Meta pulls out all the stops to reboot his metaverse

To say that Meta’s Connect 2022 event was anticipated is an understatement. And with it the launch of the Quest Pro virtual reality headset. While the much-leaked product came as no surprise, Meta’s (ex-Facebook) focus on professional uses of the new hardware was disappointing, especially in terms of the hardware needed to get them right. If the American giant has delivered a flurry of announcements (including new partnerships with Microsoft, Adobe, Zoom and others), its most ambitious projects are still promising prototypes.

Meta first introduced its Meta Quest Pro headset, designed from the ground up for businesses and professionals. If improved visual clarity and auto-tracking controllers could just as well be used to improve your game Beat SaberInstead, Meta hopes to attract many business customers to the metaverse for the first time.

Aside from Quest Pro, the longest running portion of Meta Connect 2022’s presentation focused on the company’s efforts to make its now-derided Horizon Worlds offering a must-see for networking, collaborating, and having fun in the metaverse. Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg promised updates during this event in one of the posts he made in response to negative feedback about Horizon World’s simple graphics. And his company delivered on its promise.

Microsoft and Zoom part

Not only do avatars in virtual worlds gain autonomy, but they also benefit from an entirely new framework for collaboration in the form of Horizon Workrooms. These co-working spaces are at the heart of the company’s business strategy, providing a place where VR headset wearers and people just sitting at a desk or even using their smartphone can come together to chat, view 3D models, collaborate and work.

Partners in this particular announcement include Microsoft, which will support Breakout Rooms through Teams integrations, and Zoom, which will soon allow users to appear as their Meta avatars in Zoom meetings.

Longer term, Meta hopes features like Magic Rooms (mixed reality rooms where cross-platform collaboration will enable even bigger meetings), virtual whiteboards (with support for Quest Pro’s pen controllers) and other features will convince the business world that that the metaverse is truly the best place to host their next meeting.

In addition to the collaborations with Microsoft and Zoom mentioned and seen above, Meta has also announced partnerships with several other tech brands. These include a partnership with Accenture, which will help expand the Meta Quest and Horizon World ecosystems through the company’s ISV program; a deal that will bring Autodesk’s 3D modeling technology to Meta Quest Pro; and, along with Adobe, plans to introduce its Substance 3D modeling software to Meta Quest Pro and Quest 2 next year.

Pro-oriented applications

To make it easier for businesses to manage all the hardware, applications and services these deployments will require, Meta has announced Meta Quest for Business, a “bundled subscription to Meta Quest Pro and Meta Quest 2 that includes essential management elements such as device and app management, premium support and more.” The company hopes that this unique offering, which includes contributions from some of the aforementioned third-party vendors, will ease customers’ path to the metaverse.

As usual, Meta ended its event with a segment showing upcoming projects. This year’s list of ambitions is focused on two key areas: augmented reality control and the introduction of objects and people from the real world into the metaverse. Mark Zuckerberg himself showed off a new prototype augmented reality headset, which he says will evolve into a product that users can carry anywhere.

Combined with AI-based learning technologies, the result is a wrist-worn system that can adapt to any wearer to help them control augmented and virtual reality content with little more than a thought. During the presentation, the company demonstrated impressive interactions with augmented reality apps and basic games controlled by wristbands.

Slower start than expected for Meta

Meta also shared some of the ways it hopes to bring its fledgling metaverse closer to the real world. These included Meta’s “Neural Radiance Field” 3D scanning technology, which can use something as simple as a smartphone camera (and significant AI processing in the background) to create convincing 3D representations of objects in the metaverse. The company also introduced a reverse rendering technique that achieves a similar result while applying physical physics to the created object.

Finally, the social networking giant presented the latest version (2.0, to be precise) of its Avatars Codec. These ultra-realistic metaverse avatars were sometimes hard to distinguish from live video of the subject used to create them, and should silence any naysayers if they ever start populating the metaverse.

That said, even Meta acknowledges that the next metaverse population boom may not happen for several years. However, the company also introduced another swipe technology based on the phone, which already allows creating an avatar that has come most of the way in a few hours. No timeline was mentioned for when any of these technologies might be made available to the public.


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