Facebook Inc will invest $50 million (€42.7 million) to partner with organisations to build the so-called metaverse — a digital world where people can move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment — in a responsible manner, it said on Monday.
Facebook, the world's largest social network, has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies. The company has been criticised over its impact on online safety.
The new XR Programmes and Research Fund will invest the money globally over two years to ensure metaverse technologies are “built in a way that's inclusive and empowering,” Facebook said.
The company said it plans to work with researchers across four areas including data privacy and safety, in order to provide tools or give users the ability to get help if they see something in the metaverse that makes them uncomfortable.
It will also research how to design technologies that are inclusive and accessible to all users, and also “encourage competition” in the nascent industry, Facebook added in a blog post.
The new fund comes as Facebook faces scrutiny in a wide range of online issues, such as the spread of disinformation and social media's negative impact on teens.
On Thursday, a Facebook executive will testify at a US Senate committee hearing on the impact of the company's Instagram app on young users' mental health.
Initial partners for Facebook's new metaverse fund include Howard University in Washington D.C., which will research the history of diversity in the information technology 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, Facebook said. -Reuters