Facebook, the American social media giant, has announced a $50 million investment to partner with organizations to responsibly build the virtual world, the metaverse, where people can use different devices to move and communicate.
The company has invested in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.
Facebook explained that the Extended Reality (XR) Programs and Research Fund will invest $50 million over two years in programs and external research to ensure metaverse technologies are “built in a way that’s inclusive and empowering”. Through this fund, it will collaborate with industry partners, civil rights groups, governments, nonprofits, and academic institutions to determine how to build these technologies responsibly.
The company said it plans to work with researchers across four areas including economic opportunity, data privacy, equity and inclusion, and safety and integrity, to allow users to get help if something they see in the metaverse makes them uncomfortable.
Howard University in Washington DC is said to be a partner in the new metaverse fund and will research the history of diversity in the IT industry and how it could shape opportunity in the metaverse. Seoul National University and the University of Hong Kong will research safety, ethics, and responsible design.
It is also working with the Organization of American States on the job training and skills development for students, creators and small business owners. The Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & the Law at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore will study other topics such as privacy and data use.
The company also owns popular apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp platforms that could act as building blocks of the first metaverse prototypes. The augmented and virtual reality technology and consumer hardware will deepen the human connection regardless of physical distance and without being tied to devices.