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Facebook launches new AR tools to help creators build the metaverse – Mint

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  • The metaverse is a concept that dates back to the 1960s in the world of technology

Social media giant, Facebook, unveiled additions to its Spark AR augmented reality (AR) platform today, which the company hopes will be used by developers and creators to build metaverse applications. The company had revealed its plans to build a virtual ‘metaverse’ during its second quarter earnings call this year, and Spark AR’s new capabilities help add advanced AR capabilities to apps built on the platform.
The metaverse is a concept that dates back to the 1960s in the world of technology. It imagines a virtual world where people can interact, buy property and perform other day-to-day activities. It’s often depicted in science fiction movies, like Ready Player One.

Polar app

The company said it would launch an app for iPhones, called Polar, which would allow users to “create and share” AR effects and filters from the mobile phone. “Polar is a free iOS app, powered by Spark AR, that will make it easier for you to imagine, create and share AR effects and filters, directly on your mobile phone. Polar is built by creators for creators, with an intuitive user interface and a range of templates to help you jumpstart effect creation,” the company said in a blog post.

The company said that it will invite creators to participate in a closed beta later this year.

Geofenced AR effects and body tracking

Further, the company also announced a new Geo JS application programming interface (API), which will allow AR use-cases to be locked to specific geographic locations. Facebook said the feature could be used to create scavenger hunts, guided tours and more, where AR activations need to be anchored to specific locations in the real world.
The function could help games like Pokemon Go, music concerts and more, where AR effects have to be “tied to unique points of interest around the venue”. “The Geo JS API will introduce a world tracker in Spark AR Studio and open up some fun, new possibilities for multiple AR experiences anchored to specific latitude and longitude coordinates,” the blog post said.
Spark AR will also have two new capabilities now — body tracking and hand tracking. With body tracking, developers will be able to anchor AR effects to specific body movements, something that platforms like Snapchat also offer in their platforms. The American messaging and camera company partnered with Indian Flipkart yesterday to use such capabilities for e-commerce.

On the other hand, hand tracking can help include gestures in AR applications. “This is the first of a multi-phased capability rollout that will support the hand bounding box. In our beta testing so far, we’ve seen some playful uses of hand tracking from performative art and comedic skits, to fantastical superpowers,” Facebook said.
The company hasn’t said when Geo JS, body and hand tracking will be available.

Spark AR will also seek to make it easier for developers to place 3D objects in the real world, including characters, GIFs, text, stickers and more. “We’re also improving the technical tooling for objects to allow for high-fidelity experiences, especially for use cases like commerce and shopping, with virtual try-ons and product previews,” the company said.

Facebook is also offering a new Spark AR certification program, and a new AR Pro course. The two programs are part of a $150 million Facebook Reality Labs education program, which hopes to help advanced and intermediate AR creators improve their skills. “The certification program is designed for advanced AR creators who are seeking to distinguish their AR skills in the marketplace, either to help boost their careers or to pursue more creator-for-hire opportunities with brands and agencies,” the company said. The certification course will cost $150, but Facebook is offering vouchers to the first 2000 creators who sign-up for it.
Lastly, the company also announced a partnership with game engine developer Unity, to bring the company’s ‘Create with VR for Educators’ course into the fold. It will also partner with educational institutions for such courses.

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Utherverse CEO Brian Shuster Granted Seven New Patents for … – Business Wire

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Internet pioneer now boasts more than 100 tech and internet-enabling patents
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Brian Shuster, founder and CEO of Utherverse, one of the largest metaverse platforms in the world, has been granted seven new patents for technologies designed to enhance the metaverse experience. The new technologies will begin to be deployed in the metaverse’s next generation platform, due to launch by mid-2023.

The new patents add to Utherverse’s already formidable mountain of intellectual property, addressing a variety of problems and vulnerabilities within metaverse platforms, ranging from the physics of movement and immersive displays to physical interaction between users and animation control.
“For more than two decades we have been working to enhance users’ experiences on the internet,” said Shuster. “These new patents span the three key metaverse pillars of software, hardware and remote touch; solve some inherent and significant problems with the operation of metaverse platforms; and greatly improve the ability of users to exist and thrive in hyper-realistic virtual worlds. They will provide developers with the capability to continually innovate.”
Shuster is now an inventor of more than 100 patents for internet enabling technologies. The abstracts of the seven new patents read in part:
Utherverse is a metaverse platform that enables developers to build interconnected virtual worlds, provides hyper-realistic immersive experiences for consumers and opportunities for companies to market and monetize their products and services. Utherverse generates revenue from custom metaverse building services, sales of NFTs and a variety of business verticals including advertising/marketing, shopping/retail, conferences/conventions, education, dating, lifestyle, entertainment events/performances, VIP experiences and virtual offices. The Utherverse platform was launched in 2005 by internet visionary Brian Shuster. A beta version of the next generation Utherverse platform is expected to launch by mid-2023. To date, the platform has served 50 million+ users with 32 billion+ virtual commerce transactions. Utherverse has developed the technology and received more than 40 patents critical toward operating large-scale metaverses. The company is based in British Columbia, Canada. More information can be found online at Utherverse.io; Twitter/Instagram: @Utherverse; Facebook: /UtherverseDigital; LinkedIn: /utherverse-digital-inc/; Telegram: /UtherverseAnnouncements; Discord: /Utherverse.io.
Steve Honig
The Honig Company, LLC
818-986-4300
press@honigllc.com
Steve Honig
The Honig Company, LLC
818-986-4300
press@honigllc.com

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Meta is desperately trying to make the metaverse happen – MIT Technology Review

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Will web access and avatar legs be enough?
The star of Tuesday’s Meta Connect, the so-called “state of the union” for the company formerly known as Facebook, was Meta Quest Pro. Meta’s newest virtual-reality headset clocks in at a whopping $1,499.99. That’s a significant price jump from its previous iteration, Meta Quest 2, which could be yours for $399.99—not exactly cheap, but still in triple-digit territory.
That price hike, coupled with Meta’s insistence throughout the virtual event that the company envisioned the metaverse as a “next-generation social platform” accessible to everyone, sort of feels like a blatant contradiction. Even if you are among the lucky few who can shell out a grand and a half for a virtual-reality headset, would you really want to?
That’s the question Meta seems to be grappling with. While the headset price jumped, nearly all the company’s other big moves are aimed at a common and simple baseline: making the metaverse something people actually want to use. 
Meta’s metaverse hasn’t exactly had a smooth year. Less than a year ago, founder Mark Zuckerberg rebranded what was then Facebook in an effort to show that the company was pivoting to what he believed was the future of our digital lives. Since then, Meta has been saddled with hiccups and gaffes, including a much-ballyhooed avatar of Zuckerberg that got memed to oblivion, a report suggesting that the company’s employees were less than enthused about the metaverse, and allegations of virtual sexual assault.
A woman was sexually harassed on Meta’s VR social media platform. She’s not the first—and won’t be the last.
So its current strategy seems to be to release a string of updates to see what might get people interested—a “throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” approach, if you will. 
Besides the Meta Quest Pro, the company also announced at the event that it was going to open up Horizon Worlds, the social media platform within Meta’s metaverse, to mobile and desktop users, so people without a headset will be able to access the virtual world.
That’s a notable step: it’s a tacit admission that VR headsets aren’t taking off as quickly as the company would like. Without a critical mass of people who understand what the metaverse feels like or even is, Meta can’t hope to have its products adopted. Opening its virtual worlds to the formats consumers are comfortable with (their text messages, their browsers, the company’s beleaguered Instagram platform) gives people who aren’t open to shelling out $399.99—much less $1,499.99—a way to experience the new world.
What’s also made the metaverse a hard sell is the disorienting experience of being a floating, legless torso, and Meta announced that it won’t be that way anymore. Previously, Andrew Bosworth, Meta’s CTO, said in an Instagram AMA that full-body avatars were difficult to implement, particularly because VR tracking usually comes from someone’s real-life eyes and hands. “Tracking your own legs accurately is super hard and basically not workable just from a physics standpoint with existing headsets,” he said in February.
But Zuckerberg (or, rather, his leggy avatar) announced at the event that the company was going to use artificial intelligence to map out legs in the metaverse, allowing avatars the ability not only to walk and run but also to wear digital clothing for their legs (a marketplace that Zuckerberg has said he is eager to participate in; Roblox, a gaming platform I’ve written about before, currently has a comfortable share of the market). This would be a huge step to improving how users think about movement in the metaverse and how they decide to represent themselves there.
But even with legs, and even with the ability to roam the metaverse without a headset strapped to your face, the key question remains: Is Meta’s metaverse something people will actually buy into? It’s worth noting that even employees at Meta are skeptical about the company’s vision, with one going so far as to say the amount spent on these projects to date made him “sick to [his] stomach.”
A free, shareable version of the metaverse accessible via weblink will open the previously closed world up to people who may not have hundreds of dollars to burn, and it’s a huge move toward democratizing the space. It might lead people to buy Meta’s claim that talking to a cartoon version of your boss is totally cool—and, more broadly, that the metaverse really is the next digital plane on which we’ll conduct our lives. 
But it might also do the opposite: people might hop on the link and find that even in its now full-bodied state, the metaverse, er, doesn’t have legs.
An avatar of the singer, who died in 1997, performed with live rappers on Meta’s Horizon Worlds.
In his own words, the Chinese painter shares how he became a one-person newsroom during a week of intense protests against China's zero-covid policy.
Reflecting on my desire for Chinese-style e-commerce platforms.
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OREO Launches Its Own VR Metaverse Experience – VRScout

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The OREOVERSE is available now via Horzion Worlds.
This week OREO unveiled a new limited-edition flavor, the Most OREO OREO, which features real OREO grind mixed in the creme. In celebration of the new product, the company has created its own metaverse experience accessible on Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro headsets.
According to the company, the OREOVERSE features a variety of “cookie-themed” games that have you building delicious treats in VR for a chance at $50,000. As part of the campaign, TV personality Martha Stewart and her gardener Ryan McCallister will stream themselves exploring the OREOVERSE next week on the OREO brand’s social channels.
“We’re so excited to enter the metaverse! OREO is the cookie that begs to be played with and we love to create new opportunities for our fans to connect with each other and share that playful spirit,” said Julia Rosenbloom, Senior Brand Manager, OREO, in an official release. “The Most OREO OREO cookie gives fans a whole new way to playfully engage with us. By scanning the pack, they will ‘dunk into’ the new OREOVERSE world.”
“I am excited to make my metaverse debut in partnership with one of my favorite cookie brands, OREO, and having Ryan there with me will make it all the more fun,” added Martha Stewart. “The two of us have had our fair share of adventures over the last 10 years and have been able to navigate just about anything together, especially in the garden!”
The OREOVERSE is accessible now on Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro headsets via Horizon Worlds, Meta’s own social VR metaverse. Marth Stewart’s OREOVERSE excursion will begin on Monday, January 30th at 10:00 am ET on Facebook and Instagram. For more information visit here.
Image Credit: OREO
Kyle is a writer for VRScout also working in new media production. He’s also a part-time bounty hunter.
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