Meta Connect 2022: Horizon and Avatars - All News at a Glance
Meta's avatars and Metaverse project Horizon are getting new features and improvements. Here is an overview of all announcements.
Mark Zuckerberg announced ahead of Meta Connect 2022 that Horizon and Meta avatars will receive updates unveiled at the event. Meta's CEO was responding to criticism of an avatar selfie that showed Meta's technologies in an unflattering light.
At the keynote, Meta devoted two thematic blocks to Meta avatars and the proto-metaverse Horizon. This shows how important these areas are for Meta. You can watch the corresponding video excerpts below.
Horizon Worlds is so far only available in the US, Canada, Iceland, Ireland, the UK, France, and Spain, while the Meta avatars are not subject to any regional restrictions.
Horizon Worlds is coming to the web
Horizon won't be limited to virtual reality in the future. To reach more people, Horizon Worlds is expanding to the web, with the goal of being accessible on as many devices as possible, including laptops and smartphones.
Meta spent few words on the specific implementation of this plan. What is known is that VR users will be able to send URLs via Messenger and Whatsapp, allowing friends to participate in events and locations in Horizon Worlds without a headset.
Better graphics thanks to new creator tools
Horizon Worlds' graphics features and interactions are rudimentary. For this reason, Meta is working on a number of new features that will create new opportunities for creators.
- Horizon Worlds will support the TypeScript language. This should help create "more dynamic and interactive worlds."
- In the future, it should be possible to create high-quality 3D models in programs like Maya, Blender, and Adobe Substance 3D and import them into Horizon Worlds instead of creating them by hand in Horizon Worlds.
- In the same vein is a collaboration with Epic Games. The two companies are working on an integration with Sketchfab, the world's largest 3D model library. Creators will be able to incorporate Creative Commons-licensed content into their worlds.
Meta's goal is to enable more detailed, complex, and beautiful worlds in Horizon Worlds. According to Meta, "it will take a while" to implement said features.
YouTube VR for Meta Horizon Home
Meta and Google are working on integrating Youtube VR into Horizon Home, so you could watch Youtube with friends right in the Home environment - along with multitasking support so you can surf the web or work at the same time.
A more personalized home
In addition to Horizon Home, there's another virtual home for VR users. The so-called Personal Space in Horizon Worlds, a free-roaming virtual apartment.
Meta announced before Meta Connect 2022 that Personal Space would be further expanded and receive new features. Users will be able to set "house rules," invite specific friends, mute guests, or kick them out of the virtual apartment. At the keynote, Meta hinted at other innovations such as greater personalization and access from other devices.
Partnership with NBCUniversal
Next year will see the launch of a collaboration with NBCUniversal. The two companies plan to bring content from The Office and Blumhouse, the DreamWorks animation studio, Universal Monsters, and Halloween Horror Nights to VR. NBCUniversal's Peacock video streaming service is also slated to appear for Meta Quest.
Reels exporting to Instagram
In the future, it will be possible to record short movies in VR and easily share them as reels on Instagram. Meta is also working with Instagram creators on worlds for Horizon Worlds.
More realistic Meta avatars
Meta promises a new generation of Meta avatars that look better and are more expressive and detailed than current alter egos.
Mark Zuckerberg previewed the new avatars during the keynote by slipping into an avatar of himself. It is unclear whether what was shown is really what we can expect, since Zuckerberg's avatar was presumably custom-made and recorded via motion capture.
Meta also promises more customization options in terms of appearance, new shaders for more realistic skin rendering, and custom avatar actions and behaviors that developers can incorporate into apps.
Meta avatars get legs
Meta's legless VR avatars continue to cause wonder and ridicule. At Meta Connect 2022, the company announced that its own avatars are finally getting legs. First this year in Horizon Worlds, then in other VR apps in 2023. Developers will have access to the full-body avatars via an SDK.
The position of the legs is still not recorded but rather estimated by artificial intelligence. Because this estimate does not necessarily correspond to the actual position of the legs and this circumstance can irritate VR users, the user's own legs are only visible to others, but not to him or herself. The presentation of the avatar legs during the keynote was staged and does not correspond to the current state of the art.
Meta's Avatar Store starts
Later this year, Meta plans to launch an avatar store where people can buy virtual clothing from well-known brands. The store marks the beginning of Meta's marketplace for metaverse goods.
"We're working with partners across sports, entertainment, and more to ensure that you can find clothes that fit your personal style," the Oculus blog says.
Expressive avatars thanks to eye and face tracking
Meta Quest Pro will start shipping at the end of October. Owners can activate eye and face tracking and have eye movements and facial expressions transferred to Meta avatars in real time.
Automated avatar creation via selfie
Meta is working on an AI that creates avatars from selfies. This saves time and may produce a more accurate alter ego than if you set the parameters yourself. A similar feature was offered years ago by Meta's first social VR app, Facebook Spaces, which was discontinued in 2019.
Video calls as a meta avatar
Also inspired by Facebook Spaces is the ability to make video calls from virtual reality and appear as an avatar to the other person. The feature, coming next year, extends to calls via Messenger, Instagram, and Whatsapp.
Meta avatars in Zoom
Meta avatars are expected to expand to non-Meta platforms in the future. During the keynote, Meta announced the first steps in this direction.
- Meta-Avatars will become compatible with Zoom, allowing you to appear as a Meta avatar in video conferences.
- The Meta Avatars SDK will soon support iOS and Android apps developed with Unity. Meta is testing this functionality with select partners and plans to roll it out to more developers next year.
Meta also announced that the SDK will soon support VR games that are and were developed with Unreal Engine. This feature is also expected to be completely rolled out in 2023.