Zuck dives deeper into the metaverse, dragging Snoop Dogg along for ride

Meta's annual conference sees the company playing catch-up to OpenAI but pulling ahead of Apple

Not content to live off the fat of its advertising empire, Meta is still trying to make the metaverse a thing.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage for Meta Connect at Menlo Park yesterday to reel off a number of product announcements, ranging from new VR goggles to AI-equipped Ray-Bans, and appropriating the likenesses of celebrities and stuffing them into chatbots where they are doomed to forever perform tasks like dancing bears.

Pour one out for AI Snoop Dogg who was forced to play Dungeon Master for Zuck in a half-hearted Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The chatbot is distinctly short on the shizzles, nizzles, and other laconic patter that we know and love the D-O-double-G for, with Snoop's only meaningful contribution being his head smirking and rolling his eyes occasionally.

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So why bother when there appears to be little difference from asking ChatGPT to run a campaign? We suppose there was handsome compensation for the G-funk pioneer who has consistently reinvented himself over the decades to keep that passive income rolling in.

Still, there are people out there who would love to talk at their betters, and if the opportunity presents itself to play D&D with someone's favorite rapper, when they're actually talking to the Llama 2 LLM... well, let's just say never underestimate the stupidity of the general public.

That is, after all, Meta's business model.

The feature for Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram also has the likenesses of Kendall Jenner (model), Naomi Osaka (tennis player), and Tom Brady (American football star) among others held hostage. Each celeb represents an expert in different fields like cooking or fitness and so on.

However, the headline product for Meta was the sequel to the bestselling VR headset of all time, the Quest 3, which at $499 is $200 more expensive than its predecessor but a snip compared to Apple's $3,499 Vision Pro due out next year. Meta is launching the Quest 3 on October 10, meaning Zuck has beaten Tim Cook and co. to the punch.

The reason for the higher price is Qualcomm's more powerful Arm-based Snapdragon XR2 chip, which has energy needs closer to mobile processors than a desktop CPU. This boost enables resolutions of 2,064 x 2,208 per eye compared to the Quest 2's 1,832 x 1,920 for crisper text and images. Meta reckons you can squeeze two hours and 12 minutes out of the battery.

It also features "passthrough," cameras on the headset exterior that show live video on the displays, activated by a double tap, so you would be able to see your living room while also engaging with apps. It means a jaunt in the metaverse could be paused but the user wouldn't need to take the headset off, for example. It is also able to alert you to your surroundings to avoid episodes like these.

Passthrough once again brings Meta toe to toe with Apple, which refers to the function in the Vision Pro as "spatial computing." Meta also talked up improvements in the Quest's "pancake lenses" and haptic feedback, but when 40-70 percent of people suffer VR-induced motion sickness after 15 minutes of use, we struggle to see how any number of upgrades will place a Quest, or indeed a Vision Pro, in every home.

But what about those AI Ray-Bans? Meta obviously wasn't listening during the Google Glass era in which people were attacked or shunned just for wearing the hi-tech specs. Yet Zuck seems to think we're ready to go through all that again.

"Smart glasses are gonna be an important platform for the future, not only because they're the natural way to put holograms in the world… but also, because if you think about it, the smart glasses are the ideal form factor for you to let an AI assistant see what you're seeing and hear what you're hearing," he said.

The shades are fitted with Meta AI, the company's generic tilt at ChatGPT's market dominance built on Llama 2, which is able to recognize images like landmarks and translate foreign languages through cameras on the frame, or answer any questions the wearer may have, presumably like: "Am I OK with all this?"

On that note of catching up to OpenAI, Meta also touted its take on image generation, which it calls Emu. The algorithm will enable users to create their own "stickers" based on text prompts, which can be used across the company's chat platforms.

"Sometimes we innovate by releasing something that's never been seen before," Zuck said. "But sometimes we innovate by taking something that is awesome, but super expensive, and making it so it can be affordable for everyone or even free."

If you dare to set foot in Mordor Facebook, you can watch the keynote here. ®

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