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Metaverse January 19, 2023

WiFi New Solution For Metaverse Body Tracking



WiFi New Solution For Metaverse Body Tracking
You can run, but you can't hide. From wifi.

Full body tracking in the metaverse may now be possible using only WiFi signals, according to new a study by three Carnegie Mellon University researchers.

Jiaqi Geng, Dong Huang and Fernando De la Torre found that “common WiFi antennas [or 1D sensors] can be used as the sole source of active sensing to track fine human movements in a room.”

Also read: SHIB The Metaverse at Texas Film Festival: Here’s What You Can Expect

Mapping the human body

The researchers developed what they are calling a “deep neural network” that maps the phase and amplitude of WiFi signals to UV coordinates within 24 human regions. They used three WiFi transmitters and three receiver antennas to assess several people.

Results of the 13-page study, published in December, show that “our model can estimate the dense pose of multiple subjects by utilizing WiFi signals as the only input.”

“This paves the way for low-cost, broadly accessible, and privacy-preserving algorithms for human sensing. We believe that WiFi signals can serve as a ubiquitous substitute for RGB images for human sensing in certain instances,” it said.

UV coordinates are used in the process of projecting a 2-dimensional image, or 2D, onto the surface of a 3D model to create texture mapping. Dense pose is designed to map all human pixels of an RGB image to a 3D surface of the human body, according to experts.

RGB stands for the primary colors red, green and blue. It typically refers to three hues of light that can be mixed together to create different colors. A combination of the three colors is the standard method of producing color images on TVs, computer monitors, and smartphones.

Expanding human tracking research

WiFi New Solution For Metaverse Body Tracking

The first row illustrates the hardware setup. The second and third rows are the clips of amplitude and phase of the input WiFi signal. The fourth row contains the dense pose estimation of the algorithm from only the WiFi signal.

The Carnegie Mellon University study expands on the use of WiFi signals in combination with so-called “deep learning architectures”, commonly used in computer vision, to estimate dense human pose correspondence.

There is already a great deal of progress made in this area using 2D and 3D sensors over the last few years, fueled by applications in autonomous driving and augmented reality (AR). It includes uses linked to RGB sensors and radars.

However, traditional sensors are criticized for being too pricey for the ordinary everyday user. For example, a simple radar detector costs between $200 – $600. They are blamed for using too much power and have been flagged as a threat to user privacy in non-public spaces.

A lot of people would not install the tech say in their home bathrooms and other such private areas. For RGB cameras, narrow field of view and poor lighting conditions, such as glare and darkness, can have a severe impact on camera-based approaches, said the study.

It also mentioned occlusion as another obstacle that prevents the camera-based model from generating reasonable pose predictions in images. This is “especially worrisome for indoors scenarios, where furniture typically occludes people,” it adds.

WiFi body tracking protects user privacy, say researchers

WiFi New Solution For Metaverse Body Tracking

According to the researchers, illumination and occlusion have little effect on WiFi-based solutions used for interior monitoring. The equipment required for this sort of tech is cheaper and can protect user privacy, they claimed.

“Compared to video or lidar, WiFi offers a better privacy-preserving signal,” said Fernando De La Torre, a co-author of the study who researches Computer Vision and Machine Learning at Carnegie Mellon University. He was speaking to AiBreakfast in a recent interview.

“This is critical in applications such as monitoring the well-being of elderly people at home (e.g., detecting falls, computing the amount of social interaction, or detecting potential health concerns), where many users will feel uncomfortable using cameras,” he said, adding:

“WiFi adds an additional layer of anonymity because it cannot be immediately interpreted by humans and it can only recover shape information rather than texture.”

Body tracking in the metaverse

Tracking your body movements in the metaverse is a big deal. It helps to make an otherwise virtual experience feel real. Companies such as Sony have been at the forefront of trying to bring this sense of reality to the metaverse.

In November 2022, the Japanese electronics company launched “Mocopi“, a device that allows users to translate their body movements onto a metaverse avatar. The unit is made up of six motion-tracking bands worn on your hands, feet, back and head.

Worth around $350, Mocopi is a play on the phrase “mocap”, meaning motion picture. It is designed to “track your body to create videos or operate avatars in real time with metaverse apps like VRChat.” It offers tools that let users “import motion data into 3D animation apps.”

“Normally, video production using motion capture requires dedicated equipment and operators,” said Sony in a statement at the time.

“By utilizing our proprietary algorithm, ‘Mocopi’ realizes highly accurate motion measurement with a small number of sensors, freeing VTubers [virtual YouTubers] and creators involved in movie and animation production from time and place constraints.”

Downside of WiFi human tracking

The Carnegie Mellon University WiFi-based full body tracking tool could hold some promise for future use in the metaverse. However, the current version is “trained for our scenario and specific hardware,” said Fernando De La Torre.

There is also a few downsides to the tech. Positioning for the four separate devices should be impeccable. It may also interfere with other WiFi networks.

“It is important to keep in mind that a number of variables, like the position and orientation of WiFi devices, the presence of objects, and the movement of people and things in the environment, can alter the WiFi signals,” De La Torre explained.

“Therefore, more research is required to make the approach robust to these factors, before releasing the code/model.”

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.


Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech



Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech, says Zuckerberg
Artist's rendering.

Meta, keen to be a Metaverse giant, plans to launch virtual reality headset Quest 3 later this year, with better mixed reality technology, said CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta confirmed that the release should be called Meta Quest 3. It’s expected to cost between US$300 and US$500, which is about a third of the Quest Pro (the Quest Pro is currently priced at $1,499.99).

Also read: Meta Employees Undermine Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Strategy

The new headset will provide support for Meta Reality, which is technology that enables virtual reality headsets to also be used for augmented reality. This technology allows devices to create mixed reality experiences.

Meta Reality in Next-Gen Consumer Headset

The mixed reality ecosystem is relatively new, but Zuckerberg thinks it’s going to grow a lot in the next few years.

“Later this year, we’re going to launch our next generation consumer headset, which will feature Meta Reality as well, and I expect that this is going to establish this technology as the baseline for all headsets going forward, and eventually of course for AR glasses as well,” said Zuckerberg.

Beyond MR, the broader VR ecosystem continues growing. There are now over 200 apps on Meta’s VR devices that have made more than $1 million in revenue, Zuckerberg said.

How Meta Reality will look in more affordable headsets is yet to be clear.

Meta’s Reported Win over FTC will be Crucial

Meta has reportedly won court approval earlier this week to acquire VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, which will be a huge boost for Zuckerberg’s ambitious metaverse project.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

“There is a lot of work there that we haven’t actually shipped the product yet. VR, which is starting to ramp, right, Quest 2, I think, did quite well. We have multiple product lines there with the Quest Pro,” said Zuckerberg about Quest 3.

When Meta shipped Quest Pro at the end of last year, it was something their CEO was “really proud of” and believed it was the first mainstream mixed reality device to set the standard for the industry with Meta Reality.

“As always, the reason why we’re focused on building these platforms is to deliver better social experiences than what’s possible today on phones,” said Zuckerberg.

The possible benefit could be expected in Quest 3 through the acquisition of Within.


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Interpol Wants to Police Metaverse Crime. But That May Not Be Easy



Interpol Wants to Police Metaverse Crime. But That May Not Be Easy

The International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, is looking at ways to police crime in the metaverse, according to secretary general Jurgen Stock. However, the agency may find that to be hard in the absence of a universally agreed definition of the “metaverse,” let alone of metaverse crime.

Stock said, “criminals are sophisticated and professional in very quickly adapting to any new technological tool that is available to commit crime. We need to sufficiently respond to that. Sometimes lawmakers, police, and our societies are running a little bit behind.”

“We have seen if we are doing it too late, it already impacts trust in the tools we are using, and therefore the metaverse. In similar platforms that already exist, criminals are using it,” he added, according to the BBC.

Defining the metaverse

The metaverse may be thought of as the idea of a post-physical world in which life is lived virtually on the Internet: “a single, shared, immersive, persistent, 3D virtual space” where humans experience life in ways they could not in the real world.

Also read: Is the World Ready for Music Concerts in the Metaverse?

American author Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term “metaverse” in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. He referred to the metaverse as an all-encompassing digital world that exists parallel to the real world.

However, the word gained significance when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of the social media company to “Meta” in 2021, a rebrand that focused on building the metaverse.

While at this point users are already utilizing a range of hardware such as headsets to gain access to the immersive experiences of the metaverse, there’s still no universally agreed definition of the metaverse. Much less of metaverse crime.

What does metaverse crime look like for Interpol?

The building blocks of the new form of communication are still being laid down. Anyone can build their own metaverse and define how that specific digital world works. Interpol has now built its own virtual reality (VR) space in order to catch up with criminals operating in the metaverse.

The VR unit is aimed at helping its officers with training for virtual interactions. Announcing the launch of the virtual reality metaverse last October, Interpol said:

“As the number of metaverse users grows and the technology further develops, the list of possible crimes will only expand to potentially include crimes against children, data theft, money laundering, financial fraud, counterfeiting, ransomware, phishing, and sexual assault and harassment.”

Interpol is still having a hard time defining metaverse crime. Madan Oberoi, the executive director of technology and innovation at Interpol, admitted to the BBC that “there are crimes where I don’t know whether it can still be called a crime or not.”

“For example, there have been reported cases of sexual harassment,” he said. “If you look at the definitions of these crimes in physical space, and you try to apply it in the metaverse, there is a difficulty.”

“We don’t know whether we can call them a crime or not, but those threats are definitely there, so those issues are yet to be resolved,” he added.

Oberoi said law enforcement needed to “know about the metaverse” in order to “help people who have been hurt in the metaverse.” It is one of Interpol’s objectives, he explained, “to make sure law enforcement personnel start using the metaverse and they become aware.”

Uphill task

Alex Kim, chief monetization officer at XR platform Sensorium Galaxy, said while discussions around metaverse regulation may help create “safe digital environments” for users, there is still need to strike a balance in implementation.

“The metaverse is being envisioned as a decentralized platform over which no central authority has control over,” Kim told MetaNews.

“This begs the question of who exactly should be tasked with monitoring the metaverse and what powers can this entity potentially have, and over what and whom.” Continuing, Kim added:

“It’s clear that policing the metaverse won’t be as straightforward as some might be hoping, but it’s very positive that the conversation surrounding the topic is moving forward, especially given the rapid pace of current technological developments.”

Software engineer Brandon Church laughed at the idea that the global police agency wanted to play guard to the metaverse.

“[The metaverse] is just an idea at the moment. The problem with ideas is that sometimes they never see the light of day. So these guys [Interpol] are working on policing an idea? I’m seriously wondering [where they are going with this],” Church told MetaNews.

Arseny Myakotnikov, cofounder and CMO of drive-to-earn Metadrive, believes the Interpol initiative goes against the ethos of decentralization, a key foundational principle of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, and Web3.

“Each metaverse must exist as a separate digital universe, where investors would be able to set their own rules and regulations based on the weight of their votes through decentralized voting within the project’s DAO,” he says

“It’s important to stress that most of the violations mentioned by the Interpol cannot be committed at the current stage of metaverse technology development.”

Interpol is an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control. It was created 100 years ago and is made of 195 member countries.

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Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within



Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within

Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, has reportedly won court approval for the acquisition of VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, after the Federal Trade Commission attempted to block the deal.

Also read: Lawsuit Filed Against Meta, Snap, TikTok for Mental Health Crisis

A US district judge, Edward Davila in San Jose California, “denied the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the proposed transaction” in a sealed decision on Wednesday, reported Bloomberg, citing a source familiar with the ruling.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Following the news, shares of Meta were slightly positive on Wednesday afternoon.

Facebook and The FTC also declined to comment with Bloomberg’s query citing the sealed nature of Davila’s decisions.

Push for Metaverse

The reported victory in this case may boost Mark Zuckerberg’s push towards the Metaverse. Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

Meta Quest Pro for $1500 and Meta Quest 3 are also in the company’s VR line-up, which has already developed VR spaces for work and play.

The Supernatural, developed by Within, was one of the first subscription-based services on the original Meta Quest.

Supernatural, a fitness app that features video instructors and motion-tracked workout routines, carries similarities to Meta’s successful fitness VR music game Beat Saber. Beat Saber was also acquired by Meta in 2019.

 Meta’s Dominance

A trial before the FTC’s administrative judge will start on Feb. 13. The FTC will also decide if it will continue with the case. Lina Khan, the chair of the FTC, was appointed by US President Joe Biden to bolster antitrust enforcement as a key principle of his administration’s economic policy. Hence, if this order stands, this loss to Meta will be a significant setback for Khan.

The FTC sued Meta back in July, arguing this acquisition would expand its dominance in the consumer VR market, highlighting its purchase of Beat Saber three years ago. The agency even emphasized that the addition of Within would even eliminate a “beneficial rivalry” between the two companies.

At the time, “the case was) based on ideology and speculation, not evidence, the idea that this acquisition would lead to anticompetitive outcomes in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible,” said a Meta spokesperson in a statement.

It’s still to be decided whether this will be the end of this story or not, as the FTC has declined to comment.

“Out of respect for the court’s orders, the FTC is not in a position to comment at this time,” FTC director of public affairs Douglas Farrar told The Verge.

Within would be the third start-up acquired by social media giants over the last decade if this case ends here and Meta purchases one more VR start-up. Previously, Meta acquired Oculus in 2014 before purchasing Beat Saber in 2019.



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