolutionized a lot of areas, particularly remote working, and this would only draw more people to the metaverse for playing, working and socializing.