Microsoft president downplays metaverse 'hype'

Hot on the heels of Facebook's rebranding as Meta last week and a day after Microsoft touted its metaverse-related projects in a blog post, Smith tempered the "hype" around the metaverse, a concept overlaying digital and physical worlds.

"We're all talking about the metaverse as if we're entering some new dimension. This is not like dying and going to heaven. We're all going to be living in the real world with people," Smith observed, before calling for collaboration and interoperability in the metaverse's development.

Facebook, used by nearly 3 billion people, changed its name to Meta amid strong criticism of its business practices to focus on building the "metaverse," a shared virtual environment it bets will succeed the mobile internet.

"I think (the metaverse) will be very big... and quite important," Smith said. "We have to ensure that it protects privacy, digital safety and protects against disinformation, manipulation. We have a lot to clean up."

Reflecting on the explosion of interest in a technological vision which has existed for years, Smith noted it was important not to let the "hype" obscure the longer-term technology trends.

Although early adopters of the virtual worlds known as the metaverse have blasted Facebook's rebranding as an attempt to capitalise on a concept it did not create to deflect criticism, Smith said Big Tech actors like Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple would likely each develop their own versions.

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