Mark Zuckerberg has announced that his social media empire is building the world’s fastest artificial intelligence supercomputer as part of plans to create a virtual metaverse.

In a blog post, Zuckerberg stated that the metaverse, a concept that merges the physical and digital worlds through virtual and augmented reality, will necessitate “enormous” computing power. According to the company, the AI supercomputer, dubbed AI Research SuperCluster (RSC) by Zuckerberg’s Meta business, is already the fifth fastest in the world.

“The experiences we’re creating for the metaverse necessitate massive compute [sic] power (quintillions of operations per second!)” and RSC will enable new AI models that can learn from trillions of examples, understand hundreds of languages, and more,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. When completed in the summer, the RSC is expected to be the fastest computer of its kind, according to Meta researchers.

AI is capable of processing and detecting patterns in massive amounts of data by mimicking the underlying architecture of the brain in computer form. Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram, and the WhatsApp messaging service, collects a lot of information from its 2.8 billion daily users.

In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it was fined $5 billion for privacy violations, and Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and whistleblower, has warned that the company is focusing on expansion into new areas when it should be putting “more resources on very basic safety systems.”

The Meta researchers claimed that the RSC, which is made up of thousands of processors and is housed in an undisclosed location, would aid in the detection of harmful content on its platforms. The metaverse, which Meta admits is still years away from being a fully formed concept, is, however, an important part of the company’s plans for the computer. The researchers explain their findings in a blog post – Kevin Lee, a technical program manager at Meta, and Shubho Sengupta, a software engineer, said they expected the supercomputer to immediately translate conversations between gamers from different countries.

The Meta employees said it could allow large groups of people around the world to play a game based on augmented reality, where a digital layer is put over reality, normally via a user’s phone, although special headsets and glasses are in development at companies like Apple and the owner of Snapchat.

“We hope that RSC will assist us in developing entirely new AI systems that can, for example, power real-time voice translations to large groups of people, each speaking a different language, so they can seamlessly collaborate on a research project or play an AR game together,” the researchers wrote. “Ultimately, the work done with RSC will pave the way toward developing technologies for the next major computing platform – the metaverse, in which AI-driven applications and products will play a significant role.”

Users’ data is also encrypted end-to-end before being fed into the RSC, according to the researchers. “Before data is imported into RSC, it must go through a privacy review process to ensure that it has been properly anonymized.” The data is then encrypted before it can be used to train AI models,” said the researchers.

Separately, the UK’s data watchdog is seeking clarification from Meta regarding parental controls on its popular virtual reality headset, the Oculus Quest 2, after a campaign group’s research revealed multiple instances of abuse on VRChat, a top-selling social app for Oculus users.