Meta's Idea of Metaverse Gets A Scary Start – Analytics India Magazine

Going beyond the concept of ‘breaking the 4th wall,’ Meta’s metaverse strategy takes a darker turn. Ahead of the Meta Quest Pro sale – expected to be available from October 25 for a whopping $1,499 – Meta announced the release of shows, movies and experiences on the Meta Quest platform. Earlier this month, Meta updated their Haunted Headsets list, jam-packed with VR games to help people celebrate the Halloween season in spine-chilling style. 
Giving a taste of the metaverse experience, Meta has come up with multiple VR games and series for Meta Quest 2, including Scream Park (the video that you saw above), Eli Roth’s Haunted House: Trick-VR-Treat, NOPE World by Monkeypaw Productions, Tokyo Case, Meta Horizon Worlds Drive-In, Alien Apocalypse, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and The Monster Challenge
The company has also partnered with Universal Pictures to launch a spooky and fun-filled messenger chat experience, allowing users to build their own custom Halloween Reels. This development comes after the company recently announced its partnership with NBCUniversal, where its streaming app Peacock would be coming to the Meta Quest virtual reality headset. 
At the Meta Connect event, Meta’s VP of Metaverse Vishal Shah said that early next year, they would be co-creating experiences around The Office, Universal Monsters, DreamWorks, Blumhouse, Halloween Horror Nights and others. In addition, the company aims to connect with the users through the social VR app Horizon Worlds and at Universal Studios theme parks in real life. 
Many people would tell you that this move by Meta to introduce VR headsets and a platform to showcase VR content is not in-sync with the idea of the metaverse, asking Meta to pull the plug on its metaverse plans. 
“It is not VR headsets, AR glasses, or avatars with legs. It is computer vision (CV), and Meta clearly understands this,” said Michael J Black, chief scientist at Meshcapade, revealing the key enabling technologies to build a metaverse. “We focus on headsets and avatars because they are tangible, visible artefacts in a way that CV isn’t,” he added.  
Further, he said that metaverse is not a video game but a blurring of the boundary between physical and digital selves. He said that it is about putting the real world into the digital and putting the digital into the real world. “This requires capturing the real world and the people in it. CV has long focused on the reconstruction of 3D scenes, the capture of human emotion and expression, and the semantic understanding of the visual world,” said Black, adding that these are the key to embedding humans and their world in the computer. 
However, computer vision has always had a flip side in image generation. Black said that, at present, computer vision is threatening to get computer graphics. “Aided by deep learning and combined with large language models, CV will replace traditional processes for creating and rendering synthetic content (humans and scenes),” he added. 
He also said that capturing, understanding, and modelling humans and their interactions with each other and the world will not only unlock the metaverse, but it will also enable new forms of e-commerce, improve our health, support us as we age, and provide a foundation for disruptive and creative new business. 
Black believes that the critiques about Meta’s investment in the metaverse focus on a narrow view of the end application if you look at it from the foundational CV technology, which has many applications. “The investment makes a lot more sense,” he added. 
On the contrary, this is quite scary and raises ethical concerns as Meta is experimenting with humans as test subjects by luring them to buy flattery VR headsets to build its so-called ‘social metaverse’ platform, which – at the moment – is far from reality. 
“The metaverse won’t be built overnight by a single company. We will collaborate with policymakers, experts and industry partners to bring this to life,” said Meta last year while announcing its plans to invest $50 million in global research and programme partners to ensure these products are developed responsibly. 
Further, the company said many of these products would only be fully realised in 10-15 years. “While that’s frustrating for those of us eager to dive right in, it gives us time to ask the difficult questions about how they should be built,” said Meta.  
Recently, Meta partnered with MeitY Startup Hub (India) to launch the XR Startup Program. With this, the duo looks to support and advance 40 seed, early-stage startups working on XR technologies in India. In addition, it will select 80 innovators who will later be invited to a bootcamp to validate their ideas. Of these startups, 16 will be backed by Meta from the R&D phase to develop workable products and services. 
Read: Indian IT is Trying to Make Their Metaverse Happen 
Meta has partnered with over 25+ companies and organisations to spearhead the vision of building the metaverse in various forms and shapes across regions. Some include Colorintech, Chuo University, EVERFI, Project Rockit, XR Hub Taiwan, World Health Organisation, C-Minds Eon Resilience Lab (Mexico) and others.
Recently, Analytics India Magazine got in touch with C-Minds’ founder and principal, Constanza Gomez Mont, to understand the nitty-gritty of its partnerships with Meta to build a responsible metaverse. She said that big tech like Meta, Google, etc, have an enormous role to play in the social impact landscape, and we see ourselves as enablers of collaboration, where we work closely with various projects, governments, civil society, local communities, etc. “We like to ask the difficult questions – how do we do this, ethically,” she added. 
From a metaverse standpoint, C-Minds looks to engage with experts across the region (Mexico) to discuss and research on economic opportunities, safety, privacy and security, gender and governance. This includes the application of privacy-enhancing technologies in the metaverse and more. 
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