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Feb 25, 2022 9 min read

LATEST: What Meta/Facebook Are Doing in The Metaverse?

LATEST: What Meta/Facebook Are Doing in The Metaverse?
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Wiser! Essay: When Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would refocus on the Metaverse, it created more questions than answers. So, 6 months on and half a trillion dollars worse off, what is The Zuck up to?


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mark zuckerberg metaverse
Mark Zuckerberg (left) as a virtual reality avatar demonstrating how his company’s new AI tools allow you to create virtual environments by speaking what you want to see.Meta

Zuckerberg wants to build a voice assistant that blows Alexa and Siri away

BackStory:  On Wednesday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed more details of the Meta strategy during a keynote speech about the company’s latest developments in AI. This key part of his strategy for the Metaverse could analyze your voice, eye movements, and body language.

One of Meta's strategic goals is to make an AI voice assistant that is better than Alexa or Siri. This technology will be used in Meta's AR/VR products, like its Quest headset, Portal smart display, and Ray-Ban smart glasses.

“The kinds of experiences you’ll have in the Metaverse are beyond what’s possible today,” said Zuckerberg. “That’s going to require advances across a whole range of areas, from new hardware devices to software for building and exploring worlds. And the key to unlocking a lot of these advances is AI.”

TalkingPoint:  If Meta reaches its goal of using AI to make its AR/VR environments even more immersive and seamless in our daily lives, more problems around accessibility, safety, and discrimination are likely to surface. And though Facebook says it’s thinking about these concerns at the outset, its track record with its other products isn’t reassuring.

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Meta is building an AI translater for every language

Why?:  Universal translation is part of the company’s push to use AI for the creation of the Metaverse.

Meta wants you to understand anyone, from anywhere, no matter which language they speak. To do this, the company wants to develop a universal, instantaneous speech translator that can translate any language into any other language, even the main languages that people speak.

Mark Zuckerberg talked about this goal at the AI-themed event on Wednesday. He called it a "key step" toward a world-encompassing "Metaverse." A superpower that people have dreamed of for years is the ability to communicate with anyone in any language. AI will make that happen in our lifetimes.

Meta is working on a big project to make it easier for people to speak different languages in the metaverse. “This is going to be especially important when people begin teleporting across virtual worlds and experiencing things with people from different backgrounds,” Zuckerberg said.

Some Meta AI researchers are working on an AI model called "No Language Left Behind" that they say can learn new languages with less training data than other machine translation models. This means that it should be easier for Meta's AI to understand languages like Luganta, which is spoken by about 2 million people in Uganda.

Going even further, the company’s “Universal Speech Translator” is supposed to be able to translate speech directly to speech without first transcribing it.

Zuckerberg and the AI researchers at Meta also used Wednesday's event to announce many other AI projects that will help the company's metaverse project, like algorithms that will make it easier for people to make VR worlds with the help of AI assistants. To help with this, Meta's researchers built a "Builder Bot," which Zuckerberg showed off in a short video that made a beach scene with palm trees and a picnic table with just a few words.

You'll be able to make more detailed worlds and share them with others with just your voice as we improve this technology.

Meta filed a hologram patent for ‘3D conversations’

BackStory:  Meta wants to enable 3D calls for everything from VR headsets to smartphones

Meta, then Facebook, filed a patent application in 2020 called "3D Conversations in an Artificial Reality Environment." It shows how to capture and send 3D representations of callers, which "allows conversation participants to appear as if they were face-to-face."

There are many different types of devices and applications that are covered in the patent. Meta is trying to get a process for capturing and transmitting your body in 3D so that it can be seen on an AR headset, a phone, or some new technology that hasn't come out yet.

In other words, the goal is to make it feel like the other person is in the same room as you.

Meta's patent shows that the company wants to use realistic 3D images to show body language in order to have more natural conversations. In contrast to typical video calls, which tend to only show the face, this one shows more of the person.

But it's not all plain sailing in the Metaverse

December:  MetaFacebook made its first move in the Metaverse when it opened up Horizon Worlds to all Quest headset users in the US and Canada at the end of last year. Since then, its monthly active users have grown tenfold, to 300,000, per The Verge.

Remember, pre the pivot to Meta Platforms, Facebook had been dabbling in social Virtual Reality hangouts since 2016 with Oculus Rooms and 2017’s Facebook Spaces (both now defunct). The company has even been hosting major VR concerts on the event-focused Oculus Venues platform since 2018. But that was then and this is now. The world's largest social network has decided it needs to go in a new direction. A decision that has already wiped $500 billion in value off Facebook!

Sales:  MetaFacebook doesn’t disclose headset sales, but Qualcomm estimated that the company had sold over 10 million of its Quest 2 units as of November 2021. In a separate report, IDC estimated that Meta sold between 5.3 million and 6.8 million VR devices in 2021.

However, with user growth has come heightened scrutiny around an increasingly familiar thorn in the Facebook parent company’s side: content moderation. In recent months, reporting has raised questions about a number of key Metaverse moderation issues, like child safety, alleged sexual harassment, and misinformation.

One example includes 2 women who have alleged that their avatars were virtually groped by others in Horizon Worlds or Venues.

Two weeks ago, Meta introduced a “personal boundary”, a form of virtual social distancing to create a non-touching space around each avatar. It's a feature that can’t be disabled. Meta’s Horizon Worlds and Venues have seen rapid growth in recent months, but from a very small base. And as The Verge points out, it’s impossible to know if Meta can sustain that growth rate.

But as the company invests more and more resources into building a VR experience capable of captivating the masses, it will continue to face questions about how to keep that platform safe for an increasingly bigger user base.

wiser newsletter rick huckstep insights and information from the tech economy

Meta calls time on a new AR/VR operating system

BackStory:  MetaFacebook has confirmed that they have broken up the team developing new AR and VR operating systems.

Meta Platforms, known to everyone else in the world as Facebook, has split up a group of more than 300 employees working on operating systems for its virtual and augmented reality devices, according to three people with knowledge of the situation and reported in The Information

The company dispersed the team that had been working for about 4 years on a new OS from scratch. The project code-name was XROS and it was intended to power the company’s VR headsets and upcoming AR glasses.

The reorganization marks another nail in the coffin for the project after Meta halted its development late last year. The move also suggests Meta is trying to limit some costs and move faster as it charts a risky and expensive course toward a digital future it calls the metaverse while its Facebook-based advertising business struggles.

"People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly,"
CEO Mark Zuckerberg told AFP News.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has TikTok in its sights.

TikTok:  On Tuesday, MetaFacebook launched its Instagram Reels product globally for all Facebook users. Reels is a huge deal for Meta: On the company’s most recent earnings call, Zuckerberg said it’s the company’s fastest-growing content format.

In fact, "reels" was mentioned twice as often as "metaverse" on the earnings call...a sure sign that Meta wanted to message to get out there (that this is a big deal).

w/Further Reading

It’s all about ME as facebook’s troubles continue
Wiser! on Facebook: Facebook’s troubles continue following the disaster that was the earnings call 2 weeks ago. Now Google had added more pain to Zuckerberg’s world. Meanwhile, he’s decided to revamp the corporate values...and it’s all about ME!
The Metaverse: Facebook’s big bet (Part 1)
Wiser! #43 (Premium): When Facebook, the world’s largest social network, renames to “Meta”, it positions the Metaverse as the Next Computing Platform, aka Web3, the next generation of the Internet.
10 Highest Grossing NFT Art Sales of 2021
Wiser! Essay: In January 2021, hardly anyone could spell N-F-T. By December, NFT was Word of the Year and the market was worth $40 billion. If you’re asking yourself what that was all about...read on!

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w/Sources of Insight and Information

Meta Platforms Dissolves Team Developing New AR and VR Operating System. Source: The Information

Mark Zuckerberg wants to build a Metaverse voice assistant for Facebook that blows Alexa and Siri away. Source: Vox

Meta filed a patent for hologram-like ‘3D conversations’. Source: The Next Web

Meta AI: company builds translation engine for the Metaverse - Source: Protocol

Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 has shipped 10 million units, according to Qualcomm. Source: The Verge

Oculus launches social VR hangout “Rooms” and phone calls. Source: TechCrunch

For more on MetaFacebook, check out the 37 insights, newsletters and essays that include insights and information on the world's largest social network in Wiser! Collections. ⬇️

Collection of Insights about Meta Platforms, inc Facebook and Instagram
Collection of Insights, Essays and Articles about Meta Platforms and the Facebook family of apps, inc Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

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