Microsoft's Brad Smith plays down metaverse hype, says lots of work needs to be done

The company just announced Mesh for Teams, a "gateway to the metaverse".
The company just announced Mesh for Teams, a "gateway to the metaverse". Photo credit: Supplied

Microsoft president Brad Smith has played down the "hype" around the metaverse while calling for tech firms to collaborate and ensure interoperability in its development.

Just a day after the tech giant announced some of its own plans surrounding the metaverse, Smith said there's lots of work to be done to ensure it is fit for purpose.

"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.

"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."

He also said Big Tech firms like Microsoft, Google and Apple would still likely join Facebook in developing their own versions.

"Everyone is going to be entering this," he said.

Smith's comments come just over a week after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his company's plan to rebrand as Meta to better reflect its future plans as a metaverse company.

Early adopters of the concept, which was first created by writer Neal Stephenson in his novel Snow Crash, have already criticised Facebook's rebranding as an attempt to deflect criticisms of the platform.

Those came amid growing scrutiny of the social media giant's power, with particular focus on its algorithms, how it deals with abuse and its impact on children.

It put plans for Instagram Kids on hold after the Wall Street Journal reported the company knew it caused teen girls to feel badly about their self-image and whistleblower Frances Haugen testified in the US Senate that the company's products "harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy".

Smith's comments come hot on the heels of the announcement of Mesh, a Microsoft Teams feature that "aims to make collaboration in the metaverse personal and fun" and something the company describes as a "gateway to the metaverse".

Mesh was announced at the company's Ignite conference yesterday and will start rolling out in 2022, taking advantage of both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Eventually users will be able to project themselves into virtual working spaces as an avatar or as a basic hologram, where a photorealistic representation can interact with others.

The avatars would reflect the body language and facial expressions of the users so others in the virtual environment would be able interpret those signals as they would in real life.