The Future of Human Connection.
A year ago, Meta Connect was all VR this and Metaverse that, and honestly, no one really got it. But after recently watching this year’s 2023 Keynote address, the dots started to slowly connect.
The Metaverse is where the physical and digital world come together, and according to Mark Zuckerberg, the foundational technologies that will help build it, are already here:
- Mixed Reality (MR) will bring digital objects into the physical world
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) will create different personas to accomplish different things as if they were human
- Rayban Smart Glasses will bring this together into a stylish form factor that we can wear all day long.
In the not-so-distant future, you will be able to walk into a room and interact with a hologram similar to how you would interact with a friend or colleague, and you will feel just as present as anyone else. You can even interact with an AI-embodied hologram that will act as a virtual assistant, to help you get stuff done. Basically, the Metaverse is a place where technology is cooler, smaller, more powerful, scarily human, and easier to wear on your face, blending seamlessly into one giant physical/digital universe you interact with. Well, that was my takeaway anyway.
One of the biggest things Zuckerberg reiterated throughout his keynote this year however, is that Meta is innovating…in everything. It may seem like a bit of a stretch, but his reason is somewhat wholesome. Innovation shouldn’t just be for the rich. Meta is making their products with everyone in mind so people can access them at affordable prices. Think Instagram and Facebook x1000. Zuckerberg hammered this point home after unveiling each of the Metaverse technologies: MR, AI and Smart Glasses. Meta want to dominate the market of human connection, meaning their technology will impact almost every way of life, from the way we socialise, game, and go to work.
Let’s look at each of these technologies in more detail.
“At Meta we are focused on building the future of human connection. We build products to help people feel closer…No matter where in the world we are.”
– Mark Zuckerberg, Connect 2023
Meta Quest 3 and Mixed Reality (MR)
Meta Quest 3 is finally here and it has a fair bit to offer. It is officially the first mainstream Mixed-Reality (MR) headset, and the most powerful headset Meta have ever made. Quest 3 is currently the poster child for the ‘future of human connection’ with a series of add-ons that make it more user-friendly.
Quest is all about Mixed Reality:
Quest 3 allows people to blend the physical and digital worlds together while also being able to see the world around you. It lets you navigate things with your hands with precision controllers, and it can stand alone without batteries or wires so you don’t have to break your ‘immersive presence’. This means you can swing your arms in virtual boxing matches without knocking over a vase, or duck behind your own couch to avoid a virtual bullet. You can play games, build things, and work out – while also having spatial awareness so you don’t fall down the stairs. The limits of your physical space will also expand so you can be part of much larger worlds. There was a Stranger Things reference in there somewhere, but I’ll leave that for the more tech-savvy to explain.
It’s a lot more powerful:
Quest 3 shows your physical space with 10xs more pixels than Quest 2 and can automatically map the space you are in with two dedicated colour sensors and depth sensors. Xbox Cloud Gaming is also coming to Quest 3 in December and you can play hundreds of Xbox games on a massive screen anywhere you go. Basically, you can teleport a big screen into your bedroom out of thin air. A few gamers cheered at that in his speech so it must be good.
It’s getting nifty:
Next year Meta is launching something called ‘Augments’ – a set of mixed reality mini-apps on Quest 3 that you can stick anywhere in your house or office. They are interactive, spatially aware digital objects that come to life all around you when you put your headset on, like photos or news feeds.
It’s a seamless transition:
The coolest thing about Quest 3 is the technology’s ability to seamlessly transition from an immersive world back to reality. Double-tap your headset and move instantly from XR back to reality in seconds.
It’s ready for business (literally):
Meta Quest for Business is also launching in November allowing you to take Mixed Reality to work and bring it to your orgainsation at scale. Microsoft 365 will also be available on Quest 3 by the end of the year, with productivity apps like Word and Excel readily available. This is a big leap for organisations wanting to get into XR, which has been missing for some time.
Meta Quest 3 summary: It is the most powerful Quest yet, has the world’s best immersive content library, and you can take it anywhere you want.
We all knew Zuckerberg’s big reveal would include AI, and no surprises, they have made some decent headway. Meta has launched AI models that generate 3D video from text prompts, and sound from images and bring objects into VR just by looking at them. It can also let you speak a different language in your own voice and has a new leading source foundation Llama 2. Meta is also building a platform for creating AI to help you get things done or simply have fun. We will soon be able to interact with AI across the entire Meta-universe of products from Messenger, Instagram, Facebook and avatars built for home or work.
Meta is bringing state-of-the-art AI into apps billions of people are using. EMU (Expressive Media Universe) is the first real sign of what this is. It can generate custom images in under five seconds and will have AI editing tools for Instagram later this month.
Meta AI – your new virtual assistant
You will soon be able to invoke Meta AI in any chat to help you generate photos, settle debates, and find restaurants. Think of it as your personal assistant across the Meta suit. Good for home and work. Meta AI already exists on in some countries on messaging apps, but it will soon be available on Quest 3 and will include EMU.
AI with personality
Meta is all about human connection so there is also a lot of fun to be had. They are experimenting with different AI personalities using the likes of Naomi Osaka, Paris Hilton and Kendall Jenner. They are also experimenting with things like Sue Chef AI, Personal Editor AI, Personal Trainer AI and many more. There is still work to be done in this space, but the possibilities are limitless.
Meta is also allowing people to build their own AI with AI Studio. They will be opening up API to be integrated into messaging apps in the coming weeks and build sandboxes so people who can’t code can also train it. This is a win for businesses that will soon be able to build their own AI to help them engage with customers, commerce and support. This has already soft-launched in alpha with a few companies.
Generative AI is emerging, but slower than usual
Zuckerberg called this out firsthand. He knows the power of Generative AI and wants it to be thoughtful in delivery and is actively trying to build safeguards as they go. Meta will be rolling this out slower than usual so they can address issues as they arise before scaling. But Zuckerberg is very optimistic about the value Gen AI is going to drive personally and professionally.
AI summary: AI will be the intersection between all technologies across the Meta suite of products and it will be powerful
Rayban Smart Glasses
Last but not least Meta revealed their next-generation Rayban Smart Glasses. Why are they so cool? Because they have AR and Meta AI built-in, meaning you can chat, interact, ask questions and get immediate answers without pulling out your phone.
Smart glasses make XR and AI stylish.
To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a first generation of Rayban Smart Glasses, but apparently, the camera is a lot clearer, the audio is better and they are lighter and more comfortable. These are state-of-the-art AI hands-free glasses that you can interact with anywhere you go. Simply ask your glasses a question and they will get you the answer in real-time. Starting from next year this will become multimodal so it can understand what you are looking at, when you are looking at it, instead of telling it what you see.
It has live stream capability
The smart glasses will not only help you put holograms into your physical space, it will also see and hear what you do for better interactivity. Zuckerberg notes that the AI part of the glasses will be just as important as any of the augmented reality features. For example, soon you will be able to ask your glasses to record what you are seeing, and live stream it to friends and followers, switching seamlessly from glasses to a streaming service such as Instagram.
Smart Glasses summary: A stylish way of bringing XR and AI together
Meta Connect 2023 recap
Meta are leading the market in Mixed Reality and there is much to be said about their new direction. Their innovation strategy is pervasive, expanding across social, gaming and business. Meta is focused on building the ‘future of human connection’, creating products that help people feel closer, no matter where they are. This year, they are one step closer to the Metaverse, and have revealed their three foundational technologies: MR, AI and Rayban Smart Glasses.
Meta’s Quest 3 has moved leaps and bounds and is now the first Mixed Reality headset on the market. It can bring digital and physical worlds together, is faster and more powerful, and in one month it will be ready for businesses, allowing organisations to scale XR across their entire workforce.
Meta has also made huge AI advancements, revealing two new products: Meta AI and AI studio that will help individuals and organisations build their own Artificial Intelligence capabilities. And last but not least, their Rayban Smart Glasses with Meta AI built-in will bring XR and AI together in one stylish, lightweight packaged solution that will only get better over time.
All in all? It’s an exciting time for Meta and innovation, and almost anyone can jump on the bandwagon. Keep a close eye on these advancements in the next few weeks and months, especially businesses, because big changes are coming…for everyone.