INTERVIEW: We’re ‘about a decade away’ from realizing metaverse’s full potential, says Meta exec

DUBAI: The term ‘metaverse’ became as ubiquitous as Facebook when the social media platform’s parent company rebranded itself as Meta last year, signaling its vision for the company’s future.

Meta aims to reach one billion people through the metaverse over the next 10 years and has made numerous investments in the past year alone to help achieve this ambition.

From startups to large conglomerates, a wide range of companies are already making significant investments in the metaverse. This is hardly surprising given that the metaverse economy will be worth an estimated $360 billion in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, and over $3 trillion globally, within a decade. , according to the consulting firm Analysis Group.

“We don’t yet know what the economy of the Metaverse will look like, but it’s hard to imagine the direction of travel will change,” said Derya Matras, Meta’s Vice President for Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Meta is already working to make the metaverse more accessible, she said, through tools like Horizon Workrooms, Portal and Workplace, which “will be building blocks and entry points for the metaverse at work.”

This means the Metaverse will be accessible from any device, from virtual reality headsets and desktop computers to mobile devices and smart glasses.

In an exclusive interview, Matras shared the company’s plans for the sector after which it rebranded itself.

Derya Matrasvice president for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at Meta.

What value does the metaverse have for businesses and consumers that cannot be delivered through other media or channels?

Bringing the metaverse to full life is still a decade away, though you can see glimmers of it today. Once fully materialized, it will open up a whole new set of opportunities where human interaction will be elevated to a new level.

Of course, nothing beats being together in person, but in times when that’s not possible, the metaverse will bring us a lot closer. Interactions will become more embodied and immersive.

We expect the metaverse to be completely transformative in many areas of life, such as business, education, work, and healthcare.

For businesses, we predict that over the next decade, the metaverse will reach 1 billion people, host hundreds of billions of dollars in digital commerce, and support jobs for millions of creators and developers.

Another key area I’m passionate about is education. The metaverse could revolutionize the way we learn. We will be able to learn by doing and not just by passively absorbing information.

The metaverse also has the power to completely transform the world of work.

How does Meta aim to make the Metaverse more accessible to the public?

The Metaverse is about bringing the world together, and that’s also our company’s mission. Making the Metaverse accessible to more people is key to its success. This is based on improving access to the Internet, hardware and reliable experiences.

While we are at the beginning of this journey and a lot of infrastructure still needs to be built, we have already taken many steps in this direction. We invest to give more people access to fast, reliable internet, and support programs and research to make the metaverse accessible to more people.

For example, in 2020 we announced the 2Africa submarine cable, which will provide nearly three times the total network capacity of all submarine cables serving Africa today. Last year, the consortium added several new cable locations in Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.

We’re also building the metaverse in a way that will be accessible through many entry points, including through the mobile phones and apps people use today.

At a time when social media regulation — which has been around for over a decade — is still under scrutiny, what do you think of metaverse regulation?

The issue of regulation is hugely important because if our vision is for one billion people to access the metaverse as part of their daily lives within 10 years, we need to invest a lot of resources to make it a safe and secure place.

That’s why we created the Extended Reality Programs and Research Fund, a two-year, $50 million investment in external programs and research to responsibly build the metaverse.

Collectively, we can view this process as the development of a governance system for the Metaverse that will address how technologies and environments for the Metaverse can be developed in a safe, secure, interoperable, and inclusive manner.

For us, investing in the metaverse means investing resources in safety and security. And it shouldn’t be shaped by tech companies, like Meta, on their own. It must be developed openly in a spirit of cooperation between the private sector, legislators, civil society, academia and the people who will use these technologies.

One such multi-stakeholder initiative, titled “Defining and Building the Metaverse,” was launched this year at the World Economic Forum and focuses on two key areas: governance of the metaverse and economic and societal value.

With more and more businesses going digital – and, now, virtual in the metaverse – is there a threat to physical businesses?

It’s not about spending more time on screens. Real-life interaction is always better, but we are often limited by space and time to enjoy such moments whenever we want. Our vision for the Metaverse is to enhance our experiences, not replace in-person contact.

It’s ultimately about finding ever more ways to bring the benefits of the online world to our daily lives, enriching our experiences, not replacing them.

Digital transformation will only be enhanced by the metaverse. It will be possible to create more immersive, more social and more detailed experiences than ever before, all from your living room, or your spare room, or your garage, or wherever you do your Zoom meetings.

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