Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed that his company Meta’s new virtual reality (VR) headset will be announced in October, and has said how it will allow more intimate non-verbal communication between metaverse users.
The Meta CEO appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, telling Rogan that the new headset will be released around Meta’s annual Connect event in a little over one month’s time. Zuckerberg was almost certainly talking about the headset that has been known under the codename Project Cambria until this point.
Zuckerberg talked about the forthcoming headset’s eye and facial feature-tracking function, and how it could facilitate “social presence”. The headset will allow VR avatars to convey the expressions of their users more accurately, facilitating closer interactions between their avatars in the metaverse.
He said that headset users will have “the ability to now have eye contact in VR, have your face be tracked, so that way, your avatar, it’s not just like this still thing.”
“But if you smile or if you frown or if you pout, whatever your expression is, [to be able to] have that in real time translated to your avatar… there’s more non-verbal communication between people when they’re with each other than verbal communication,” he added.
“For previous [headset] versions before this the eye contact was all just AI simulated; we didn’t actually know when you were making eye contact because we weren’t tracking the eyes, and now for this version and hopefully a lot of the different ones we build going forward you’ll be able to have realistic facial expressions and more translated directly to your avatar.
“There’s this whole roadmap of basically: ‘How do you deliver this real sense of presence?’, like you’re there with another person no matter where you actually are.”
While Zuckerberg has not mentioned sex or intimate relations in the metaverse, he did talk about how it will allow people to feel like they are genuinely close to each other, which is something that video calls don’t truly replicate.
He said: “I started thinking about what would be the ultimate expression of people using technology to feel present with each other. It’s not phones, it’s not computers. How do you get this sensation of you’re actually being present, like you’re right there with another person?”
He added: “That’s, to me, what virtual and eventually augmented reality are all about.”
As well as eye and facial feature tracking, Meta’s Project Cambria headset is expected to feature a high-resolution color screen and passthrough augmented reality technology. It is expected to be released before the end of 2022, following its mooted October announcement.