The social network is doubling…

The social network is doubling down on the metaverse….

Metaverse and life in virtual reality

CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he believes people will start seeing Facebook as a metaverse company in the next five years.

Illustration by James Martin/CNET

Facebook is expected to unveil more details about its vision for the future of virtual reality and augmented reality on Thursday at its annual conference.

The social media giant has been betting big on what it calls the “metaverse,” a virtual space where people can be present with friends and family like they’re there in person. Work on the metaverse has already begun. Facebook has been building new versions of its virtual reality headsets and recently partnered with Ray-Ban on its first pair of smart glasses.

“I view this work as critical to our mission because delivering a sense of presence — like you’re right there with another person – that’s the holy grail of online social experience,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Monday, ahead of the Facebook Connect conference. 

The big event comes during another rough week for the social media giant. Several news outlets published a series of stories on Monday from a trove of leaked Facebook documents, underscoring the challenges the company faces as it tries to police content globally. Concerned that Facebook prioritizes its profits over user safety, Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower, gathered the documents before she left Facebook in May. The Wall Street Journal also used some of these documents earlier in their series known as The Facebook Files.

Zuckerberg addressed the leaked documents on Monday, noting the company is trying to balance free expression with efforts to reduce harmful content. More than 40,000 people work on safety and security at Facebook and the social network expects to spend more than $5 billion on safety and security in 2021, he said. Content moderation in virtual reality, though, has its own challenges.

Here’s what you need to know about Facebook Connect:

When

The conference kicks off on Thursday at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET. 

Where

The conference is being streamed live on Facebook.

What to expect

Facebook has said it’s working on a Pro version of its Oculus Quest headset. The company could provide more details about that product. With the release of its first smart glasses, the social network might provide details about what’s next as it develops augmented reality glasses. 

The conference could also be an opportunity for Facebook to talk about its work with creators and developers, who will be essential for building out its next apps for Facebook’s metaverse. The company is already testing a virtual reality workplace app and a VR social space known as Horizon Worlds. 

Meanwhile, there’s also rumors that Facebook could rebrand itself with a new name during the conference. The company said Monday it’s planning to break out reporting for Facebook Reality Labs, which houses its augmented and virtual reality efforts. Zuckerberg said the company plans to invest $10 billion this year in its metaverse efforts. 

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