Meta is holding its Connect conference for 2022 today, where it’s announced a range of new, cutting-edge VR features, including a new Quest headset, new professional integrations to facilitate workplace collaboration, updated interaction tools, control devices, and this…
Yes, soon, your VR avatar will actually have legs, so you won’t look like the genie from Aladdin floating around Meta’s VR spaces.
Here’s a look at the key updates from the event:
First off, Meta’s releasing a new, upgraded version of its standalone Quest VR headset, with the Quest Pro, the next evolution in VR interaction.
“Meta Quest Pro is the first entry in our new high-end line of devices, and it’s packed with innovative features like high-res sensors for robust mixed reality experiences, crisp LCD displays for sharp visuals, a completely new and sleeker design, plus eye tracking and Natural Facial Expressions to help your avatar reflect you more naturally in VR.”
The Quest Pro, which as originally titled ‘Project Cambria’, is also able to display 37% more pixels per inch, which will make the VR experience more immersive, and more realistic – which could be a good and bad thing (some of them VR rollercoasters genuinely make me feel sick).
The advanced device will also facilitate a range of new professional features, including multi-screen display, workrooms for collaboration in VR, ‘Magic Rooms’, which will combine VR and video participants, and more.
Even more than this, Meta also announced a new partnership with Microsoft that will see the two tech giants working together on a range of professional integrations, including Microsoft Teams immersive meeting experiences, and the integration of Microsoft’s top apps, including Word, Excel, etc.
It all seems potentially valuable, and another step towards the future of VR interaction.
But it’ll cost ya’.
Meta’s Quest Pro is now available for pre-sale at a whopping $US1,499. For comparison, the current best-selling standalone VR headset, Meta’s Quest 2, sells for $US399.
Meta’s been dealing with various challenges in getting the components and processes in place for its VR supply chain, which already forced it to increase the price of the Quest unit by $US100 back in August. But even with that in mind, an almost 4x increase in price is a huge leap, which will likely leave the Pro version as a theoretical concept for most regular consumers.
But then again, as the name suggests, the real focus here is on professional use, and integrating VR in all new ways. Meta also notes that it’s working with Accenture, Autodesk and Adobe, among others, in helping them build VR into their processes, and guide their staff, and clients, into the next phase of professional collaboration.
The Quest Pro will start shipping from October 25th – more info here.
Meta also announced that it’s developing Horizon Worlds on the web ‘so you can eventually pick up your phone or laptop and visit friends who are hanging out in VR, and vice versa’.
Meta’s been looking for more ways to integrate additional access points and interaction options for VR, which would essentially enable you to use your VR avatars in various online spaces, not just in the VR realm. That’s part of the broader view of the fully integrated metaverse, that people on various devices, and in various apps, will be able to tap into the metaverse experience, even without a VR headset.
Interestingly, Meta also noted that it’s working with the YouTube VR team to build more engaging entertainment experiences in VR spaces, like hosting YouTube watch parties in Horizon Home.
And again, avatars with legs:
Meta says that its new full-body VR avatars will roll out to Horizon Worlds shortly, while users will also soon be able to use these new avatars in video chat, on Messenger and WhatsApp too.
Meta also previews its latest advances in electromyography, which will eventually enable more control over AR and VR experiences by detecting actions in your wrist, Project Aria, its AR glasses project, which it’s now developing to assist people with visual impairments, and new process to build 3D objects in VR spaces.
Meta’s been working on these for some time, but a key impediment to widespread adoption and usage is that it requires a lot of specialized scanning equipment, and computer power, to build these more realistic depictions.
Eventually, Meta could look to install VR scanning units in accessible places to facilitate such (potentially even Meta stores if it expands its retail operations), and you could soon have some pretty amazing options for display and engagement within the virtual space.
Overall, it’s an interesting showcase of where Meta is headed with its VR developments, and its broader metaverse push. But then again, there’s nothing truly mind-blowing, as such, here – there’s nothing that’s going to help shift perceptions of Zuck’s metaverse investment as a huge potential waste of money, because there’s nothing that regular people can take away and apply to their lives every day, or nothing that transforms the VR or metaverse experience right now.
Instead, Meta’s looking to merge its VR tools into professional applications instead, in the hopes that this will broader VR adoption, through advanced system usage at work to begin with.
That makes some sense. Business users are more likely to pay more for these advanced experiences, and if more people are using VR at work, that could expedite the broader shift towards metaverse interaction in your social life too.
But it’ll be interesting to see the market reactions to Zuck’s latest VR showcase, and whether it’ll be enough to shake off the negative perceptions of the metaverse, which seem to be gaining more momentum every day.
Activists of Extinction Rebellion hold a ‘die-in’ for climate action in Boston in July 2022 – Copyright AFP/File Joseph Prezioso
Roland LLOYD PARRY
False information about climate change flourished online over the past year, researchers say, with denialist social media posts and conspiracy theories surging after US environmental reforms and Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.
“What really surprised us this year was to see a resurgence in language that is reminiscent of the 1980s: phrases like ‘climate hoax’ and ‘climate scam’ that deny the phenomenon of climate change,” said Jennie King, head of civic action at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based digital research group.
Popular topics included the false claims that CO2 does not cause climate change or that global warming is not caused by human activity, said Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of campaigners, in a report.
“Let me expose what the climate scam is actually all about,” read one of the most-shared tweets, cited in another survey by US non-profit Advance Democracy, Inc (ADI).
“It is a wealth transfer from you — to the global elite.”
– Twitter disinfo surge –
An analysis of Twitter messages — carried out for AFP by two computational social scientists at City, University of London — counted 1.1 million tweets or retweets using strong climate-sceptic terms in 2022.
Watchdogs are urging social media platforms to tackle climate disinformation – Copyright AFP Robyn Beck
That was nearly twice the figure for 2021, said researchers Max Falkenberg and Andrea Baronchelli. They found climate denial posts peaked in December, the month after Tesla billionaire Musk took over the platform.
Use of the denialist hashtag #ClimateScam surged on Twitter from July, according to analyses by CAAD and the US-based campaign group Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).
For weeks it was the top suggested search term on the site for users typing “climate”.
CAAD said the reason for that was “unclear”, though one major user of the term appeared to be an automated account, possibly indicating that a malignant bot was churning it out.
ADI noted that July saw US President Joe Biden secure support for a major climate spending bill — subject of numerous “climate scam” tweets — plus a heatwave in the United States and Europe.
Climate denial posts also peaked during the COP27 climate summit in November.
– Blue-tick deniers –
A quarter of all the strongly climate-sceptic tweets came from just 10 accounts, including Canadian right-wing populist party leader Maxime Bernier and Paul Joseph Watson, editor of conspiracy-theory website InfoWars, the City research showed.
CCDH pointed the finger at Musk, who reinstated numerous banned Twitter accounts and allowed users to pay for a blue tick — a mark previously reserved for accredited “verified” users in the public eye.
“Elon Musk’s decision to open up his platform for hate and disinformation has led to an explosion in climate disinformation on the platform,” said Callum Hood, CCDH’s head of research.
Musk himself tweeted in August 2022: “I do think global warming is a major risk.”
Musk has also created a $100 million dollar prize for technology innovations shown to be effective in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
But prolific climate change contrarians -– such as blogger Tony Heller and former coal executive Steve Milloy — have hailed him in their tweets.
– Conspiracy theories –
An analysis by Advance Democracy seen by AFP found the number of Twitter posts “using climate change denialism terms” more than tripled from 2021 to 2022, reaching over 900,000.
On TikTok, views of videos using hashtags associated with climate change denialism increased by 4.9 million, it said.
On YouTube, climate change denial videos got hundreds of thousands of views, with searches for them bringing up adverts for climate-denial products.
YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez told AFP that in response to the claim, certain climate-denial ads had been taken down.
TikTok and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.
On Facebook, meanwhile, ADI found the number of such posts decreased compared to 2021, in line with overall climate change claims.
– Culture wars –
The CAAD report said climate content regularly features alongside other misleading claims on “electoral fraud, vaccinations, the COVID-19 pandemic, migration, and child trafficking rings run by so-called ‘elites’.”
Jennie King of ISD said: “We are definitely seeing a rise of out-and-out conspiracism. Climate is the latest vector in the culture wars.”
Given the reports by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showing that human carbon emissions are heating the planet, raising the risk of floods, droughts and heatwaves, CCDH’s Hood emphasised the urgency of restricting the reach of misinformation.
“We would encourage platforms to think about the real harm that is caused by climate change,” Hood said, “so people who repeatedly spread demonstrably false information about climate are not granted the sort of reach that we see them getting.”
The company posted a net loss of $288.5 million, or 18 cents a share, including $34 million in charges from its workforce restructuring. That compared to a profit of $23 million, or one cent, a year earlier.
Snap ended the fourth quarter with 375 million daily users, a 17% increase. In the first three months of the year, the company estimates 382 million to 384 million people will use its platform daily.
Snap has become a bellwether for other digital advertising companies. Last year, it was the first to raise concerns about the slowdown in marketer spending online and to fire a significant number of employees—20% of its workforce—to cut costs in the face of falling revenue.
The company has spent the last two quarters refocusing the organization, cutting projects that don’t contribute to user and revenue growth.
In the first quarter, Snap expects the environment to “remain challenging as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist.”
Investors will get additional information about the state of the digital ad market when Meta and Alphabet report earnings later this week.
After reinstating thousands of previously suspended accounts, as part of new chief Elon Musk’s ‘amnesty’ initiative, Twitter has now outlined how it will be enforcing its rules from now on, which includes less restrictive measures for some violations.
“We have been proactively reinstating previously suspended accounts […] We did not reinstate accounts that engaged in illegal activity, threats of harm or violence, large-scale spam and platform manipulation, or when there was no recent appeal to have the account reinstated. Going forward, we will take less severe actions, such as limiting the reach of policy-violating Tweets or asking you to remove Tweets before you can continue using your account.”
This is in line with Musk’s previously stated ‘freedom of speech, not freedom of reach’ approach, which will see Twitter leaning more towards leaving content active in the app, but reducing its impact algorithmically, if it breaks any rules.
New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.
Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter.
You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.
Which means a lot of tweets that would have previously been deemed violative will now remain in the app, and while Musk notes that no ads will be displayed against such content, that could be difficult to enforce, given the way the tweet timeline functions.
But it does align with Musk’s free speech approach, and reduces the onus on Twitter, to some degree, in moderating speech. It will still need to assess each instance, case-by-case, but users themselves will be less aware of penalties – though Musk has also flagged adding more notifications and explainers to outline any reach penalties as well.
“Account suspension will be reserved for severe or ongoing, repeat violations of our policies. Severe violations include but are not limited to: engaging in illegal content or activity, inciting or threatening violence or harm, privacy violations, platform manipulation or spam, and engaging in targeted harassment of our users.”
Which still means that a lot of content that these users had been suspended for previously would still result in suspension now, and it leaves a lot up to Twitter management in allocating severity of impact in certain actions.
How do you definitively measure threats of violence or harm, for example? Former President Donald Trump was sanctioned under this policy, but many, including Musk, were critical of Twitter’s decision to do so, given that Trump is an elected representative.
In other nations, too, Twitter has been pressured to remove tweets under these policies, and it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter 2.0 handles such, given its stated more lax approach to moderation, despite its rules remaining largely the same.
In essence, Twitter’s approach has changed when it chooses to do so, but the rules, as such, will effectively be governed by Musk himself. And as we’ve already seen, he will make drastic rules changes based on personal agendas and experience.
Twitter says that, starting February 1st, any previously suspended users will be able to appeal their suspension, and be evaluated under its new criteria for reinstatement.
It’s also targeting February for a launch of its new account penalties notifications.