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The virtual world, or metaverse, seems to be on hold as tech companies commit more resources to artificial intelligence technology. 

The metaverse, a virtual world envisioned by the tech industry for business and pleasure, seems to have lost one of its biggest champions: Meta. 

Meta, formerly Facebook, bet hard on the virtual world. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with many others in the tech industry, claimed that the metaverse would revolutionize how people work, play games and surf the internet. The company even created its own division to develop its version of the metaverse: Reality Labs. However, after Reality Labs reported nearly $24 billion in losses over the past two years, Meta is shifting to the new zeitgeist: AI.

Seen as the newest and most important technological development at the time, AI has convinced millions inside and outside the tech industry of its potential. The OpenAI-created ChatGPT chatbot has already become an integral part of the lives of many consumers.

Mr. Zuckerberg announced last month that Meta was creating a new team to work on AI development.

“We’re creating a new top-level product group at Meta focused on generative AI to turbocharge our work in this area. We’re starting by pulling together a lot of the teams working on generative AI across the company into one group focused on building delightful experiences around this technology into all of our different products,” he said in a Facebook post.

The public pivot to AI comes after record layoffs at Meta and the rest of the tech industry. In preparation for more interest rate hikes and a recession, Meta fired 11,000 workers in November.

Tech billionaire and Twitter CEO Elon Musk rejoiced after it was announced that Disney was disbanding its 50-employee metaverse division. Mr. Musk, who has publicly criticized the metaverse, praised the announcement on Twitter.

The metaverse will likely not disappear, but only change. While Meta had hoped the virtual world would revolutionize the way people live, the metaverse has yet to find a foothold in a post-lockdown world.

As the metaverse pushed online business meetings, where people could customize an avatar and meet in a virtual space, more people are returning to the office. And the technology is more expensive and not as user-friendly as other video conferencing apps like Zoom.

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