Monday, November 29, 2021

Facebook rebrands to “Meta” and dives into the metaverse during Connect event

Facebook’s Connect 2021 event unveiled several new announcements including a company name change. 

In the keynote, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the Facebook company will now be named Meta to more accurately represent the “metaverse” which focuses on augmented and virtual reality. The name change comes as Facebook attempts to move away from identifying solely as a social media platform.

Apart from the name change, Facebook’s Connect event described in detail what the metaverse has to offer.  

Here are the major announcements from the event:

Connecting in the metaverse: 

Connecting in the metaverse starts with 3D avatars. Zuckerberg explained that the feeling of presence is a defining quality of the metaverse. He said technology today can’t deliver facial expression and body language. Avatars in the metaverse will essentially be elevated profile pictures. 

Zuckerberg said that users can have realistic looking avatars for work and more unique and stylized ones for socializing. Virtual clothing and accessories will also be available to style them. 

The first thing users will see when they enter the metaverse is their home space. Home spaces can be designed however users want them, with personalized photos. The home space is a spot to invite people into in the metaverse. 

Connecting in the metaverse also involves teleporting; users will be able to teleport to different spaces just as they visit websites, by clicking a link. 

Gaming in the metaverse:

Zuckerberg thinks that the metaverse will be extremely popular in the gaming world. Gaming in the metaverse will not only involve completely new games, but also incorporate traditional ones so users can play “old games in a new way”. Users will be able to go head to head with people from around the world. 

The company is focusing on live service games that launch updates regularly so users can experience the latest versions right away. It also revealed a five-title partnership with Vertigo Games.

Zuckerberg announced that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is in development for the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset.

Exercise in the metaverse:

The metaverse is looking to create a whole new way to work out. Users will be able to do so in different spaces or worlds. They have the option to box against an AI, for example. If users are looking for a more collaborative exercise experience, working out in spaces with friends will also be possible.

Zuckerberg said that fitness hardware or active packs for VR workouts will also be available. The Active Pack will include grips for the Touch controllers that will help users stay in control if they sweat, and an exercise-optimized facial interface, making it easier to wipe everything down afterwards

Work in the metaverse:

The company is prioritizing work features as it foresees remote work will stick around for a while. As explained in the keynote, the metaverse will allow users to feel like they are in the office without having to make the commute. They can create work spaces that replicate their office, and spaces for quiet or focus modes will also be available. 

Horizon, the social platform for the metaverse, will feature Horizon Workrooms which will allow users to introduce room customization and a new office space in Horizon Home. The company is also implementing 2D progressive web apps for services such as Slack and Dropbox. According to Zuckerberg this is a way to incorporate 2D internet services into the metaverse. 

In addition, to keep personal and work lives separate, the company is looking to add a feature that allows users to use a work account when working in the metaverse. 

Education in the metaverse:

Learning in the metaverse is an extremely interactive experience. The platform will allow users to teleport to not just any place, but also any time period. For example, users could teleport to Ancient Rome and experience what it would be like to exist during that time. Users can see how historical buildings and landmarks were created. 

Digital commerce: 

The event teased a bit about how the metaverse will turn into a space for business. Zuckerberg noted the implementation of Horizon Marketplace, a space for creators to buy and sell 3D digital items to help grow the metaverse economy. Influencers or business owners will also be able to drop exclusive products into the metaverse for fans to access. 

Presence Platform:

Presence Platform, a suite of machine perception and AI capabilities was also announced at the event. These include Passthrough, Spatial Anchors, and Scene Understanding. The platform will let developers build more realistic mixed reality, interaction, and voice experiences that blend virtual content with a user’s physical world.

Interaction SDK, will allow developers to add high-quality hand interactions to their apps with the help of a library of common gestures. Voice SDK will allow for voice interaction. 

Hardware:

The company teased two new pieces of hardware that will help shape the metaverse. Project Cambria, a VR headset that will allow avatars to express facial expressions in real time, is set to launch next year. It will involve building sensors into a form that is still comfortable for users to wear.

Project Nazare, still in the early stages of development, will be Facebook’s first full AR glasses. 

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