The last time Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook and Meta, discussed his company’s plan to build a metaverse (indeed, it was just two months ago) he promised “legs are coming soon.” His words were no doubt intended as reassurance for investors worried that the multibillion-dollar project—which will allow people to appear in virtual worlds as three-dimensional avatars—isn’t getting much traction.
It’s been a long road since Zuckerberg announced last October that his social-networking company would change its name to Meta and refocus on virtual reality. His firm has already spent billions on developing its headset and software, and bought up companies even tangentially related to VR.
Meta’s hope is that, in the future, billions of people will inhabit immersive digital environments where they work and play. They will wear headsets, such as those made by Oculus (which Facebook owns) or Sony’s PlayStation VR, and control a virtual avatar that can be dressed up and customized to look just like them. They will shop at online stores that offer goods and services, and they will play video games in a virtual arena where they can gather with friends to watch movies in a virtual theater.
To achieve that goal, Meta is working on a system called Universal Avatars, which will allow users’ avatars to move between different platforms, including those run by rival companies. For example, if you buy an outfit for your avatar in one game, it should show up in another—though that may take some time as developers work out the kinks of how Universal Avatars will operate.