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Meta Showcases New VR Building Tools, Which Will Facilitate Customized, Personalized VR Environments



Meta Showcases New VR Building Tools, Which Will Facilitate Customized, Personalized VR Environments

Meta’s Horizon VR project is, in Mark Zuckerberg’s own words, core to its metaverse vision, offering the capacity to not only engage in wholly immersive digital spaces, but to also create your own, entirely new, interactive 3D environments, customized to your preferences, which could truly be a game-changing shift for VR interactivity.

But that’s no easy task. Creating objects in VR generally requires in-depth knowledge of design and 3D modeling, and there’s no simple way to build your own, custom VR space which you could then invite others to join.

Or at least, there hasn’t been till now. Check out this new demo of Meta’s in-development ‘Builder Bot’ process for Horizon Worlds.

Pretty amazing right? Meta is essentially building a VR construction process that won’t require any coding or design knowledge, or even any manual manipulation via 3D apps and tools. You’ll literally be able to speak things you want to see into existence.

There are obviously limitations to this. More specific placement and customization likely won’t be possible via simple commands, while it’s also restricted by Meta’s voice-to-object recognition capacity, and the pre-built 3D objects that Meta has available in its system.

But Meta’s also developing on these aspects as well.

On speech recognition, Meta’s new CAIRaoke project will eventually provide more capacity for contextual understanding and translation in speech, which could help it build a more inclusive, comprehensive data set for object matching within its Builder Bot process.

In terms of available objects, Meta’s also developing improved 3D scanning tools, which, thus far, have primarily been focused on expanding its eCommerce listings, by providing virtual displays of items, in their real-world dimensions, to add more context for shoppers.

As this initiative expands, you can imagine how Meta could eventually build a massive corpus of 3D objects, which could then be integrated into this new VR environment.

Essentially, the system would provide Meta with a double bonus – not only would it expand its available dataset of 3D furniture objects for display with its eCommerce listings and recommendations, but it would also facilitate a never-ending range of product additions for Horizon Worlds, which would then enable truly customized VR spaces.

When Meta talks about the metaverse not being built by any one company, I suspect this is what it’s talking about – through custom, branded worlds, businesses will eventually be able to create their own, fully immersive product and display environments, which will enable all new experiences with their offerings, and all new opportunities for marketing and customer engagement.

Though Meta, in the end, will be the one hosting the party, the one facilitating that connection – so the metaverse, as such, would be owned by Meta, but the experiences built within it will be constructed by many people, businesses and other organizations.

But in this scenario, Meta is the key facilitator, the key platform for next-level connection.

And you can see the appeal, it’s not hard to imagine some amazing new worlds being created within this space.

In some ways, it’s similar to Minecraft’s Partner Program for developers, which has lead to some of the most interesting re-purposes of the game’s mechanics, fueling all-new uses of the app, and launching development careers for many creators. Indeed, last year, Microsoft reported that the Minecraft Marketplace, which is made up of user mods and additions, had generated over $350 million thus far for the company, and with around 50% of that revenue going back to creators, it’s a powerful, valuable ecosystem for the game, and a key reason for its enduring popularity and success.

It’s also a strong signal for the potential of Meta’s VR building tools. Younger audiences are already well accustomed to building in such environments, and engaging in these new worlds, and it’s this demographic that Meta will be targeting with the next stage of its VR functionalities.

You could further add in its SLAM digital art tools to its VR building process, which enable creators to digitally ‘paint’ interactive works, and NFT content displays, potentially, which are currently being tested in Instagram. Put all of these together and you can see how Meta is evolving towards the next stage of VR connection, and how brands and businesses will eventually be able to build their own worlds within this space, fully aligned to their products and creations, and wholly developed with a view to integrating eCommerce, promotion, interaction and more.

All of this is not possible yet, and many companies seeking to jump on board the metaverse bandwagon right now are largely missing the point. But the next stage is coming, and it’s becoming clearer every day.

And if you think Meta won’t be winning, and won’t be a central player, if not the central player in that process, you too could be missing the broader context.  

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New Report Shows That Young Users are Increasingly Turning to TikTok for News Content



New Report Shows That Young Users are Increasingly Turning to TikTok for News Content

Amid ongoing concerns about its data gathering processes, and its possible linkage to the Chinese Government, TikTok’s influence continues to grow, with the platform now a key source of entertainment for many of its billion active users.

And it’s not just entertainment, TikTok is also increasingly being used for search, with Google reporting earlier this year that, by its estimates, around 40% of young people now turn to TikTok or Instagram to search for, say, restaurant recommendations, as opposed to Google Search or Maps.

And now, TikTok is also becoming a source of news and information, as more news organizations look to lean into the platform, and establish connection with the next generation of consumers.

That’s the focus of the latest report from the Reuters Institute, which looks at how people are using TikTok for news content, and which sources are playing a role in shaping their opinions in the app.

You can download the full, 38-page report here, and it’s well worth a read, but there are two specific elements that are worth highlighting to help better understand and contextualize the TikTok shift.

First off, there’s this chart, which looks at the percentage of people who are using TikTok for news content in each age bracket.

As you can see, younger users are increasingly turning to TikTok to stay informed of the latest news updates. Which is a significant shift, and not just for news publishers looking to connect with their audience, but also in terms of broader impacts, and how young audiences are staying in touch with the latest happenings.

Which then leads into this second chart:

Reuters social media news report

As you can see, it’s not mainstream news sources that are the primary sources of news content on TikTok, its ‘internet personalities’ followed by ‘ordinary people’, with traditional journalists and publications much further back.

That’s a significant trend, which could reflect a broader distrust of mainstream media outlets, and the information presented in the news as we know it.

Now, younger audiences are more reliant on their favorite influencers to act as a filter, of sorts, to help highlight the news of most relevance – which could be good, in that it facilitates a new angle on the big stories each day. But it could be bad, in that the news they present and discuss is then based on the personal bias of each influencer, which is arguably a less transparent process than mainstream news outlets.

But that also depends on your perspective. Journalists, for the most part, work to uphold standards of integrity in their reporting, in order to limit the influence of personal bias, and present the key information within their updates. But increasingly, many news outlets have leaned into more controversial takes and opinions. Because that’s what works best with social media algorithms – you’re going to generate much more engagement, and thus, reach, with a headline that says something like ‘The President hates farmers’ as opposed to a more balanced report on the latest agricultural policy.

Many outlets have essentially weaponized this, and seem to employ partisan takes as a key element in their coverage, again, in order to maximize reader response, to get people commenting and sharing, and prompt more clicks.

Which definitely works, but it’s this approach that’s likely turned many younger consumers away from mainstream coverage, while the rising use of TikTok overall means that, one way or another, they’re going to get at least some news content there anyway.

Which could be a concern. Again, amid ongoing questions about the influence of the Chinese Government on the app, it seems like it should be a significant consideration that more and more young people are leaning on the app to stay informed about the latest news topics.

The report also looks at how news publishers are using TikTok, and what specific approaches are driving the most success.

Their conclusion:

“There’s no single recipe for success. Many publishers use a strategy based on hiring young creators who are native to the platform and its vernacular. This approach has connected strongly with audiences and brought critical acclaim but can make it harder to re-version content for other social platforms. Others have focused on showcasing the assets of the entire newsroom, including more experienced correspondents and anchors, delivering greater scale and flexibility but often without the same personal touch.

So using platform-native influencers, and those more savvy with TikTok-specific trends, can help to increase engagement and performance. But there’s no definitive TikTok playbook, as such, that will lead to guaranteed, sustained success.

Which, in some ways, is because that’s not how TikTok is built. Unlike other social media apps, TikTok isn’t designed to get you to follow the people and companies that you like, in order to essentially curate your own experience.

On TikTok, the aim is to show you the most entertaining content, from anyone, in alignment with your personal interests, which you express by simply using the app. By expanding the pool of potential content to everybody, that gives TikTok’s algorithms a lot more ways to keep you glued to your feed – but the flipside is that it also makes it much harder for creators and brands to establish a following, and keep their audience coming back, as they can on other apps.

That puts more focus onto each post itself, and how entertaining your latest update is. Which is better for TikTok’s ecosystem in general, but it also means that there are more challenges in maintaining reach and resonance in the app.

That’s true for news organizations, but it’s also true for brands, because you can’t just get people to follow your brand in the app and hope that they’ll then see everything that you post.

On TikTok, it’s a new competition, every day, and if you’re not entertaining, and holding engagement with each update, you’re going to lose, on that day at least.

You can download the full Reuters Institute ‘How Publishers are Learning to Create and Distribute News on TikTok’ report here.

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