New Zealand film director Peter Jackson announced on Wednesday the sale of his Oscar-winning Weta Digital special effects business to an American software company that intends to use it to develop a virtual reality “metaverse.”

San Francisco-based Unity Software said the $1.6 billion (approximately Rs 11,896 crore) acquisition will “shape the future of virtual worlds”, an immersive 3D version of the internet that to transform the workplace and online interactive.

The company says Weta’s technology — used in blockbusters like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Avatar” — will allow its subscribers to create surreal corners of their own virtual worlds.

“We are delighted to democratize these industry-leading tools and bring the genius of Sir Peter Jackson and the amazing engineering talent of Weta to the lives of artists around the world,” said Unity President John Riccitiello in a statement.

Under the agreement, Unity took over the technical and engineering assets of Wellington-based Weta Digital, while Jackson retained a majority stake in an independent film effects company called WetaFX.

Jackson said the opportunity to use Weta’s groundbreaking program was a “game changer” for those working in the creative industries.

“Unity and Weta Digital together can create a way for any artist from any industry to take advantage of these incredibly creative and powerful tools,” he said.

The Metaverse is poised to evolve into an online platform that will make virtual experiences — such as chatting with friends or attending a concert — into face-to-face experiences.

It made headlines last month when Facebook changed its parent company’s name to Meta to reflect founder Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to the concept.

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Zuckerberg’s company has announced plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to build virtual worlds, but other tech companies are also scrambling for a place in the online world.

For example, the technology could allow people to wear virtual reality glasses that make them feel like they’re face-to-face with friends — when they’re actually of miles apart and connected via the internet.

“The metaverse has the potential to help unlock new creative, social and economic opportunities. Europeans will shape it from the start,” Facebook said in a blog post.

Zuckerberg predicted in July that Facebook would transform from “primarily a social media company to a metaverse company” within the next five years.

Facebook, which bought Oculus, a company that makes virtual reality headsets, in 2014 for $2 billion (approximately Rs 14,870 crore) has since been developing Horizon, a digital world where people can interact using VR technology.

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