Last October, when Facebook became Meta, Mark Zuckerberg presented in detail his conception of the metaverse for a bright future… The patents filed by the firm allow a glimpse behind the scenes, where the slightest physical reaction could be used for targeted advertising.
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The parent company of Facebook, now known as Meta, is investing heavily in metaversmetavers and related technologies. Mark ZuckerbergMark Zuckerberg announced his intention to spend $ 10 billion a year. The Financial Times has reviewed hundreds of patent applications filed by Meta in the United States over the past year, many of which have been granted, to better understand the company’s future vision.
Some of the patents are unsurprising, given that this kind of technology is already being developed by the competition. This includes face tracking in order to duplicate the user’s expressions on his virtual avatar, or even eye tracking, in order to animate the virtual eyes correctly. The latter also makes it possible to create a more precise rendering at the place looked at by the user of a virtual reality helmet, virtual or augmented reality helmet, limiting the power necessary to generate the rest of the image.
The patents also describe a system of magnetic sensors to be worn on the torso to detect posture, or a system to create avatars from photos. The final goal would be to create 3D copies of people and objects so realistic that they are indistinguishable from the original. The system has been described as “a human cloning program”.
Data collection for targeted advertising
If such technologies could make the metaverse much more immersive, other patents show how Meta intends to exploit all the data collected in order to generate revenue. Mark Zuckerberg had already stressed that he planned to keep a low price for his virtual reality headset, and earn money through the sale of digital services and goods, and also through advertising.
One of the patents shows how Meta intends to personalize advertisements in augmented reality, based on age, gender, interests, and their interactions with social networks, including “likes” and comments. With a helmet or glasses that integrate eye tracking, the firm could exploit a new source rich in information on how the user perceives the content, and which elements on the page attract his attention…
Still according to the patents, the firm intends to propose the duplication of real objects in virtual universes. This agrees with another patent which describes a system to allow third parties to “sponsor the display of an object” in a virtual place through a process similar to the current sale of advertisements. So this will open up a completely new medium for targeted advertising. Sponsors will no longer have to rely on caps and T-shirts with their logo, as in the real world, or inserts in web pages. Any object, in any virtual universe, can serve as an advertising medium.
Interviewed by the Financial Times, Brittan Heller, technology lawyer at Foley Hoag, indicated “my nightmare would be that targeted advertising based on our involuntary biological reactions appears in the metaverse”. We can easily imagine an addition to the headset that measures heart rate and respiration rate by viewing advertising content…
In response, Meta simply stated, “our patents do not necessarily cover the technologies used in our products and services”. The metaverse as such will not exist for years, but it underlines the importance of not leaving it in the hands of a single company…