Every year Facebook consistently surprises and this year was certainly no different. Instantly out the door CEO Mark Zuckerberg threw out the traditional product launch format keynote to focus on the opportunities the Metaverse will present and how the company is 100% committed over the next decade pursuing it.

Through some very polished pre-renders, Zuckerberg didn’t just outline what the future of the internet, socialising, work, learning, fitness and gaming will look like – he showed us how we will experience it from the company’s perspective. Yes the tech isn’t there just yet, yes there are many privacy and safety considerations around this and yes those are pre-rendered videos and probably setting some unrealistic expectations and promises, but it’s clear this is a pivot that the company is fully invested in, and exactly what the biggest shifts of this decade are going to revolve around.

Meta's vision is to create a shared and virtual space that brings people together.

But what is the Metaverse?

Well in Facebook’s eyes it’s the embodied internet, it is the successor of the mobile internet. Instead of looking at a screen, you’re going to be in the experience, interacting in a more natural and vivid way. Most importantly and consistently highlighted throughout the keynote is the sense of presence and being in a shared space together. Either that’s working in a shared virtual space together or joining a friend at a real-life gig across the other side of the world – the metaverse will make this possible. Not surprising considering the social media giant built its fortune around bringing people together.

Zuckerberg highlighted that games and game studios are at the forefront of building and driving new innovations and believes many industries will begin to use gaming technologies to construct experiences and new business models as we advance towards a more immersive, embodied internet.

Andrew Bosworth (Boz), Head of Facebook Reality Labs announced they will be bringing online their new Presence Platform, which is a set of machine learning and AI libraries to create mixed reality experiences, focusing on everything from environmental understanding, voice interaction, spatial anchors and hand recognition.

However, the biggest drop and the biggest news since Facebook went public is the new name. Well kinda, it’s more of a restructuring similar to Google’s Alphabet. The Facebook name is no longer representative of the products the company has within its portfolio but more importantly where it’s going. Only just last week via Bloomberg the company announced it is investing $10 Billion into its metaverse efforts, with that comes change. So from now on Facebook is now Meta and Meta is primarily focused on developing its tools, products and ecosystems for the Metaverse. Watch the full keynote here.

Facebook is now Meta and Meta is focused on developing its tools, products and ecosystems for the Metaverse.

Opportunities of the Metaverse

Zuckerberg made clear that this is the next platform for them and they believe strongly that the technology they are building today will enable this big vision even going as far as to state that within 5-10 years this technology and the metaverse will be mainstream. A very ambitious statement.

Socialising, Fitness, Learning, Work and Play were the biggest opportunities to be highlighted. Imagine being able to study the planets together in the Metaverse or perhaps teleport into a life gig halfway across the world. Feels like science fiction right? Well, you can already experience gigs virtually with companies like WaveXR and Our app Wonderscope proves you can study and experience planets in AR.

Meta's opportunities, interactions and connectivity will be underpinned by its Horizon product line.

Meta's Metaverse

Most will look at Meta’s polished conceptual videos with a familiar vibe of an overly-ambitious video game reveal, however, one could argue without these how do we know where we are heading? A lot of today’s technology was born out of early sci-fi movies and this has similar vibes, with just one difference, these technologies are being worked on as we speak.

Impressively unlike most tech companies, Meta gave us a north star experiential piece on the opportunities, interactions and connectivity we will be experiencing in the Metaverse and strategically underpinned by its Horizon product line with it. Horizon Home gives you a home space to study and watch and socialise with friends, Horizon Workrooms will get an update enabling progressive web apps such as Slack, Dropbox, Facebook and Instagram to be accessible in VR and the newly announced Horizon market place which will fuel a creator economy.

It’s big, wild and has tones of a science fiction vision, but it is absolutely where technology and the next version of the internet is going. As we transition from screens to natural, vivid and visceral experiences, beyond an app-controlled ecosystem.

Meta’s metaverse cornerstones:

  • Presence – The feeling of truly being there together within a shared sense of space. Not just looking at a grid of faces on a screen.
  • Avatars – As common as profile pictures today. Living 3D representations of you. Make your interactions much richer. Photorealistic one for work, stylised for hanging out.
  • Homespace – Your own personal space within the metaverse to socialise, hang out with friends or work.
  • Teleporting – The ability to transport anywhere in the real or virtual world through your headset.
  • Interoperability – Bring things from the physical world into the metaverse.  Take your digital items and project them into the physical world.
  • Privacy and safety – Governance, civil rights and safety need to be built into the metaverse from day one.
  • Virtual goods – Cross-ecosystem digital items. Not locked into one world or one platform. You own your items, not a platform. A nod to NFTs. New forms of governance.
  • Natural interfaces – Interfaces that are frictionless and feel natural, using things such as our hands, thought patterns and speech to interact with the internet.

The next version of the internet is going beyond an app-controlled ecosystem.

Project Cambria

Not a quest, it’s high-end with a high price point. It’s going to deliver avatars in VR which reflect your eye contact and expressions in real-time –making it a big step forward for social presence. Unlocking mixed reality and delivering high-end resolution with a new 7 light fold optics layer (cheekily called Pancake). This is just a teaser and more to be revealed during a special event next year. Certainly, a play for Meta into the enterprise space, aiming to compete with the likes of Varjo, Pimax and possibly Magic Leap 2.

Project Cambria will deliver avatars in VR which reflect your eye contact and expressions in real-time.

True-AR Glasses

To really put things into perspective, True-AR Glasses are hard. We need to fit radios, speakers, holographic projectors, custom chipsets, batteries, cameras and sensors to map the world around you into glasses that are 5mm. Meta announced its working on a Project codenamed Nazare which is their True-AR Glasses. Although it’s still early days this is bulking up its product lines, especially as companies such as Apple, Snap, Google, Samsung and Niantic have all got hardware in development.

Presence Platform is a new way for developers to create mixed reality experiences for the Oculus Quest headset.

Presence Platform

Facebook says the Presence Platform ‘will be key to feeling connected in the metaverse’. A new way for developers to create mixed reality experiences for the Oculus Quest virtual reality headset. It includes a suite of AI tools for developers that makes the mixed reality experience more immersive, helping to combine the virtual world with physical reality. Boz gave us a demo of the type of experiences you can build with these SDKs. Here.

  • Interaction SDK – Will make it easier for developers to add high-quality hand interactions to their apps by providing a library of common gestures.
  • Voice SDK – Enabling developers to add in voice recognition to create frictionless, intuitive interfaces.
  • Insight SDK – Allowing developers to build experiences that blend virtual content and the physical world. Including the introduction of experimental Passthrough, Spatial anchors and Scene Understanding – to world lock content in your space.

Meta's Tech Roadmap

No surprise Meta needs a lot of different technology to power such a big vision, well as mentioned they are working on all areas surrounding it including; Displays, Audio, Inputs, Haptics, Hand tracking, Eye tracking, Mixed Reality, Sensors, Graphics, Computer vision, Avatars, Perceptual science and Ai. However, their chief scientist Micheal Abrash highlighted a few technological breakthroughs the company has been making.

Breakthrough 1 – Hyper-realistic codec Avatars

Part of Meta’s Metaverse play is avatars, although stylised avatars are going to be the norm for people when hanging out with friends, at work or with close ones you may want a more realistic representation. Below is the state of the art in terms of Meta’s avatar research showing off the next advancement in their Codec avatars which we got introduced during 2019’s event.

Wait for it!

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The left is a real-time render of the person’s avatar and the right is someone walking around it in VR.

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Breakthrough 2 – Real-time high-resolution environment 

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Another play will be the reconstruction and representation of environments in virtual space. Below you can see the reconstruction (left) of the real scene (right) all achieved in real-time.

Breakthrough 3 – Project Aria AI-driven live maps 

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Announced last year was Live Maps, essentially a semantic layering of the real world to drive True-AR glasses. Abrash demonstrated an update in line with their Project Aria research to understand how Ai and glasses can interact with the physical world with semantic layering. Below shows how the Ai recognises objects within the world and can pull information from it or recently demonstrated its ability to predict what you are about to do before you do – handy when you want to turn the TV or lights on before you even raise your hand to flip the light switch.

Breakthrough 4 – Wrist-based interaction

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We got a glimpse last year of Meta’s EMG (Electromyopgrahy) based controller. EMG is a novel input approach that can read the signals on the motor neurons that run from the wrist to the hand. In a sense, it’s a brain-computer interface. Meta showed off how far they have come and how a user could use very small movements to write out a message.

Meta is a $100B+ company with the full capability to execute a vision like this and certainly has key visionaries such as Boz and Abrash to bring this to fruition. It’s going to be a while until we truly realise this vision, technology shifts aren’t sudden they slowly happen over time, but Meta’s visionary videos are perhaps a needed jolt to the system.

One thing is for sure, this is certainly going to light a fire and raise awareness with many organisations as they look towards the next decade and begin to question and ask “what is our metaverse strategy?“, as we begin to enter this new era of the internet.

If you’re interested to explore this space, please get in touch with our team.

Images @ Meta. 


James is Creative Technology Director at PRELOADED. He is passionate about building inclusive experiences that bring people together, and which educate and entertain.