Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced its latest virtual reality (VR) headset at the Meta Connect 2022 event on Oct. 11. The company introduced new features to enhance digital avatars, which raised privacy concerns regarding data collection.
The Quest Pro is the latest piece of VR technology released by Meta as it continues its push into the Metaverse. It utilizes five cameras inside the headset, which are positioned to watch and track a person’s facial expressions and eye movements. In addition, it has five external cameras, which will be employed in the future to track other bodily movements to mimic real-world motions.
These upgrades integrated into the Quest Pro are in an effort to boost digital avatar quality in the metaverse. According to Meta, they will accurately and uniquely reflect a user’s emotions and expressions in real-time.
This comes after major internet backfire (and memes) from a photo posted by Mark Zuckerberg over the summer of his less-than-realistic metaverse avatar.
Identity in the Metaverse is a prominent topic of discussion in the space as designers and developers try to create realistic experiences in the digital world.
Industry experts assume that despite the new headset’s default off setting for facial tracking, it won’t last long. Facebook has long struggled with its usage and collection of biometric data relating to privacy ethics. Despite the fact that these companies claim they do not sell these personal pieces of information, many reports saying otherwise have since surfaced.
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Last November, Facebook announced it would delete data extraction from facial recognition of over 1 billion people after being faced with government investigations, class action lawsuits and regulatory concerns.
In April, whistleblower Frances Haugen spoke out in an interview with concerns as to how Meta will handle privacy and sensitive data in the Metaverse. Haugen said without increased transparency and accountability, it will “repeat all the harms you currently see on Facebook.”
She continued to say that at the end of the day, there will always be a conflict between what these companies present to the public and what they will do to make money:
“At the end of the day, their business model revolves on taking your data and monetizing it.”
On Twitter, users have mixed reactions to the VR set, with some gawking at the price yet praising the technology, while others remain skeptical about their privacy. One user said VR gaming is an “amazing” experience but wants guaranteed privacy rights:
Although decentralized technologies such as nonfungible tokens (NFTs), blockchain and cryptocurrencies are becoming a mainstay of metaverse development, this might not be enough when big tech is involved.
When big tech companies like Meta go full speed into the Metaverse, centralization starts to creep back in. Vitalik Buterin is quoted saying that Facebook’s metaverse will “misfire” because it’s too early to know what people want.
Nonetheless, Meta continues to push forward. Aside from the Quest Pro announcement, it also announced a partnership with Microsoft to bring Office 365 products to digital reality.