We can now explore Meta’s first virtual world

Is this the metaverse?

Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook) is giving all adults in the U.S. and Canada access to Horizon Worlds, its virtual world. So, does this mean the metaverse has arrived?

What’s the metaverse? Tech experts are betting that tomorrow’s internet experience will be far more immersive than today’s. Instead of typing on phone or computer screens, we’ll don VR and AR headsets and use digital avatars to work, shop, socialize, and more in virtual worlds.

They’re calling this new version of the internet the “metaverse,” and in October, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was rebranding as “Meta” to formalize its commitment to this new evolution of the internet.

Meta has announced a $10 million “creators fund” to encourage users to build new experiences for its virtual world.

A virtual world: In 2019, Facebook announced the creation of its first virtual world for the metaverse: Facebook Horizon. While wearing an Oculus VR headset, users could socialize, build and play games, create their own spaces, and more in the free app.

The following year, it made the virtual world, now known as Horizon Worlds, available to select beta users, and now, it’s opening up access to all adults in the U.S. and Canada.

The Meta advantage: In addition to the expanded access, Meta has also announced the debut of Arena Crash, a new laser-tag game in Horizon Worlds — and really, there doesn’t seem to be much to do in the app other than build and play games. 

That’s not the next-generation internet we’ve been promised, nor is it something VR users couldn’t already do elsewhere (Rec Room, Roblox, etc.). But Horizon Worlds does have a couple of things going for it that those platforms don’t.

One is the adults-only aspect. Fewer than 3% of Facebook’s users are under the age of 18, so they might prefer a virtual world populated by adults over Rec Room or Roblox, where under-16 year olds dominate (this is assuming Meta can enforce the age restrictions).

Another is the amount of money Meta has available to pump into further developing Horizon Worlds.

In October, the company announced a $10 million “creators fund” to encourage users to build new experiences for its virtual world — they can secure funding to develop promising ideas or win cash prizes through mini competitions.

While it’s not the first metaverse company to offer money to those willing to put the time and effort into developing virtual world experiences, it has the deepest pockets —  Meta is worth about $900 billion compared to Roblox’s $38 billion and Rec Room’s $1.25 billion.  

The big picture: Zuckerberg appears committed to spending a lot of money to make the metaverse happen, too.

In October, he said he expected Meta to spend about $10 billion on metaverse tech in the next year alone — and the investment was likely to increase in subsequent years.

So, while Horizon Worlds might not seem all that unique right now, it could evolve very quickly into the metaverse of Zuckerberg’s dreams — or at least a neighborhood in it.

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