Category Image

AI Development

I changed my opinion about the metaverse

October 19, 2023
I changed my opinion about the metaverse

I changed my opinion about the Metaverse

While sitting on the airplane, a complete lack of Wi-Fi gave me the perfect excuse to finally delve into a podcast. This particular episode was a conversation between Lex Fridman and Mark Zuckerberg, and it revolved around the intriguing topic of the Metaverse and its potential implications. Podcast episode:

In early October 2022, CNET grabbed everyone's attention with their video titled "Watch Mark Zuckerberg Reveal Next-Gen Avatars With Legs!" The video offered a sneak peek into the Metaverse, where characters suddenly had legs. However, even before this, Meta had released videos showcasing their foray into the Metaverse, and the internet's response was overwhelmingly negative. The comments section echoed the sentiment, with the top three comments being, "Seeing Mark repeatedly fail at salvaging the metaverse has just been pure entertainment," "I will give Mark this. His new avatar is more expressive than he is. Progress," and "can't wait for Meta's share price to hit single digits." Major YouTubers also jumped on the bandwagon, producing videos poking fun at the Metaverse and predicting doom for the company. Initially, I had my doubts too, but something told me Zuckerberg had bigger tricks up his sleeve. I didn't rush to declare it as the company's demise.

Having watched and listened to the podcast, my perspective on the metaverse underwent a profound transformation. Although the full depth of the experience that Lex Fridman had during the podcast is beyond what I had the possibility to experieence, it's evident that significant advancements have been made, rendering it incredibly lifelike to the point of being almost indistinguishable from reality. What struck me the most was Fridman's initial reaction, where he appeared captivated for the first 15 minutes of the episode, expressing that it genuinely felt like tehy were sharing the same physical space. Furthermore, one couldn't help but notice the remarkable realism in facial expressions and the impressive responsiveness of the metaverse technology.

The technology about it is also really smart, Zuckerberg explains, “instead of actually transmitting a video, what it does it we’ve sort of scanned ourselves in a lot of different expressions, and we have built a computer modle of each of our faces and bodies and the different expressions that we make and collapse that into a Kodak, then when you have the headset on your head, it sees your face, it sees your expression, and it can basically send an encoded version of what you’re supposed to look like over the wire. So in addition to being photorealistice, it’s also actually much more bandwidth efficient, than transmitting the full video or especially a 3D immersive video”. This will enable people with slower internet connections to use it as well.

I felt this podcast was even more interesting because I’m taking a course called Virtual Collaboration across Cultures, Where we talk about challenges with collaboration between cultures. In the course one of the biggest challenges are virtual teams and the challenges that they have. To name a few; Lack of face-to-face interaction, Isolation and loneliness, Lack of informal communication, Training and onboarding. I can see how a metaverse could help with all of these challenges. With a metaverse as shown in the podcast it would feel like you are face-to-face with someone or as a group. You could also have more casual conversations, and team-building exercise in the metaverse like escape rooms, or killing zombies (Which they mention is a fun activity in the metaverse). I can think of hundreds of different ways companies can use the metaverse, and developers are probably going to find thousands more. I was genuinely taken aback by how advanced the metaverse has become and how lifelike it feels. It doesn't seem like it'll be too long before major companies start favoring it over platforms like Teams or Zoom. In my opinion, holding meetings in the metaverse would likely lead to more engaging interactions compared to the distractions I often face on Zoom or Teams.

Meta was an early visionary in foreseeing the metaverse as the future, granting them a significant head start in this arena. However, other companies have also recognized the metaverse's potential role in the future. Notably, four months ago, on June 5th, Apple released a video introducing their virtual headset and its capabilities.

In the video, the focus was primarily on activities like watching movies, FaceTiming, conducting Google searches, and working with multiple displays, eliminating the need for physical monitors. This feature offers increased flexibility, allowing users to work from different locations without lugging around monitors, instead relying on Apple's Vision Pro Goggles.

Interestingly, Apple's move also benefits Meta. It essentially validates the concept of virtual reality and the metaverse as a category worth exploring. Mark Zuckerberg has outlined that the Quest virtual reality headset is oriented towards social interactions, communication, and active pursuits such as fitness and gaming. Notably, there's a substantial price gap between the Apple Vision Pro and the Meta Quest 3, with the former costing around €3300, while the latter is available for €569.

This significant price differential is bound to make prospective buyers think twice before making a choice. One area where Apple may excel is in seamlessly integrating their Apple ecosystem with the virtual headset, offering users a more cohesive and interconnected experience.

To conclude this article, I have no immediate plans to purchase either of the virtual headsets. The technology hasn't quite reached mainstream status yet. It will likely require early adopters and larger companies to pave the way, and only then will it become more accessible to the general public.

I do believe that the Apple Vision has inherent value, even with a limited user base, due to its focused features. However, the €3300 price tag remains steep, at least in my opinion.

The metaverse and virtual reality are undoubtedly poised to play significant roles in the future. This makes it an opportune time to initiate discussions about the associated ethical concerns. For example, what data can companies collect within the metaverse, and how might they employ this data? What actions should be permitted within this virtual realm? These are just a few of the questions that warrant consideration.

For those interested, I highly recommend watching the episode on YouTube or Spotify. If you enjoy it, you might also want to check out "Mark Zuckerberg: Future of AI at Meta, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp" on the Lex Fridman Podcast. In this discussion, they delve into the metaverse, virtual reality, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp and a range of other intriguing topics.