The social networking company Meta has discussed opening physical stores to showcase its virtual reality and augmented reality devices.
Mark Zuckerberg’s first steps toward building the metaverse may be physical instead of virtual
Meta, the social media company formerly known as Facebook, has discussed opening retail stores that will eventually span the world. The stores would be used to introduce people to devices made by the company’s Reality Labs division. Such as virtual reality headsets and, eventually, augmented reality glasses, they said.
These devices are gateways to the metaverse, a futuristic digital world where people move from virtual to augmented versions of reality almost seamlessly. The stores would help show people that virtual reality and augmented reality can be fun. And additionally exciting, exactly the way Mr. Zuckerberg sees it.
The aim of the stores is to make the world “more open and connected,” according to the company documents viewed by The Times. They intended to spark emotions like “curiosity, closeness”. As well as a sense of feeling “welcomed” while experimenting with headsets in a “judgment free journey” . According to the documents.
Skepticism about the metaverse also abounds
While Meta’s Reality Labs division has had modest past success with the Oculus Quest 2. A low-priced headset that was popular last year. Virtual reality remains a niche market for hobbyists and enthusiasts. The hardware is often costly and can be difficult to use. Some people have reported that the headsets nauseate them.
Still, Mr. Zuckerberg has said he sees the moment to build what he believes will be the next major shift in computing platforms since the smartphone era. In that future, Mr. Zuckerberg’s apps would no longer be beholden to the rules dictated by Apple and Google, which own the app stores that distribute Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.
Early designs for Meta’s stores appeared modern, with a flat, minimalist aesthetic to the building exteriors and subtle placement of the Facebook brand, according to the documents. The company considered naming its stores Facebook Hub, Facebook Commons, Facebook Innovations, Facebook Reality Store and From Facebook, before eventually settling on the Facebook Store as a leading candidate, the documents said.
It was unclear how the Meta rebranding would affect the naming of the stores.
The flagship Facebook Store planned for Burlingame, Calif., where Meta has an office for its Reality Labs employees. It was also unclear whether those plans would continue.
How AI Can Accelerate Metaverse Development
Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to accelerate the creation and development of the metaverse, with multiple companies including Nvidia, Google, and OpenAI creating AI-powered 3D tools.
The public is already familiar with chatbots and AI-image generators, both of which can be leveraged to speed up development cycles for the metaverse. Text-to-3D generators, among other type of 3D generators, accelerate that process still further, and empower enthusiasts to channel their creative urges in new arenas.
The filling the metaverse problem
In the earliest days of the internet most users passively consumed the world wide web as they surfed from site to site. The emergence of social media empowered users to share their own content, and the internet experienced a cambrian explosion of information.
Filling the metaverse means learning the lessons of the early internet all over again argues Rev Lebaredian, VP for omniverse and simulation technology at Nvidia. This time, however, ordinary people will need greater levels of assistance to create the content.
“We’re able to fill the internet with interesting stuff because everybody is capable of taking a picture, recording a video, or writing words,” said Lebaredian on January 27. “If we are going to create a 3D internet, then you absolutely have to have the people who are participating in it creating content as well, and the only hope we have of making that happen is if AI can help us.”
Nvidia holds the belief that AI and the metaverse are intrinsically linked, and that both rely heavily upon each other.
“Just as AI is crucial to the expansion of the metaverse, so too is the metaverse to the expansion of AI,” explains Gavriel State, director of the system software team at NVIDIA.
“Digital twins in the metaverse are providing physically accurate virtual environments that allow developers to simulate and test AI,” says State before concluding, “Generative AI is key to scaling these digital twins and virtual environments that will usher in a new era of AI and the metaverse.”
The here and now
Sean Ellul, co-founder of the 3D development studio Metaverse Architects, is a big believer in transformative potential of AI-generated content.
In a recent interview with TIME Ellul revealed how his own firm has incorporated ChatGPT into a multitude of everyday tasks including brainstorming creative ideas, writing code and composing texts for decks and emails.
“I can’t stress how helpful this has been to us,” says Ellul who has gone all-in on AI, using it as regularly as most internet users use Google.
Ellul also takes the process one step further by prompting MidJourney to create floor plans for buildings which he can then use a template for 3D models. It’s a process which would undoubtedly be a little too complex for the average person, but it’s a powerful time-saving technique for Ellul and his team.
Case in point, the following floor plan was created from the Ellul prompt: “create a floor plan sketch with measurements and dimensions of a house plan built on one floor including two bedrooms three bathrooms kitchen and living and a garden. Include furnishing.”
Ellul also uses MidJourney to help him create virtual non-player characters (NPCs). In one example Ellul used 9 different female faces to create a composite image with MidJourney. The resulting image produced a fresh-faced nordic female with blonde hair.
Ellul then returns to ChatGPT to find out who this young woman is. Ellul prompts ChatGPT to “generate a backstory for a 24-year-old woman from a tiny village in a fantasy setting who works at an inn.”
ChatGPT suggests that the woman is named Elspeth, and that she, “worked as a farmhand, a blacksmith’s apprentice, and even as a barmaid in a bustling city town. But no matter where she went, she always felt like something was missing.”
Tools to make it happen
The challenge for AI is to transform a character such as Elspeth from a 2D image and chatbot-inspired biography into a fully realized character in three dimensions
The field is not short of competitors who are creating tools to make that dream reality.
In November Nvidia announced Magic3D, a high-resolution text-to-3D image generator. According to Nvidia the tool is capable of transforming a text prompt into a fully-realized 3D model in 40 minutes.
At the moment there remain limits to what these tools can accomplish on their own with significant human intervention and expertise in the fields of 3D modeling. The question, therefore, is how long until that is no longer true.
According to Nvidia’s Lebaredian a future in which every person can create their own virtual worlds with the help of AI assistants is not too far away.
“I would say ten years from now, I’m fairly certain that most people are going to be able to create high quality 3D content just by talking to the computer,” says Lebaredian. “And I’m bullish that it’s going to happen much earlier.”
Hiroshima Adopts Metaverse in Education
The use of the metaverse is continuously increasing in different sectors, and now it has become a part of university classes in the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The universities of Hiroshima are using this technology as extracurricular activities and part of the classes as well, Japan Times reported.
Also read: Jobs In The Metaverse, Now and Tomorrow
The metaverse allows its users to create avatars to represent themselves while communicating with people from all around the world. Metaverse makes the user feel as if they are talking by looking into each other’s eyes, unlike Zoom and Teams.
Hiroshima universities use the metaverse for classes and extracurricular activities. By creating avatars, students can communicate and socialize with others from far away. #Metaverses
— Sanjar (@sanjar_mohamed) January 30, 2023
Solving Absence Problem
Having such unique features, it has also become the solution for students who are absent from school but still want to attend classes.
“I was feeling distressed and depressed as I only had the chance to speak with my family during my absence from school,” said Noa, a 16-year-old first-year high school student from Hiroshima.
But the time has changed, she was able to participate in a program even while being absent from school through the use of a virtual setup.
— Q.E.D (@wizcap) January 30, 2023
“I could spend quality time while feeling relaxed,” she said after taking part in a program held last fall in a metaverse to support absentees from school.
Three people attended that program organized by a local group to make up for absent students.
Noa entered the metaverse as a female avatar with cat ears and travelled with other attendees to hear high school students share their experiences of being absent from school.
The virtual world, also offers a solution for those who hesitate to speak up in reality. It provides a platform where individuals can communicate without psychological barriers, as they feel more comfortable with others in the virtual world.
“Students who were silent at first could make a presentation on a (virtual) stage in the end,” said Kenichi Okamura, 23, head of the group that organized the program. “I really felt the potential of the metaverse.”
The Hiroshima Prefecture board of education has partnered with the non-profit organization Katariba in Tokyo to offer metaverse-related activities as a learning option for students, per Japan Times.
University Classes in Metaverse
Not, just the bridge for the school absentees, metaverse has also became the topic of university classes in Japan.
“By looking ahead with neofuturistic perspectives, I wanted to try and see how the classes can be expanded,” said Hiroaki Kanoe, a professor of science education at Hijiyama University in Hiroshima, who taught parts of some classes in the metaverse last year.
Kanoe asked third-year students about how the metaverse can be utilized in education during his virtual seminar with them.
The potential of #Metaverse in education is limitless!
Imagine immersive experiences, interactive lessons & boundless opportunities for students.
— Vladimir Radu-Radulescu (@VladimirRadu_R) January 30, 2023
Kanoe was intrigued when his student became deeply involved in the discussion surrounding the use of metaverse in education. They even proposed having a virtual environment open during summer holidays, which could potentially reduce absenteeism.
“Compared with online classes, you can feel the presence of others as if you are in a classroom,” said Soko Hamaen, 21, a third-year student who attended a class in metaverse.
“I hope to explore the uses of the metaverse while making clear the purpose of what to do with the technology, instead of jumping at it only because it is new,” said Kanoe.
With the value of the industry estimated to be worth $13 trillion by 2030, the metaverse is being expanded into different areas of livelihood.
The Weekly Metaverse Review: Apple Cancels, Microsoft turns to Mesh, Tokens Go Up
MetaNews picks through another week of Metaverse hype with equal amounts of hope and skepticism as we chart a path through difficult waters to our brave new virtual world.
Here are the stories that made landfall this week on the metaverse review.
Canceled Apple of my eye
This week Apple announced that its mixed-reality headset will arrive as promised, but its follow-up product – Apple Glass – has been suspended indefinitely.
Apple Glass was originally scheduled for 2023 before being delayed to 2025. The company has now kicked the product into the long grass. Goodbye Apple Glass.
Apple will now seek to bring a less expensive, but not widely affordable, product to market in the nearer term. Apple’s premium mixed-reality device is set to cost $3,000. The less expensive option will look to compete with Meta’s mixed-reality device which retails for $1,500.
Metaverse hype counterproductive
Regular readers of MetaNews will know that there is no shortage of hype to be found in the metaverse and with metaverse-related topics.
With that hype comes raised expectations, which are sometimes difficult to meet in the shorter term. Alexandra Kuzmina, innovation consultant at Nova MMR, summed up the phenomenon in a panel session for The Market Research Society’s (MRS) Metaverse conference earlier this month.
“There has been no shortage of hype,” admitted Kuzmina as reported by ResearchLive on Thursday. “It is important to remind ourselves that what we see currently are only the fragments of what eventually will become the metaverse. There is a tendency today to believe the fragments, such as VR and augmented reality, are actually the metaverse.”
As for what happens when those fragments coalesce, Kuzmina went on to add, “I wouldn’t bet against the metaverse dream just yet.”
A real Microsoft Mesh
Software giant Microsoft has been making great progress in the field of artificial intelligence lately, but in virtual reality and the metaverse it appears to be doing less well.
The company has announced it plans to close its AltspaceVR and Mixed Reality Tool Kit, as part of a company-wide cost-cutting exercise that will see the company shed 10,000 jobs.
The news comes just one week after Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates stated, “I don’t think Web3 was that big or that Metaverse stuff alone was revolutionary, but AI is quite revolutionary.”
AltspaceVR is hardly a landmark product for Microsoft. The VR firm was acquired in 2017 for an undisclosed fee after falling into difficulties, and the change of management seems to have done little to turn things around.
Microsoft now plans to ‘sunset’ – corporate speak for shut down – the platform on March 10. Those AltspaceVR staff lucky enough to hold on to their jobs will be folded into the team bringing Microsoft Mesh, the company’s new VR and videoconferencing product, to market.
Should Mesh ever become successful perhaps Gates will change opinion on which technologies he is willing to consider revolutionary.
MANA, SAND, RBLX perform well
Crypto-metaverse projects have performed well over the course of January with the Decentraland (MANA) token at $0.662239, up 105.7% over the previous 30 days, and Sandbox (SAND) at $0.727717, up 65.6% over the same period.
Outside of the cryptosphere, the Roblox (RBLX) share price now stands at $35.97, up 36.6% on the month. That’s seriously good price action for an industry that mainstream media outlets continually write off.
My brain is my weapon
Twitch streamer Perri Karyal has posted videos showing using a brain wave (EEG) interface to control her character in the popular role-playing game Elden Ring.
It’s the sort of claim that provokes curiosity and skepticism in equal measure, even if Karyal does seem genuine. Controlling computerized avatars through brainwave interfaces is the subject of ongoing experimentation, but so far, the level of control remains limited.
Fortnite to lead the charge, maybe
A recent survey conducted by Game Developers Conference (GDC) found that game developers have most confidence in Epic Games to deliver the Metaverse. Of the 2,300 respondents to the poll, 14% believe that Fortnite’s creators will charge to victory in the sector.
The survey also found that 45% of respondents believe the metaverse “will never deliver on its promise,” but respondents also confessed to being unclear about what that promise is.
With that level of confusion, perhaps the survey results can be taken with a significant grain of salt.
Metaverse for mental health?
Interacting with a metaverse avatar may help some people to better cope with social anxiety, or to interact with others. It could also overcome issues of accessibility and affordability according to Psychology Today.
Mental health practitioners are now looking into the potential benefits of breakthrough technologies, but caution is warranted in this highly sensitive field. A recent experiment that leveraged the ChatGPT AI in mental health support at first seemed to yield positive results but ended badly.
On that note, it’s time to call an end to another weekly metaverse round-up. Join us throughout the week for more metaverse and technology-related news.
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