Metaverse: We tested Mark Zuckerberg’s virtual reality

It was no longer possible to lose the experience of the moment. Since Mark Zuckerberg formalized the transformation of Facebook into Meta at the end of October, it’s no longer about dragging your feet. We, in turn, had to dive into the metaverse. The parallel world promised by the social network is simmering Silicon Valley. Irritating, fascinating, the object intrigues as much as it bothers, just like its creator … But is it a real novelty? Invited by Sia Partners, a consulting company on digital transformation that studies its use for its customers, we crossed the doors of the metaverse to get an idea.

This Thursday, December 6th, we found the avatar of our editorial director, Pierre-Henri de Menthon, in a virtual meeting room, Meta’s “Horizon Workroom”, along with another guest. Each is installed in a different room of the Sia Partners premises with a virtual reality helmet positioned on the forehead. Within minutes, we are teleported to an alternate reality. A large office open to nature. The landscape in the windows is reminiscent of the peaceful Jura valleys, smoking chimneys and a lake in the distance. An enchanted videogame atmosphere, to which it will still take a few minutes to adapt, despite a rather playful first look.

Double digital

Overall, the experience isn’t much different from a typical VR simulation. Our avatars have no legs, so our digital twins soar above the ground, almost as light as Mark Zuckerberg on a surfboard. To date, Meta’s $ 300 consumer headset, the Oculus Quest 2, is capable of reproducing hand movements and facial expression using its built-in sensors, but cannot yet scan the entire body. explains Agathe Malinas, the director of the Nod-A agency.

“It’s only a matter of time”, says Matthieu Courtecuisse, the director of Sia Partners, present at the experiment. Mark Zuckerberg’s group is already studying the possibility of wearing a suit, ReSkin, to experience sensations even in the metaverse. This double skin is based on the detection of magnetic signals, intercepted by an artificial intelligence. Unveiled in October, the “elastomer” invented by Meta should allow to further increase the sensation of immersion in this parallel world and make the experience even more compelling for users.

For now, each of us is assigned two simple joystick-shaped controllers. They will be used, during the experiment, to write and manipulate objects. But also to move from one point to another in a personalized furniture with the logo of Challenges. Actions remain limited at this time. We move by clicking on the floating buttons. The spatialization of the sound works wonderfully and keeps the illusion of natural conversation from one end of the room to the other. As for the feeling of discomfort (“motion sickness“), sometimes heard during virtual reality demonstrations, is relatively absent. At least for half an hour spent in the metaverse.

In the end, Mark Zuckerberg wants to integrate all the applications developed by the group into the metaverse: from instant communication (WhatsApp, Messenger) to social networks (Facebook, Instagram), passing through online commerce (Shops). The “store” integrated into the helmet by Meta gives access to various applications, which the user can access from their Facebook account for around twenty dollars. An offer dominated by entertainment applications (Beat Saber, Job Simulator, etc.) and some rarer features aimed at companies, such as Smarsheet (an online work platform).

Microsoft’s competition

Companies, let’s talk about it. In France, Accenture, Orange and Renault have already acquired several headsets to introduce their teams to virtual reality. Event groups are interested in this for their post-pandemic conferences; fashion brands, to exhibit their new collections. And, who knows, one day models with virtual coins, authenticated on the blockchain, parade? Creations that could be put online in the form of NFTs and sold using cryptocurrencies in outlets based on the e-commerce model. In short, the use cases are varied. And the increasingly numerous bridges between the two worlds.

“To make this transition, Facebook will have to take inspiration from Apple, remarked Matthieu Courtecuisse. After cutting the prices of VR headsets, Meta will have to secure the rest of the value chain, from hardware to device, and move closer to a market that it does not control. for the moment”. The metaverse is still far from fulfilling all of Mark Zuckerberg’s promises. Its competitors, such as Microsoft’s “Mesh” platform, offer more hybrid experiences, combining augmented reality and virtual experience. A less intrusive solution than a VR viewer, where the user is immersed in a total illusion.

Microsoft’s “mixed reality” headset, the HoloLens 2, then simulates holograms in the user’s field of view rather than transporting them to another world, giving them the ability to appear as an avatar or as a human according to their preferences. . At CES in Las Vegas, the group announced Monday that it has partnered with electronic chip designer, Qualcomm, to integrate its SnapDragon technology into future Microsoft glasses. More ergonomic and less heavy than current helmets. A market that will surely determine the future of the metaverse. AndWhile waiting to “build the next chapter” with Mark Zuckerberg, we found our editorial team and said goodbye to our digital double. At the next appointment …

Read alsoMeta flees from his past for a future lost in advance

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