Joint Saudi anime film ‘The Journey’ premieres in Hong Kong

Joint Saudi anime film ‘The Journey’ premieres in Hong Kong

INTERVIEW: We’re “about a decade away” from realizing the full potential of the Metaverse, says Meta Executive

DUBAI: The term “Metaverse” became as ubiquitous as Facebook did when the social media platform’s parent company changed its name to Meta last year, signaling its vision for the company’s future.

Meta has a goal of reaching 1 billion people across the Metaverse within the next 10 years and has made numerous investments in the last year alone to achieve that goal.

From startups to large conglomerates, a variety 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 more than $3 trillion globally within a decade, according to consultancy Analysis Group.

“We don’t yet know what the Metaverse economy will look like, but it’s hard to imagine that the direction of travel will change,” said Derya Matras, Meta’s vice president for the 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 provide “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 it has renamed itself.

Derya MatrasVice President for Middle East, Africa and Turkey at Meta.

What value does the metaverse bring to businesses and consumers that other media or channels can’t offer?

Bringing the metaverse fully to life is still about a decade away, although you can catch glimpses of it today. Once fully materialized, it will open up a whole new set of possibilities, taking human interaction to a new level.

Of course, nothing beats being together in person, but in times when that’s not possible, the metaverse will get pretty close. Interactions become more embodied and immersive.

We anticipate that the Metaverse will completely transform many areas of life, such as business, education, work, and healthcare.

For businesses, we expect the Metaverse to reach 1 billion people, host hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce, and support jobs for millions of creators and developers within the next decade.

Another important area that inspires me is education. The Metaverse could revolutionize the way we learn. We will be able to learn by doing and not just passively absorbing information.

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

How does Meta plan to make the Metaverse more accessible to audiences?

The Metaverse is about bringing the world closer together and that is our company’s mission. Making the metaverse accessible to more people is key to its success. That depends on improving access to reliable internet, hardware and experience.

While we are still at the beginning of this journey and much 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 aimed at making the metaverse accessible to more people.

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

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

What do you think of regulating the metaverse at a time when social media regulation – which has been around for over a decade – is still under scrutiny?

The issue of regulation is extremely important, because if our vision is that within 10 years, one billion people will be accessing the metaverse as part of their daily lives, then we need to invest a lot of resources to make it a safe place.

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

In summary, we can think of this process as developing a governance system for the metaverse that addresses how the 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 security. And it must not be shaped by tech companies like Meta alone. It must be developed openly and in a spirit of collaboration between the private sector, legislators, civil society, academia and the people who will use these technologies.

One such multi-stakeholder initiative called 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.

As more businesses go digital – and now virtual in the metaverse – is there a threat to physical businesses?

It’s not about spending more time in front of 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 face-to-face contact.

Ultimately, it’s about finding more and more ways to feel the benefits of the online world in our daily lives, enriching our experiences, not replacing them.

Digital transformation is only enhanced by the Metaverse. It will be possible to create more immersive, social, and in-depth experiences than ever before, all from your living room, guest room, garage, or wherever you hold your Zoom meetings.

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