Web Summit 2022: Metaverse will not replace meeting in person, says Meta’s head of product
“I would define the metaverse as the future of the internet.” That was the view of Naomi Gleit, head of product at Meta, when she spoke at the Web Summit in Lisbon last Friday.
“If we experience the internet today in two dimensions, in the future I think we’ll experience the internet in three dimensions,” Gleit explained.
As the one-year anniversary of Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to rebrand Facebook (the holding company, not the platform) as Meta came around only last month, Gleit spoke about the company’s vision for the metaverse, attempting to smooth out some of the misconceptions around the much anticipated virtual world.
“I think a lot of people think that the metaverse is about gaming, and it’s definitely not,” she clarified first.
“I’m not a huge gamer, and one thing I’ve been doing a lot in [virtual reality] was actually watching movies with my family,” Gleit explained, adding that her cousin also works in Meta as a film producer, and that he makes films for virtual reality.
“I mean, we were just watching a nature documentary series called Kingdom of Plants which is a feature guided by David Attenborough,” she enthused.
“There’s also a common misconception that the metaverse is going to replace coming together in person, but nothing is going to replace being together in person,” Gleit enforced before explaining that watching films with her family through the metaverse came into play only when they couldn’t do so in person over the last couple of years.
Gleit also described how she and Meta colleagues use the technology to hold meetings in metaverse ‘workrooms’.
“During Covid, I was on a lot of Zoom calls, and calls from Zoom are two-dimensional. I would have preferred to be in the office as a product manager [as] someone who’s always on the whiteboard and around the table collaborating,” said Gleit. “On Zoom, I see boxes of faces, and the audio is from my computer speaker.”
“So what we did instead is work together, or meet, in workrooms, which is actually really awesome,” supported Gleit. “It feels like we’re all sitting around the table and the spatial audio technology is really amazing. If you’re sitting to the left of me, I hear your voice coming from the left of me.”
Gleit also explained that there’s also the ability to understand facial expressions and eye movements whilst looking straight at a person, comparing it to video calls where someone could be looking down, or the speaker is looking directly at the camera.
“These are things that have really improved my experience of working remotely, even today.”
The head of product also explained how the metaverse can also aid in other workplace and educational environments, particularly in the healthcare space.
She described how UCLA is using VR to help train their medical students, and that in hospitals they are also using VR to help train doctors to perform better surgeries.
Additionally, Gleit spoke about another common rumour that Meta will own the entire metaverse, which she also took time to clear up: “No one company can own the metaverse in the same way that no one company owns the internet.”
“You don’t have Apple Internet and Microsoft Internet,” she explained. “There are so many companies investing in building out the metaverse, and I think that it’s really important that it becomes something that’s open.”
Ultimately, “as the arc of technology becomes more and more immersive”, envisions Gleit, “in the future, we hope that everyone will have a VR headset of AR device.”
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