Meta shows new Metaverse vision and a concept for a next-gen headset
In its new Metaverse vision, Meta fights against the devaluation of the virtual – and shows the benefits of technology for medicine and education.
Critics of Facebook’s Metaverse question the point of a 3D Internet or fear a dystopia in which Meta lures people into a virtual world where they then waste as much of their lives as possible – for the sake of Meta’s advertising revenue.
Virtuality is not the opposite of reality
With a new promotional video, Meta is responding very directly to critical voices that fear a devaluation of reality due to the rise of the virtual – or that Meta is only interested in advertising revenue, as it mainly has been for the past 18 years.
The company deliberately emphasizes that experiences made or things learned in the virtual have real value. It also shows how XR can enrich the real world. In the Metaverse unveiling, the focus was more on purely virtual and abstract, colorful worlds.
“Some say the Metaverse is just virtual,” the video begins, then segues into some positive scenarios for medicine and education, ending on a positive note: “The Metaverse may be virtual, but the impact will be real.”
“Many of the benefits of the metaverse will be unlocked by advances that are still to come. But they are within reach. We hope this video shows that its impact on education, healthcare and much more will be very real,” writes Metas PR chief Nick Clegg.
Reality Check for Metas XR Vision
Particularly interesting is the VR AR headset that Meta introduces as part of this Metaverse vision – as opposed to the slim AR glasses that play no role in the video.
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There are reasons for that: There is already visual contact to a slim mixed reality headset like the one in the video. Project Cambria and Apple’s XR headset could almost achieve this form factor. The generation after that should certainly make it. Slim AR headsets suitable for everyday use, on the other hand, are an unsolved task.
The surgery example is technically realistic and probably feasible today with already available professional XR glasses like those from Varjo. Hand tracking works and is quite precise purely via the camera vision. The tracking thimbles on the doctor’s fingers could further increase precision for surgery training and could be an indication of the additional input options Meta is currently working on.
Then there are the pure VR scenarios in the lecture hall and the virtual class excursion to ancient Rome: Here, the most striking thing is the lifelike audiovisual presentation, which is indistinguishable from reality – it’s already Matrix-level, especially with the avatars.
Considering the rapid development in computer graphics and advances in new AI-based rendering methods like NERFs, this scenario is not a complete pipe dream either – even if it is significantly further in the future than the two previously discussed scenarios in terms of rendered quality. Meta has also recently made technical progress with photorealistic avatars.