Why is it so difficult for metaverse avatars to have legs?

A year after launching the company Meta, along with its plans to become a reference in a virtual world, Mark Zuckerberg announced a number of new additions to its metaverse, including more immersive headsets and a new generation of leg and foot avatars.

Until then, the company’s main virtual reality applications only allowed the creation of representations of people from the waist up, which appeared to float, with ghostly airs. The subject became a laughing stock on social media last year.

Perhaps that’s why Zuckerberg himself, during last week’s Meta Connect event, mocked the delay in presenting the complete avatars. “I think everyone has been waiting for this because it’s probably the most requested feature by users. No more floating from the waist up!” he said. The Meta group event aims to publicize the company’s advances in the areas of metaverse and virtual reality (VR).

Why is it hard to recreate lower limbs in avatars?

According to Meta itself, the main difficulty in introducing legs into digital representations of people is related to technological limitations.

That’s because the sensors in the virtual reality glasses could not accurately follow the users’ legs, reducing the quality of the immersive experience and even creating disturbing scenarios.

“When your digital body is rendered incorrectly — in the wrong place, for example — it can create an upsetting or funny situation, immediately pulling the user out of the experience. If your legs are under a table or even behind your arms, it’s possible that the headset don’t see them correctly, needing to trust the prediction”, explained Meta. And it doesn’t always work.

On the other hand, without being able to imitate all possible human movements, the legless avatars are more like dolls with half bodies, putting into question the very quality and efficiency of a vast virtual world.

With the arms, it’s different. The sensors in the glasses and controllers (such as joysticks) are located close to the torso, easily detecting body parts located from the waist up and allowing precise movement tracking.

Investment in AI is a way out

Over the years, companies that wanted to represent legs in the virtual world used cameras aimed at the ground or even physical sensors, which connect directly to the body, as a strategy.

But this solution has been obsolete for several reasons, in addition to being limiting in many situations — for example, the sensors do not allow an accurate view of the legs and feet, making it difficult to capture some movements.

To resolve the issue, Meta said it will bet on artificial intelligence (AI). Although the company has not disclosed details of the process, experts on the subject have already explained on international websites that the movements of the lower limbs must be based on an extensive database to be implanted in the headset, technology that does not provide tracking per se.

The new legged avatars in the metaverse are expected to be unveiled next year. They will arrive first in Horizon Worlds, Meta’s flagship virtual reality app. According to the company, if the experience works and as the technology improves, the lower members will be taken to other apps.

In addition to the legs, Meta announced that the new avatars will be more beautiful and customizable, coming closer to the human appearance. Among the improvements, the company highlighted the addition of more body types, skin tones and facial expressions.

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