Meta launches new interactive options for VR worlds, next steps in the Metaverse Shift

Meta is taking early steps to make its VR environments more interactive, with an initial rollout of the ability to invite friends to your Meta Horizon Home environment

As you can see from this overview, VR users will soon have a new way to invite their friends to connect in the VR environment, play games, watch video or just explore new virtual worlds together.

As explained by meta

“Home has existed for years as a temporary space. Home is the first thing you see when you put on your Meta Quest headset, and a familiar place to return to when you’re done exploring […] With v41 we are taking a step towards our long-term vision. As part of this update, we’ll gradually start rolling out the ability to invite friends into your Meta Horizon Home environment and hang out, coordinate your next game session, and even send your group straight to supported multiplayer experiences.

There is currently limited support for multiplayer interaction in VR apps, and as you can see, VR avatars still don’t have legs. But this is another step towards Meta’s ultimate metaverse vision, where VR headsets will become a portal to all-new, fully immersive social experiences.

It may not seem like it now, as it’s still too early for VR adoption, but eventually Meta hopes this will become as commonplace as checking your phone, until you don’t even need your phone to communicate anymore, and you spend all your mobile screen time in VR environments instead.

That still seems far fetched. Wearing a VR headset for extended periods of time can get tedious, while there are also issues with motion sickness and other factors that likely limit the amount of time you want to spend in virtual spaces. But then again, Meta is placing big bets on VR and the metaverse, becoming the future of interaction, with Zuck and Co. investing billions in technology that will power the next phase of digital connectivity.

Experiences like this give us a glimpse of what to expect, and while it’s still early days, you can begin to see the framework of Meta’s metaverse form, with more interactive tools being built in, more collaboration and creation platforms are releasedand more avatar customization options are being developed to facilitate personalization and identity within the space.

On that front, Meta is also working on his new photo-realistic avatarsand developing new ways to create more lifelike avatar characters for the VR space.

At the end of last year, Meta showed his evolving Codec Avatarswhich are basically photo-realistic images of your physical self, in digital form.

Those are impressive, but the problem is in creating these images, as users have to be filmed in a 360-degree camera setup to make it easier to create.

Or at least they did.

According to a new report from VR uploadMeta has now developed a new process that allows users to create similar photo-realistic avatars via their current mobile device.

Meta photorealistic avatars

From upload

“Previously, Generate an Individual Codec Avatar required a specialized recording rig called MUGSY with 171 high-resolution cameras. But Meta’s latest research solves this requirement, generating an avatar with a scan of a smartphone with a depth sensor on the front, like any iPhone with FaceID. This scanning process takes an average of 3 and a half minutes, the researchers claim, although actually generating the avatar (in full detail) then takes six hours on a machine with four high-end GPUs. If implemented in a product, this step would likely occur on cloud GPUs, not on the user’s device.”

So a heavy processing load is still required – but again, we see the next steps of VR interaction, which will eventually form another layer of the metaverse shift.

It will, of course, take some time for all of these elements to coalesce and for the inclusion of VR to reach the point of critical mass. But Meta’s bet is that a younger audience, more accustomed to virtual spaces like Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft, will eventually welcome these new interactive environments, where they can interact through digital avatars within shared worlds.

Ideally this would all happen at once and we would now have a fully formed VR room. But every step takes time, with the main shift being the rapid acceleration of the adoption of VR as VR devices become the focal point of engagement for younger users.

A great game or app can be the catalyst on this front, and when it does, the metaverse shift can happen faster than you might think.

It’s not there yet, but the building blocks are being pushed into place.

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