Former Google Boss Eric Schmidt Casts Doubt On Facebook’s Metaverse

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Image credit: Facebook

Meta warning. Tech industry veteran Eric Schmidt sounds note of caution about Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse virtual world ambitions

Meta and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has received a note of caution over his Metaverse ambitions, from an industry veteran of the tech industry.

During an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday, former Google CEO and chairman Eric Schmidt sounded sceptical that Meta will succeed at building the metaverse.

Zuckerberg has made no secret of his desire to expand his futuristic ‘metaverse’ vision he revealed back in July, which will create immersive experiences that connect to work, games and real-world events.

Image credit: Facebook
Image credit: Facebook

Metaverse vision

To this end the social network said last month it would create 10,000 new jobs at Facebook across the European Union in order to expand the metaverse vision.

And then last week Facebook confirmed recent speculation of a major rebranding exercise when it announced it was changing its corporate holding company name from Facebook to ‘Meta’.

The rebrand positions the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent holding company (Meta), which oversees divisions such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, etc.

This is a similar structure that Google employed back in 2015, when Google (under the guidance of Eric Schmidt) became a separated unit under the holding company called Alphabet.

Zuckerberg has previously stated that he wants to create “metaverse” experiences over the next five years.

The term, coined from science fiction, refers to the use of VR technology and augmented reality to create a semi-autonomous virtual world that’s interconnected with physical reality.

Zuckerberg described the concept as an “embodied internet” where “instead of just viewing content – you are in it”, and said it could have benefits for people living far from large urban centres.

Zuckerberg said metaverse technology could allow people to experience a concert in 3D after watching it on a mobile phone screen.

He also discussed the idea of an “infinite office” that would allow users to create their ideal workplace using VR.

“Instead of just doing this over a phone call, you’ll be able to sit as a hologram on my couch, or I’ll be able to sit as a hologram on your couch, and it’ll actually feel like we’re in the same place, even if we’re in different states or hundreds of miles apart,” he said in July.

“Flattening out distance creates a lot more opportunities for people,” he added, noting that within five to 10 years “about half” of Facebook itself is likely to be working remotely.

Schmidt caution

But veteran Eric Schmidt during his CNBC interview reportedly sounded sceptical on Tuesday that Meta will succeed at building the metaverse.

“I look forward to excellent innovation in the metaverse,” Schmidt told CNBC’s “Squawk Box”. “I’ve been waiting for about thirty years. … As to whether Facebook will build that, I don’t know.”

Schmidt said he will continue to call the company Facebook, just as others call Alphabet “Google,” which he said is “how it really works.”

Eric Schmidt

The promise of the metaverse, he added, is powerful but could pose problems when people forgo real life for the virtual world.

And Schmidt warned that regulators, who for years seem to have been playing catchup on many tech developments, will need to figure out the implications of an augmented reality world and Facebook’s role in it.

“We’re going to have to figure it out,” Schmidt reportedly said about regulating the metaverse. “I don’t think we know. I don’t think regulators today have the right formulation or even how to discuss this.”

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