Be Afraid

Facebook Locks Down Patents for Full-Body VR Tracking

The implications could be huge.

Jan 11 by Noor Al-Sibai
Facebook/Futurism
Image by Facebook/Futurism

Facebook’s iteration of the metaverse may now be set to get a lot less glitchy — and perhaps accumulate even more privacy concerns.

As Business Insider reports, Facebook — which is calling itself Meta now — has in recent months been granted a bevy of virtual reality patents, including a system that would track a user’s entire body in the metaverse, even while experts worry that the company hasn’t bothered to integrate privacy protocols into its proposed tech.

There’s one important caveat: as with all patents, these filings are less indicative of what Facebook will actually build out and more about directions the company is exploring on a research and development level.

By now, even the most dyed-in-the-wool metaverse stan knows to temper expectations given how disappointing the reality of this new virtual world has been thus far. Nevertheless, some of these patents could result in some really cool tech: gloves that simulate touch, “acoustic sensing” that makes objects give off sound, and the ability to “feel” togetherness at concerts and other experiences with friends and loved ones who are geographically distant.

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Some of the other aspects of the patents, Insider reports via its close reading of the filings, are less awesome: lots of built-in advertising, but very little about privacy or what will become of the inordinate amount of data that will be collected.

“We think these companies have data access now — no,” Georgetown Professor Jeanine Turner told Insider when Facebooks’ metaverse was first announced. “It’s mind blowing what they will have.”

Owen Vaughan, the director of research at the data security firm nChain, noted that because “your data is their product,” Facebook’s metaverse “opens up a lot more risk in terms of privacy and security.”

He told the website that the tech giant should be integrating privacy directly into its VR tech while it’s in development, because it may be “impossible” to do so later.

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“It’s very concerning that security and privacy [are] not there in the patents,” Vaughan told Insider.

Concerning is one word to describe the potential for privacy abuse in the metaverse. “Terrifying” and “not surprising” are three others.

READ MORE: Facebook’s vision for a hyperrealistic metaverse includes ‘body pose tracking,’ ‘pupil steering,’ clothing that wrinkles with movement, and a ‘magnetic sensor system’ worn around the torso [Business Insider]

More on the metaverse: Experts Say People Will Soon Live Entire Lives in Metaverse

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