Think of it as what will come after the internet. It’s a virtual universe that will straddle the physical and digital worlds, allowing people to live and interact in real-time in both of them.
Digiday gave a good example: you wouldn’t have different social media profiles across various platforms. You would instead automatically be yourself when you log onto Twitter, Instagram, and other online spaces.
The metaverse concept has been somewhat niche, presiding largely in the gaming world, until Zuckerberg pushed it into the limelight this week in an interview with The Verge.
He said Facebook would evolve from a social media company into a “metaverse company.” And Facebook’s Andrew Bosworth said Monday that the company is even building out a designated executive team to oversee progress towards the metaverse vision. It’ll exist within Facebook’s virtual reality branch.
Facebook’s VR and AR technology can currently “teleport you into a room with another person, regardless of physical distance, or to new virtual worlds and experiences,” Bosworth said in the Facebook post. “But to achieve our full vision of the Metaverse, we also need to build the connective tissue between these spaces — so you can remove the limitations of physics and move between them with the same ease as moving from one room in your home to the next.”
Zuckerberg said he’s banking on the transition to occur over the course of the next five years or so.
Jensen Huang, the CEO of chip and graphics card producer Nvidia, recently spoke to a group of journalists at the IT expo Computex about his views on ethereum’s value, how Nvidia’s products fit into the crypto ecosystem and why he thinks we’re on the cusp of creating a metaverse in an interview published by VentureBeat.
Nvidia’s graphic processing units are top-level graphic cards that also have crypto mining capabilities. Huang, a big proponent of artificial intelligence, unveiled a lower resolution graphics card at the conference that has been designed specifically for crypto mining. He also addressed the global chip shortage, Nvidia’s role in it and whether he believes the Chinese government will interfere in the development of artificial intelligence.
Here are Huang’s ten best quotes from the interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
“Am I excited about proof of stake? The answer’s yes….Ethereum has established itself. It has the opportunity now to implement a second generation that carries on from the platform approach and all of the services that are built on top of it. It’s legitimate. It’s established. There’s a lot of credibility. It works well. A lot of people depend on it for DeFi and other things. This is a great time for proof of stake to come.” – on the opportunities ethereum provides and the network’s value for blockchain and crypto.
“We reduced the performance of our GPU on purpose so that if you would like to buy a GPU for gaming, you can. If you’d like to buy a GPU for crypto mining, either you can buy the CMP version, or if you really would like to use the GeForce to do it, unfortunately the performance will be reduced.” – on how Nvidia is trying to decrease graphic card prices and why they developed CMP.
“We’ll just keep working with our supply chain to inform them about the changing world of IT, so that they can be better prepared for the demand that’s coming in the future. But I believe that the areas that we’re in, the markets that we’re in, because we have very specific reasons, will have rich demand for some time to come.” – on managing the ongoing global shortage of semiconductors.
“It’s now established that ethereum is going to be quite valuable. There’s a future where the processing of these transactions can be a lot faster, and because there are so many people built on top of it now, ethereum is going to be valuable. ” – on the outlook for the ethereum network based on its scalability.
“I believe we’re right on the cusp of it. […] There will be many types of metaverses, and video games are one of them, for example. […] We’ll see this overlay, a metaverse overlay if you will, into our physical world.” – on when and how a metaverse will become real.
“You need that blockchain to have some fundamental value, and that fundamental value could be mined. Cryptocurrency is going to be here to stay. Ethereum might not be as hot as it is now. In a year’s time, it may cool down some. But I think crypto mining is here to stay.” – on the future of crypto mining and blockchain networks.
“I believe that there will be a larger market, a larger industry, more designers and creators, designing digital things in virtual reality and metaverses than there will be designing things in the physical world. […] The economy in the metaverse, the economy of Omniverse, will be larger than the economy in the physical world. Digital currency, cryptocurrency, could be used in the world of metaverses.” – on his vision for the omniverse that Nvidia is developing.
“My sense is that we’re welcome in China and we’ll continue to work hard to deserve to be welcome in China, and every other country for that matter.” – on whether the Chinese government will step in and regulate Nvidia’s work on artificial intelligence.
“One of the most important technologies that we have to build, for several of them – in the case of consumers, one of the important technologies is AR, and it’s coming along.” – on the development and accessibility of augmented reality.
“This is the largest market opportunity the IT industry has ever seen. I can understand why it inspires so many competitors. We just need to continue to do our best work and run as fast as we can.” – on the future of the graphics processing unit industry and the competition within it.
RIoT is a nonprofit organization driving innovation and entrepreneurship in the Raleigh area.
One program, RIoT Your Reality, is a competition where teams pitch AR ideas to improve the city.
Other initiatives include an accelerator program and a data-centric stormwater management project.
This article is part of a series focused on American cities building a better tomorrow called “Advancing Cities.”
In July, six teams will demonstrate their ideas for how augmented reality can help solve some of the challenges facing Raleigh, North Carolina, and the surrounding areas.
Through the program RIoT Your Reality, the teams are examining ways to improve diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in city programs, promote workforce development, and reinvent the Raleigh Convention Center to drive economic development.
“It’s the intersection with government,” Tom Snyder, executive director at RIoT, a local nonprofit working to advance innovation, told Insider. “The city of Raleigh and town of Cary together posed a few problem statements that they’re looking for help on. And we’re running a challenge where people are developing new prototypes of augmented-reality applications to serve those challenges.”
RIoT Your Reality is a partnership with RIoT, the city of Raleigh, the town of Cary, Google Fiber, US Ignite, and Facebook Reality Labs. It kicked off in April with several teams pitching their AR ideas. Six were selected to receive $1,000 to build a prototype, which they’ll demo during an event on July 27. A final winner receives $40,000 and a spot in the RIoT Accelerator Program to launch a new startup.
Snyder said the goal is to create a municipal pilot project and learn how to scale a startup to assist cities beyond North Carolina.
The AR competition is just one of the ways that RIoT works to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in the Raleigh area. Here’s a look at some of the organization’s other major programs.
Helping businesses create new tech jobs
RIoT was founded in 2014 as part of the larger nonprofit Wireless Research Center, located in Wake Forest, North Carolina, which works to advance wireless technology innovation.
Originally, the name was an acronym for Raleigh Internet of Things, then Regional Internet of Things. Now it just goes by RIoT.
“Our grounding thesis is that the best new jobs are created at the forefront of emerging technology,” Snyder, who helped found the organization, said. RIoT’s programs help entrepreneurs start companies and established businesses grow through new technology adoption, all of which creates new jobs.
Being headquartered in Raleigh offers advantages, Snyder said. The area is home to several top universities, including Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University, which fosters a talent pipeline. Several major tech and data companies, including IBM and SAS, have a presence in the region, creating a “great diversity of industry” within the tech sector, he said.
“There are just massive industries and a really nice balance here that makes it a more attractive place for people to be,” Snyder said. “You can’t just job hop during your career, but you can industry hop successfully. And that brings fresh ideas and really makes us a strong place to live.”
RIoT has another location in Wilson, North Carolina, though its presence extends beyond the state. The organization hosts events around the country and is planning to establish new offices in Colorado and Virginia.
Enabling startups to get off the ground
One of RIoT’s programs to boost economic development, the RIoT Accelerator Program, connects entrepreneurs with partners in their industries and gives them access to prototyping tools and other resources.
The accelerator is currently on its eighth cohort. Snyder said RIoT is purposeful in supporting underrepresented groups when selecting startups to participate, and about 60% of the companies involved have been run by women, minorities, and veterans.
Since 2014, the companies participating in the accelerator have created more than 200 jobs, generated more than $100 million in revenue, and earned millions in grant and venture funding, he said.
Growing the accelerator to help more startups is one of its goals. By the end of 2021, Snyder said the accelerator will be offered in multiple cities.
To help startups prototype and experiment with ideas without having to spend money on equipment, RIoT Labs offers hardware, wireless, and software prototyping tools, including a 3D printer, electronic equipment, soldering irons, and more.
“We can provide that equipment for you to go create your new connected device, do the performance testing on the front end, do the regulatory certification testing on the back end, and get it to market,” he said.
RIoT works with government and corporate partners, including Cisco and SAS. Snyder said the organization is always on the lookout for new ones willing to support the entrepreneurial community.
“We want Raleigh to be the place that anyone in the world who wants to participate knows if I come here, I can find the partners that I need to be successful,” he said.
Making Raleigh the center of the ‘data economy’
RIoT worked with Raleigh and the surrounding communities on a data-centric stormwater management project.
Partnering with local startup GreenStream Technologies, they used water-level monitoring sensors to better understand water movement and predict when to shut down a street before it floods or dispatch emergency responders before flooding reaches emergency levels.
Snyder said Raleigh has done a good job of thinking about how to make data collected at the city level accessible – and has the potential to be the “center of excellence of the data economy.” Processing and measuring data depends on the advancement of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and automation technologies.
“We’re moving from a world where the economy was driven by the internet to now one where it’s being driven by real-time data,” he said.
Through programs like RIoT Your Reality and the water management project, Raleigh serves as a testbed to experiment with new ideas and technologies.
“When we can do that successfully, not only are we solving the city’s needs in a way that they can remain focused on their day-to-day operations, but if it’s a local company that provides for those needs, we’re creating jobs here in the community,” Snyder said.
Zuckerberg was on the show to discuss futuristic technology from Facebook’s Reality Labs group, which specializes in augmented reality, virtual reality, and other platforms believed to be the future of human-computer interaction.
To that end, Zuckerberg discussed the promise of AR/VR as it applies to remote work. In the next 5 to 10 years, according to Zuckerberg, half of Facebook’s staff could be working remotely on a permanent basis – regardless of global pandemics.
Perhaps more notable than what Zuckerberg said on Clubhouse was his presence on the buzzy new social networking app – Facebook is notorious for replicating key features of its rivals through Facebook and Facebook’s subsidiaries. Instagram Stories, for instance, is largely a re-creation of a similar function on Snapchat.
Aside from positive buzz, Clubhouse has been repeatedly criticized for its moderation issues that overwhelmingly impact Black people and people of color, Grit Daily reported. “On Clubhouse,” the report said, “there are no screenshots. There is no way to drag up old Clubhouse posts years later like a user might do on Twitter. There is no way to record conversations – meaning there is no way to prove that someone said anything controversial at all. There’s no path to accountability.”
Clubhouse’s key functionality is voice-based communication: Users essentially join instanced group voice chat rooms, which other social networks don’t offer. The app is currently invite-only, but it’s expected to open up to everyone in the near future.
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But on Tuesday, Google confirmed in a blog post that it would halt development of the product, instead making its source code available on code-hosting platform Github.
“As we continue to build helpful and immersive AR experiences, we want to continue supporting the artists using Tilt Brush by putting it in your hands,” the blog read. “This means open sourcing Tilt Brush, allowing everyone to learn how we built the project, and encouraging them to take it in directions that are near and dear to them.”
Google released Tilt Brush for the HTC Vive virtual reality headset in 2016, and the program later became available on Facebook-owned Oculus Rift. The program allowed users to create colourful, 3D paintings and animations.
Despite billions of dollars of investments from big tech firms, virtual reality is still struggling to break into the mainstream, and for most remains a novelty rather than a mature entertainment platform.
A few weeks ago, Patrick Hackett, one of the co-creators of Tilt Brush, confirmed he was leaving Google in order to join I-Illusions, the games studio behind popular VR title Space Pirate Trainer.
“To my #TiltBrush community: You’ve been inspiring and encouraging and wonderful and I love you,” he wrote. “I’ve made so many great friends over these years and am indebted to you forever.”
Insider approached Google for comment.
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Apple’s initial headset release will operate primarily as a virtual-reality device, displaying an “all-encompassing 3-D digital environment” for users to do anything from game to watch videos or simply chat, according to the report. Gurman says the first headset’s augmented-reality capabilities will likely be “more limited” as the company continues to develop the technology.
The headset will reportedly be battery operated much like Facebook’s Oculus Quest and will not require a gaming console like PlayStation’s PSVR headset, though Apple’s product is expected to be much more expensive than its competitors which below $1,000.
Apple’s first headset will likely not be a product for the masses for some time
According to Gurman, some sources say the company may sell only one of the devices daily at each of its retail locations. If that’s the case, the product would firmly be on the niche end of Apple’s product lineup, closer to the unit sales of high-end devices like the Mac Pro, which starts at $6,000.
The VR headset would be a gamble on Apple’s part into a fairly new and undeveloped technology that has yet to gain meaningful traction with mainstream consumers.
The company’s main focus in developing the headset seems to be as a prototype, leading up to an eventual pair of AR glasses – a device that would be much more mainstream, Gurman reports.
The headset faces several hurdles before it can be released
Hardware companies in the VR and AR space often talk about eventual versions of their product that will more closely resemble traditional glasses, but such a device with compelling AR and VR features is a complex undertaking that utilizes bleeding-edge tech. So far, no company has pulled it off.
There’s also the question of whether enough people will actually buy such a device. Google’s Glass product was launched in 2013 and failed just two years later. But while wearable technology for the face can be a tough sell, Facebook has begun to see promising signs with the Oculus Quest 2.
Another key part of convincing people to buy such a device is the content that runs on it. Companies like Facebook and Valve have spent many millions funding the development of VR experiences.
Apple has been known to take on similarly ambitious products that have either flopped or never reached the market, including Ping an attempt to turn iTunes into a social network, the AirPower charging mat, and Apple’s Pippin gaming console.
But Apple CEO Tim Cook is bullish on augmented-reality, and appears to be pushing Apple into new categories in recent years.
In addition to new Apple Watch models, leaning into the services business, and launching high-end Apple headphones, Apple has also reportedly been working on a self-driving electric car since 2015. The project, codenamed “Project Titan,” has faced delays, and is not expected to be released for at least five years.
Outside of entering a new frontier with technology that is still evolving, the headset also faces several hurdles before it’s ready for launch, according to Gurman. Components used in the headset reportedly include powerful chips along with high-resolution displays, as well as a fan to cool the headset down. These additions have led the headset to become heavy enough to warrant concerns of possible neck strains, according to the report.
Since its inception, one of the biggest use cases of AR on mobile remains the ability to play with your appearance whether through clothes, accessories, or makeup. Snapchat and Instagram are no stranger to this trend, and now Google is making its mark in the space with its own update.
Specifically, the tech giant tapped ModiFace and Perfect Corp, two companies highly involved in AR beauty technologies, to deliver a feature that gives online shoppers a way to virtually try on makeup without having to deviate from their Search results.
Separately, Google teamed up with Snapchat to put an immersive twist on its ‘Year in Search’ trends overview. Here’s a high-level overview of the latest.
Bringing the benefits of in-store shopping to mobile
Similar to YouTube’s AR feature for makeup try-on launched last year, Google’s latest push utilizes top brands including L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, MAC Cosmetics, Black Opal, and Charlotte Tilbury allowing consumers to try on a variety of makeup products without having to set foot in a store to test the look and feel.
Here’s how it works: When a user searches for a particular lipstick or eyeshadow product such as— “L’Oréal’s Infallible Paints Metallic Eyeshadow,” — they’ll be directed to the virtual try-on shopping experience at the top of their search results. From there, they can browse a library of photos of models representing a range of skin tones to help compare the shades and find the right product for them
“Seventy-three percent of U.S. shoppers are planning to buy online,” said Archana Kannan, Group Product Manager, Shopping and author of the announcement regarding this past holiday season’s expectations. “There are plenty of perks with online shopping, from the convenience of doing it from your couch to the multitude of options right at your fingertips.”
Details aside — the key takeaway here is that more than ever consumers are finding out about products from social media, then clicking through direct links to retailers to make purchases or even transacting directly on social platforms like Facebook or Instagram without leaving the app. A big driver of this shift? Influencers.
Endorsements from experts and enthusiasts
As part of the effort, Google is taking into consideration how consumers ultimately make their decision and a big trend as of late is recommendations from trusted sources like influencers.
In this vein, the company is unveiling recommendations from beauty, apparel and home and garden enthusiasts and experts, including online influencers, when a consumer browses Google Shopping on their phone. For example, hear the latest from professional makeup artist Jonet about makeup looks, or get holiday gift ideas from Homesick Candles.
“Sometimes it’s helpful to get recommendations and see how products work for other people,” explained Kannan. “Once you’ve found a product you love, you’ll be able to easily shop these recommendations.” This feature comes from Shoploop, a product formerly part of Area 120, Google’s in-house incubator.
The ‘Year in Search’ AR experience
The end of the year always seems to be nostalgic and Google and Snapchat are leaning into this in an innovative way. A new Google Lens accessible through Snapchat gives users an interactive walk down memory lane of all the key events of 2020 and noteworthy insights.
For instance, clicking on a photo of a Black Lives Matter protest highlights that compared to the previous year, searches of the term were up five-fold. Further, searches for “protest near me” were made in every state in the country for the first time ever.
“As 2020 comes to an end, Snap and Google have partnered to bring Google’s iconic “Year in Search” story to life with an immersive augmented reality experience. This marks the first time Google’s “Year in Search” has been brought to life in AR, and the campaign’s debut on Snapchat.”
Additionally, Snapchat also reports that for the first time Google will run its “Year in Search” video as ads on the platform.
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