Meta has announced a significant new investment in the Canadian tech sector, with a pledge to build a new, 2,500 staff engineering hub in Toronto, as well as the launch of a new, $500k grant program for Canadian researchers to fund new explorations into metaverse-aligned technologies.
First off, on its new engineering hub –as part of an expansion of its existing Canadian Reality Labs and AI Research teams, Meta is building a new, purpose-built engineering lab, focused on next generation development.
As per Meta:
“The majority of roles are engineering-focused and expected to span across building extended reality experiences and Meta technologies. We’re also establishing the first Canadian WhatsApp, Messenger and Remote Presence engineering teams and growing our Canadian Reality Labs and AI Research teams. These new, highly-skilled jobs will offer a blend of in-office and remote work options, creating economic opportunity for Canadian talent in every region of the country.”
The investment follows on from Meta’s recent announcement of a new, 2,000 staff ‘Meta Lab’ in Madrid, where it will explore new ways for Europeans to connect with each other in the next stage of digital connectivity.
In addition to this, Meta’s also launching a new grants program for Canadian researchers, with 17 projects getting $30k each to continue their work.
The projects being funded range from user-adaptive and personalized interactive systems, to AI and ‘hyper-connected virtual-physical objects’, all exploring new, advanced methods of digital connection and interaction, that will be critical for the next stage.
Which is still some way off as yet.
Despite what some trendjumpers and ‘first-movers’ may want to suggest, many elements of the metaverse are still entirely conceptual, and Meta’s taking on a huge amount of staff overhead and investment in the hopes that these bets will eventually pay off.
Which is still not certain. Despite Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg being considered a visionary, and the company being one of the largest tech firms in the world, there is still a question as to whether its metaverse vision will come to fruition, and evolve into the all-consuming, immersive, multi-purpose medium that Zuck and Co. want to see.
Adding further context on this aspect, Meta also included this description of the metaverse within its announcement:
“The metaverse is the next evolution in social technologies and the successor to the mobile internet. It will be made up of digital spaces, including immersive 3D experiences, that are all interconnected so you can easily move between them, and has the potential to unlock access to new creative, social and economic opportunities. In the future, you’ll be able to access the metaverse from various devices, including VR headsets and AR glasses.”
How, exactly, all of these technologies end up being interwoven remains to be seen, with interoperability being both a critical element, and key potential fail point of the broader metaverse picture.
Which is why Meta is investing so heavily – so much so that its investment in metaverse-aligned projects is essentially what shrunk its profits in Q4 2021, sending shares in Meta sinking.
These new staffing and infrastructure announcements show that it’s not reverting course, and it’s firmly committed to its metaverse vision – which likely means that Meta investors will be in for more rocky earnings announcements for some time yet.
Canada, meanwhile, is the main beneficiary, with a huge amount of new investment into the emerging Toronto tech scene.
“Canada is poised to have a critical role in building for the next evolution in social technologies, so we plan to help further establish the country as a global leader in this effort.”
It’s interesting to note Meta’s global expansion in this respect, especially in regards to how it’s going about choosing locations, with tax relief – generally the biggest guiding factor for such in the past – now seeming like less of a consideration (though, of course, these investments won’t change its overall income process).
It’ll be interesting to see how these thousands of new staff accelerate Zuckerberg’s grand vision, and whether that does indeed see its full metaverse scenario begin to take shape, sooner rather than later.
You can read more about the projects being funded by Meta’s new grants program here.