Facebook announces $50 million investment in 'responsible' metaverse development

Facebook said it plans to work with experts in government, industry and research institutions like Howard University to think through potential issues with the metaverse concept.

Facebook said on Monday that it would be investing $50 million into its metaverse projects to ensure they are "developed responsibly," according to a new blog post from Facebook vice presidents Andrew Bosworth and Nick Clegg.

Clegg and Bosworth said Facebook is concerned about how the metaverse concept will handle economic opportunity, privacy, safety, equity, and inclusion issues. 

The two explained that the XR Programs and Research Fund will last for two years and will involve collaborations with "industry partners, civil rights groups, governments, nonprofits and academic institutions to determine how to build these technologies responsibly."

Facebook announced that through the effort, it would be working with the Organization of American States on the job training and skills development for students, creators and small business owners as well as organizations like Africa No Filter, Electric South and Imisi3D on an immersive technology digital storytelling project called "Amplifying African Voices."

Facebook also will partner with Women In Immersive Tech to support women and underrepresented groups working in the virtual, augmented and mixed reality sectors in Europe. 

Seoul National University will also do external research on metaverse projects. The University of Hong Kong -- which will focus on safety, ethics and responsible design -- as well as the National University of Singapore's Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & the Law at the Faculty of Law on a study about privacy and data use. 

Funding will also go toward research into the history of diversity in IT and potential issues with access to the metaverse by teams at Howard University. 

Clegg and Bosworth defined the metaverse as a "set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren't in the same physical space as you."

"You'll be able to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create and more. It's not necessarily about spending more time online -- it's about making the time you do spend online more meaningful," the two said. 

"The metaverse isn't a single product one company can build alone. Just like the internet, the metaverse exists whether Facebook is there or not. And it won't be built overnight. Many of these products will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years. While that's frustrating for those of us eager to dive right in, it gives us time to ask the difficult questions about how they should be built."

Facebook said there needs to be extensive work done on making sure metaverse products are interoperable so that different companies and services can work together. 

The company also said human rights and civil rights communities will be needed to provide guidance on how to make sure the spaces are "inclusive and empowering."

"The metaverse won't be built overnight by a single company. We'll collaborate with policymakers, experts and industry partners to bring this to life," Clegg and Bosworth wrote.

"We develop technology rooted in human connection that brings people together. As we focus on helping to build the next computing platform, our work across augmented and virtual reality and consumer hardware will deepen that human connection regardless of physical distance and without being tied to devices."

In August, Facebook launched Oculus Horizon Workrooms, which aims to bring the metaverse to work and collaboration.