WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The cartoon avatars that dominate today’s Metaverse could soon be yesterday’s news and make human interactions more ‘real.’
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Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has been struggling to convince the world that its vision of the Metaverse is worth pursuing. The social media giant rebranded itself in October 2022, hoping to create a more immersive and interactive online experience for its users. However, the initial response was far from positive. Many people mocked the cartoonish and unrealistic avatars that Meta showcased in its demonstration video, which lasted for over an hour. Others questioned the need and feasibility of creating a virtual world that mimics real life.
Meta’s ambitious project also faced financial challenges. The company reported a loss of $4.28 billion in the first quarter of 2022, with its revenue from Meta Reality Labs, the division responsible for developing the metaverse, being much lower than expected. Meta also faced competition from other tech companies, such as Microsoft and Apple, that were working on their own versions of augmented and virtual reality.
Real or not real?
But Meta is not giving up on its metaverse dream. In fact, it seems to have made some significant improvements in its technology and design. In a recent podcast with AI researcher Lex Fridman, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that he and Fridman were having a conversation in the metaverse, using ultra-realistic avatars that resembled their actual faces and expressions. The avatars were created using a technology called ‘Codec Avatars,’ which involves scanning one’s face and body in different poses and emotions and then compressing the data into a codec that can be transmitted over the internet.
Zuckerberg said that the codec avatars were part of a research project by Meta Reality Labs and that the company was working on making them more accessible and affordable for the users. He said that Meta was developing a project where one could use their phones to do a quick scan of their face and create a high-quality avatar in just a few minutes rather than having to use today’s much bulker photogrammetry rigs. He also said that Meta was exploring ways to make the avatars more expressive and customizable, as well as integrating AI into the metaverse to enhance the user experience.
Zuckerberg said that he believed that the metaverse would be the next frontier of human communication and collaboration and that Meta was committed to being a metaverse-first company. He said that he hoped that people around the world would come to know the Meta brand and the future it stands for.
Will Meta’s new avatar succeed in winning over the skeptics and critics? Will the metaverse become a reality or remain a fantasy? Only time will tell.