• The metaverse has been on everyone's lips for a few months.

  • While Facebook has just announced colossal investments to build a virtual twin world, Microsoft has advanced its pawns on the professional metaverse.

  • The world of video games has positioned itself for a while on the subject by creating global digital experiences: entertainment, interaction, payments, concerts ...

The future of the Internet is taking shape before our eyes. After several months of teasing, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, unveiled last Thursday the new name of his company “Meta”, in reference to the word “beyond” in Greek, but also to metaverse, the parallel world of which we keeps hearing about the past few weeks and describes it as the Internet of tomorrow. For its part, Microsoft unveiled its vision of a virtual twin world at the Ignite conference on Tuesday.

With virtual reality (VR), the idea of ​​a synthetic world accessible by new technologies on the model of the

virtual Samurai

written by Neal Stephenson in 1992 seems within reach.

But the world of video games did not wait for Mark Zuckerberg to wake up to start working on the subject.

From Fortnite to Roblox via Minecraft, the first technological bricks of the metaverse are laid.

Ok, but what will it look like in practice?

A brief tour of the scenarios and proofs of concepts considered for the metaverse of the future.

Mark Zuckerberg's virtual world

An avatar, an idyllic landscape, welcome to the metaverse of Meta, formerly known as Facebook. It's not for now, but the digital giant is building brick after brick to design a global virtual world that will offer mixed reality, a mixture of virtual and augmented reality. “There are going to be new ways of interacting with devices that will be much more natural than typing on a keyboard or clicking a button. It will even be enough to think of an action for it to occur ”, enthusiastic Mark Zuckerberg. Remember the prototype bracelet presented last March by Facebook Reality Labs. It decodes electrical signals at the wrist using electromyography to click, tap or manipulate virtual objects without moving the hand. In parallel,the digital giant is working on the design of all-in-one virtual reality equipment, called Cambria. The project will bring together all the latest technology, including an improved social presence, a real color camera, an ultra-thin pancake-type optical fiber, the social network said in a statement.

In this new world, avatars will be able to look each other in the eyes. “We combine a battery of sensors with algorithms to reconstruct the physical world with depth and perspective,” said Angela Chang, director of virtual reality devices at Meta. "Facebook already has billions of users and there is not much missing so that it can host the entire world population", notes Guillaume Moreau, computer science professor at IMT Atlantique, researcher at the Science and Technology Laboratory of information, communication and knowledge, the Lab-Sticc. However, we are not going to spend our lives with a VR headset screwed on the head. Beyond the question of the technological power that such a world will demand, there are still challenges to be taken up.“We will have to solve the perceptual problems linked to immersion, what we call motion sickness, cybermalaise. One in three people, after exposure to virtual reality, may have more or less pronounced symptoms of cybermalaise ”, continues Anatole Lecuyer, director of research in virtual reality at Inria. Will we be able to flee our existence to take refuge in a heavenly world, atmosphere

Ready Player One

 ?

Really not right away ...

Here is the vision of Facebook's metaverse, which is to be "the successor to the Internet", mixing VR / AR and video in a persistent universe, with a shared sense of "presence".

#FBConnect #Facebook pic.twitter.com/KobgFRgQGR

- Philippe Berry (@ptiberry) October 28, 2021

A Microsoft-version enterprise metaverse

To believe that the tech giants have spread the word. During its Ignite conference on Tuesday, Microsoft unveiled the outline of its corporate metaverse. His idea ? Integrate its Mesh product, a mixed reality platform that allows you to meet within collaborative holographic experiences, into its Teams group chat software. The user can appear as an avatar in a virtual space. Note that this expression of the metaverse differs from the thumbs-up vision of the firm. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella uses the word to refer to immersion, but it's not about bringing a synthetic world to life. Rather, it is a tool to create greater engagement.

“Microsoft knows how to make hardware, HoloLens, and also knows how to make massively multi-user games,” observes Guillaume Moreau. However, Microsoft does not seem to have a strategy as integrative as that of Facebook and still separates the fun and professional aspects ”. The Teams metaverse comes much like a response to the poverty of online exchanges that much of the population suffered during the Coronavirus pandemic. "On Zoom, no interaction is possible apart from sharing a document, raising your hand and switching off", criticizes Sylvain Louradour, associate director and Chief Creative Officer of the Netexplo digital innovation observatory. Virtual reality has the ability to deliver powerful experiences in many areas. "In education, telecommunications,teleconferencing or in the health field for rehabilitation, for example, virtual reality can be interesting, lists Anatole Lecuyer. It allows you to experience unique situations ”. A more specific vision of the metaverse.

The first bricks laid by the world of video games

If Facebook's ads are a bit futuristic, you just have to look at video games to get an idea of ​​the metaverse. There are already on Fortnite or Roblox that create connected social experiences. We leave the strict experience of video games to access a world where we interact and where we can attend virtual concerts of international stars. Lil Nas X on Roblox, Travis Scott and soon Aya Nakamura on Fortnite. In mid-October, Roblox presented its latest advancements that will translate into more personalization and realism regarding the avatars used by its 43 million daily active players. “In the future, the metaverse will continue to transform the way we connect, create and express ourselves through shared experiences,” Roblox writes on his blog.

For its part, Minecraft offers users the possibility of visiting persistent universes, created by players, where they can meet.

Remember also that the game has built a virtual library that brings together articles written by journalists censored in their country.

“The freedom of the press on a global level is encapsulated in a video game, points out Sylvain Louradour who envisions a phantasm, of superimposed worlds, rather than a monolithic metaverse.

Will one metaverse take over the others?

See you in ... ten or fifteen years.

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  • Virtual reality

  • Digital

  • Future (s)

  • Facebook

  • Meta

  • Culture

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