Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Will Finally Have Legs

Mark Zuckerberg has announced that his company will take an important step to make its virtual reality metaverse avatars more realistic: by giving them legs.

Since Zuckerberg unveiled his great metaverse ambitions nearly a year ago — betting his company’s future on the idea that the next era of the internet will depend on virtual and augmented reality — many have criticized the tech giant’s plans like unrealisticand mocked that 3D digital avatars meant to mimic our bodies currently lack lower limbs.

Zuckerberg himself was ridiculed online when he enthusiastically shared a screenshot of his avatar on his Facebook page in August.

Shortly after, Zuckerberg promised “major graphical updates” coming to meta avatars, and he delivered this update at Tuesday’s annual Meta Connect developer event, when he announced that legs would be coming to the metaverse.

“I know you’ve been waiting for this. Everyone was waiting for this,” said a visually enhanced avatar version of Zuckerberg during Tuesday’s presentation. “But seriously, the legs are tough, which is why other VR systems don’t have them either.”

The fact that Zuckerberg is now prioritizing legs in the Metaverse shows just how important public perception of the Metaverse is, and that the toughest challenge to Metaverse success can be fixing the seemingly simple (albeit technically complex) visual issues. of technology. Meta must show that he is in touch with reality, even if he is building an alternate universe. It’s a particularly crucial time for the company to get people excited about the Metaverse, as the tech giant’s shares have fallen sharply over the past year and several of its employees Would’ve been doubting the company’s major AR/VR bets.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg shows off a demo of yet to be released avatars with legs in the Metaverse.

The reason it’s been so difficult for Meta to recreate our legs in the Metaverse is because currently its AR/VR headsets only track upper body movements like our hands and facial gestures. So the company currently has no way of knowing what our legs are doing when we strap on one of its helmets.

To be clear, the avatars of Meta’s AR/VR products today, including the new high-end Quest Pro headset it just released, still don’t have legs. The company says it’s bringing legs to its social environment, Horizon Worlds, first, and then expanding to other products. But it’s unclear exactly when those legs will come. And that remains a major technical challenge to be resolved.

Zuckerberg said Meta will use predictive AI models to guess what our legs are doing based on our upper body movements. No other popular AR/VR hardware manufacturer has been able to do this yet. But that’s not out of the realm of possibility for Meta, a company with one of the largest engineering staffs in the world that spends $10 billion a year on metaverse projects alone.

“With standalone virtual reality headsets, understanding the position of your legs is surprisingly difficult because of occlusion,” Zuckerberg explained of the technical challenge of the presentation. “So if your legs are under a desk or your arms are blocking your view, your headset can’t see them directly, and you have to build an AI model to predict your whole body position.”

Meta says it’s not just improving the avatars by adding legs, but will be refining its visual graphics more broadly. The company said on Tuesday that its new high-end headset, the Quest Pro, has inward-facing head sensors to be able to track eye movements and facial expressions, allowing for more realistic expressions on avatars. A spokesperson also said the company is adding “incremental updates to meta avatar style and appearance over time,” including expressions as well as “depth,” “shading,” and more. and more clothing and accessory options.

To be fair, part of what might have puzzled some reviewers about Meta’s AR/VR products so far is what gets lost in translation from virtual to physical. Meta’s AR/VR experiences look more realistic and impressive when you’re actually tethered to a headset, immersed in a 3D AR/VR world, than when viewing a 2D screenshot of that environment on a computer screen.

An avatar clothing store in the metaverse of Meta.

It’s still critical that Zuckerberg and his team figure out how to fix the avatar leg issue – and how to improve the avatar graphics as a whole – quickly. Recent reporting from The Verge and the New York Times suggests that Meta struggles to get its own employees to spend time as avatars in its VR/AR social environment, Horizon Worlds. And while Meta announced a key partnership with fellow tech giant and VR/AR hardware rival Microsoft on October 11 to bring its popular software like Office 365 to Meta’s Quest Pro device, Meta has major competition on the horizon from Apple – which is rumored to be working on his own helmet.

If Meta can’t figure out something as seemingly simple as legs and convince the public that the Metaverse is worth diving into, the company’s future could be in jeopardy. That’s why it’s smart that Zuckerberg gave in to the trolls today and promised to give people what they want, no matter how technically complicated that may be.

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