Apple iPod creator warns the metaverse will encourage trolls

Apple’s iPod creator has warned the so-called metaverse risks creating more trolls and damaging human interaction.

The virtual reality-based metaverse removes the ability “to look into the other person’s face,” Tony Fadell said.

“If you put technology between that human connection that’s when the toxicity happens,” he said.

The metaverse is a virtual reality realm where it is envisioned people can create avatars of themselves to interact with others in online worlds.

It will be used for playing games but also in spaces such as work and music concerts and often accessed through a virtual reality headset.

Facebook co-creator and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is investing billions of dollars and hiring thousands of workers to create a metaverse.

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  • Facebook, which also owns Instagram, Whatsapp and Oculus among others, changed the name of its parent company to Meta last year.

    While Mr Fadell said the technology behind the metaverse has merit: “When you’re trying to make social interaction and social connection, when you can’t look into the other person’s face, you can’t see their eyes you don’t have real humanistic ways of connecting.

    “It become disintermediated and you have the ability at that point to create more trolls, people who hide behind things and then use that to their advantage to get attention.”

    He added: “We need to regain control of that human connection, we don’t need more technology between us.”

    Tech giant Microsoft and Epic Games, the owner of the computer game Fornite, are also both investing heavily in the metaverse.

    Microsoft is adding 3D virtual avatars and environments to its Teams chat system which are expected to go live this year.

    Mr Zuckerberg has said the metaverse is “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content – you are in it”.

    He said told The Verge that people should not be living through “small, glowing rectangles” such as their phones.

    “A lot of the meetings that we have today, you’re looking at a grid of faces on a screen. That’s not how we process things either.”

    However, the metaverse has also prompted criticism and concerns over safety due to the ability of people to create and hide behind avatars.

    Ken Kutaragi, who invented Sony’s PlayStation game console, said: “You would rather be a polished avatar instead of your real self? That’s essentially no different from anonymous message board sites.”

    Mr Fadell said: “We had the same problem with text-based commenting and with blogs, we’ve had it with videos now we’re going to have it in metaverse.”

    Mr Fadell was speaking after Apple said it will discontinue the iPod Touch.

    The portable music device, which has launched 21 years ago, revolutionised the way that people listen to and store songs. Mr Fadell also co-created Apple’s iPhone.

    Commenting on the end of the iPod, Mr Fadell said: “I’ve been in the technology business long enough to know the drum beat of technology and the march of technology never ends and so, that was an amazing period of time for the iPod but unfortunately that’s the business we’re in so I’ve got used to that situation.”

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