A moment’s silence, please, for the death of the Metaverse

Meta sank tens of billions into its CEO’s virtual reality dream, but what will he do next?

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to remember the metaverse, which was quietly laid to rest a few weeks ago by its grieving adoptive parent, one Mark Zuckerberg. Those of you with long memories will remember how, in October 2021, Zuck (as he is known to his friends) excitedly announced the arrival of his new adoptee, to which he had playfully assigned the nickname “The Future”.

So delighted was he that he had even renamed his family home in her honour. Henceforth, what was formerly called “Facebook” would be known as “Meta”. In a presentation at the company’s annual conference, Zuckerberg announced the name change and detailed how his child would grow up to be a new version of cyberspace. She “will be the successor to the mobile internet”, he told a stunned audience of credulous hacks and cynical Wall Street analysts. “We’ll be able to feel present – like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are.” And no expense would be spared in ensuring that his child would fulfil her destiny.

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Instagram Adding NFT Integration with Multiple Blockchain Networks

Widely used social media platform Instagram has a coming NFT integration, part of Meta’s push to align its own products and services with the emerging Web3 space. The pilot for this new integration is reportedly coming as early as Monday.

As reported by CoinDesk over the weekend that Instagram is looking to directly add support from multiple blockchain / NFT platforms, including the following; Ethereum, Solana, Polygon, and Flow. Today, Instagram head Adam Mosseri confirmed the news on a Twitter video, with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg also posting: “This week we’re starting to test digital collectibles on Instagram so creators and collectors can display their NFTs on their profile.”

Web3 Coming to Instagram

This Instagram upgrade will feature true web3 connectivity, with users being able to connect their own cryptocurrency wallets like MetaMask. This, in theory, will create a seamless process that will allow users to showcase their own NFT collections, verify their ownership, and even tag creators.

With a user base of one billion individuals and a dominant focus on art & aesthetics, the move for Instagram and Meta to utilize the platform for NFTs comes as no surprise.

Twitter’s integration with NFTs back in January generated conversation as users were able to upload and connect their NFTs to showcase as their profile pictures. 


Of course, users must be subscribed to Twitter via Twitter Blue to have access to these features. Instagram will reportedly not charge users to link their NFTs, an improvement on the feature versus Twitter.

Questions have arisen about the security of such an integration with Instagram, as just last month it was reported that the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) official Instagram account was hacked and exploited. This led to the theft of $2.8 million USD in NFTs.

This emerging NFT pilot on Instagram has been hinted at by Mark Zuckerberg to be the first step in also launching minting and sharing options on Meta’s other platform Facebook. For continued updates on all the latest Web3 news, keep reading gmw3.

Meta Rolls out 3D Avatars Across its Apps

Whether it’s a videogame or the metaverse, avatars are an essential part of the whole process allowing users to create their own digital self; lifelike or not. Today, Meta has announced a new update to its avatar system rolling out its 3D avatars across Facebook, Instagram (Stories and DM), and Messenger.

Meta Avatar Visual Updates
Image credit: Meta

Having released more expressive virtual reality (VR) avatars almost a year ago, Meta’s other platforms are getting the avatar treatment. So you can create one avatar and use it across all of Meta aforementioned apps as it continues implementing its metaverse vision. Make a new Facebook profile pic or pop yourself on a sticker, for example.

The avatars will feature a limited rollout, to begin with, available to users in the US, Canada and Mexico. Today’s launch also adds more options to make Meta’s avatars even more inclusive. Wheelchairs, cochlear implants and over-the-ear hearing aids (for one or both ears) have been added.

You’ll also notice a general refinement in the avatar design. Facial shapes and skin shaders have been tweaked so you can create a more accurate digital you. This isn’t a flatscreen update either, the VR version is getting the same improvements.

Instagram Super Bowl Avatars
Image credit: Meta

“We’re updating Meta avatars with a lot more expressions, faces and skin tones, as well as wheelchairs and hearing aids,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a statement. “We’re starting to experiment with digital clothing too, including official NFL shirts you can wear for the Super Bowl. You can use your avatar across Quest, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. One day you’ll have multiple avatars ranging from expressive to photorealistic. Looking forward to sharing more soon.”

When it comes to those NFL shirts, they’re available until 28th February in three flavours. The two Super Bowl LVI contenders branded shirts for the dedicated fans and a neutral shirt for those who just like to watch American Football.

As for the wider rollout, Meta says the update will be globally available in the next few months. For continued updates keep reading gmw3.

Is that really me? The ugly truth about beauty filters

Smoother skin, slimmer faces, plumper lips … how unattainable ideals are harming young users

Popping a beautifying filter on the TikTok video she was filming seemed harmless to Mia. It made it look as though she had done her makeup, took away the hint of a double chin that always bothered her, and gently altered her bone structure to make her just that bit closer to perfect.

After a while, using filters on videos became second nature – until she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror one day and realised, to her horror, she no longer recognised her own face.

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Oculus Quest Expands 2D App Support, With Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Slack & More

Meta (formerly Facebook) is expanding 2D app support on Quest — apps like Instagram, Dropbox and Slack will soon be available to download on the Oculus Store. 

Announced at Connect today, these 2D apps for Quest will use a new framework based on the PWA (progressive web app) industry standard.

Starting today and expanding with increased support to come, this will expand the Quest Home’s 2D app capabilities from just the operating system first-party 2D apps and services (Explore, Oculus Store, Oculus Browser) to include other first and third-party apps from “a variety of developers” that can run in a 2D panel model and take advantage of the Quest’s multitasking capabilities.

2D apps in Home oculus quest

“You just download them and then you use them like panel apps in Home, just like the first party apps,” said Product Management Lead, AV/VR for Enterprise Jill Campbell on a call earlier this week. “Enabling more 2D apps is another step forward in making VR more flexible and more useful … Services like Slack and Dropbox, Facebook and Instagram, and many more open up opportunities, not just for how to use the headset, but for developers and how they might build for the headset.”

DROPBOX on Oculus Quest

Select apps, including Facebook, Instagram, Smartsheet and Spike, will be available in the Oculus Store for Quest from today.  Apps such as Dropbox, Monday.com, MURAL, My5, Pluto TV and Slack “will follow soon” along with other unannounced apps in the future. 

Slack on Oculus Quest

Meta says that these apps 2D panel apps are using a new framework based on the Progressive Web App (PWA) industry standard, which will make Home a developer platform for the first time and allow an app to “have the look and feel of a native app and gain access to discovery and distribution features on the Oculus Platform.”

New work environment quest

There’s also a new work-focused home environment, designed to be used with 2D panel apps and a desk as a virtual office location, pictured above. Unlike Horizon Workrooms, which is designed as a communal meeting and collaborative workspace, this environment is simply an aesthetic change to the home environment optimized for 2D apps and multitasking — essentially an area to work on something by yourself. 

Zuckerberg Explains Why Facebook Is Building A ‘Reality Operating System’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and VP AR/VR Andrew Bosworth hosted a live Ask-Me-Anything session on Instagram, in which they confirmed work on a new OS.

Back in 2019, The Information reported that Facebook was working on a new operating system for AR glasses. In yesterday’s AMA, one user-submitted question asked whether Facebook is really building a OS, and why. Zuckerberg responded, “We are building a reality operating system. That’s sort of how we think about it.”

“These new platforms are so different from everything that’s come before it – not just the input, but the app model, how you’re going to discover things, how tightly they need to be optimized. If you’re building a pair of glasses that need to look like normal glasses, you need to have the system be so tightly optimized so you can basically do all the computation that you would expect from a modern computer, but do it on someone’s face within a thermal envelope and a power envelope that can last all day long. So that’s a very big challenge.

The team is pretty far along in this, at this point. We’re building a microkernel-based operating system, which is the architecture that you want to segment the pieces to make it as secure as possible. That way you have a small [set] of pieces that you know are going to be fundamentally trustworthy that you can build on top of. But at the end of the day, we need to basically be able to design and customize every layer of the stack in order to build out the performance and efficiency that we need in order to deliver these systems.”

It’s unclear whether this OS will be only for AR glasses or also in future Facebook VR headsets. The Information’s report only mentioned AR, and Zuckerberg’s answer referenced “a pair of glasses that need to look like normal glasses”.

Bosworth jumped in to clarify that he and the team at Facebook Reality Labs ideally wanted to build as little as possible from scratch, but ended up needing to build quite a lot to tackle the large technical challenges:

“I want to build as little as possible. And Facebook really was built on top of open source. We’re big contributors to open source. When software is available for us to use, we love using it. Obviously, our Oculus and Portal systems are built on Android, which we’ve had great success with. I want to build as little as I can. What is amazing is how much you have to build to fit into these tight thermal envelopes.

And I do feel at times that mine was a generation of computer programmers who were a little bit lazy. We got to be lazy. We were at the absolute, just the fattest part of Moore’s law, delivering tremendous gains in silicon. So you can just write high-level inefficient code and who cares? We’re not up against Moore’s law — much tougher than that, we’re up against the first law of thermodynamics. The amount of heat that we can dissipate off of your face — not very much without burning you, which we strongly oppose.

So any piece of work you see me doing, any piece of work you see Facebook Reality Labs doing… I don’t want to do that work – I feel like I have to do it to deliver the vision. And building our own reality operating system is a part of that.”

Facebook’s operating system effort is led by Mark Lucovsky, a former Microsoft engineer who co-developed Windows NT. Lucovsky’s Twitter & LinkedIn profiles call the project ‘The Reality Platform’. Some job listings at Facebook have referenced this work but we haven’t seen the executives speak publicly about the efforts.

Interestingly, earlier this year Bloomberg reported Apple is on a new OS for AR and VR called rOS, with the r likely also standing for reality.

Staff writer David Heaney contributed to this report.

Watch The Game Awards Tomorrow, Instagram AR Filters Available Now

It’s that time of year — awards season is upon us. For the gaming world, it all kicks off with The Game Awards, which goes live at 3:30pm PST tomorrow.

The Game Awards are one of the bigger annual awards ceremonies in the video games sphere. Not only are loads of awards handed out over several categories, but the ceremony is often littered with big game announcements as well. It’s a bit like the Oscars mixed with an E3 presentation.

In terms of VR and AR nominees, there’s a VR game nominated in 8 of the 29 categories, as well as a whole ‘Best VR/AR of the Year’ award. You can read our full breakdown of VR nominees across other categories, but here’s the shortlist for the Best of VR/AR category specifically:

Dreams (Media Molecule/SIE)

Half-Life: Alyx (Valve)

MARVEL’s Iron Man VR (Camoflaj/SIE)

STAR WARS: Squadrons (Motive Studios/EA)

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners (Skydance Interactive)

What would be your choice to take home the award?

The Game Awards also announced that six exclusive AR Instagram filters are available now on the ceremony’s Instagram page, @thegameawards. Five of the filters overlay an AR design of a character from a nominated game onto your face — the Hades filter, for example, gives you black Zagreus-like hair, changes the color of your pupils and places you inside a Greek-theme photo frame. Sadly the filters focus on nominees from the general Game of the Year category, and none feature VR games.

The Game Awards will be streaming tomorrow on Twitch, YouTube and many other platforms from 3:30pm PST.

Augmented, virtual reality see uptake during pandemic

Virtual Reality health simulation with Arch Virtual. (Image courtesy Arch Virtual.)

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the use of virtual reality and augmented reality, experts say, especially in retail, education and health.

Taylor Freeman

“The trajectory is clear that this technology is set to become the next ubiquitous computing platform, much like we saw with mobile devices and personal computers,” Taylor Freeman, founder of Axon Park, an extended reality training simulation platform, told Hypergrid Business.

“Gaming has seen a large uptick in playtime and sales,” he said, “and personal well-being, with meditation and mindfulness apps.”

But the biggest growth areas are health care and education, he said, as well as events and conferences that have moved from in-person events to virtual reality.

For example, the Cannes Film Festival will focus on extended reality in its special Cannes XR virtual show this year.

And WaveXR just raised $30 million for its virtual events platform, which proves there are unique opportunities for augmented and mixed reality in the event space, as conventions, concerts and conferences start to move digital, Cory Grenier, CEO of Genee — an augmented reality authoring and publishing platform, told Hypergrid Business.

Dave Dolan

The growth is expected to continue after the pandemic. According to a May report by Vynz Research, the virtual and augmented reality market will grow from $22 billion of revenue this year to $161 billion by 2025.

“We are also seeing a surge in many other areas, such as showrooms, remote training and walk-throughs,” Dave Dolan, chief product officer at virtual reality education platform Veative, told Hypergrid Business. “Just in the last two months, we have seen a 30 to 40 percent increase in demand for remote training.”

Retail shopping and advertising

Seek XR, an extended reality company whose augmented reality platform is used by companies to increase sales and to create interactive customer experiences as well as for interactive learning, has noted a 600 percent increase in usage of augmented reality through its customers’ websites since the beginning of March when much of physical retail shut down.

Jon Cheney

To date, Seek XR has deployed more than 10 million experiences to over 100 million users.

And the company reports increases of between 10 200 percent in its corporate clients’ conversion rates — that’s the percent of visitors who turn into paying customers.

“Product returns are dropping by 25 percent and time to make buying decisions has been cut in half,” Seek XR CEO Jon Cheney told Hypergrid Business. “Augmented reality is making impacts with real return on investment that can’t be ignored, even without the looming fears of coronavirus.”


Education and training

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced 1.53 billion learners out of school and the closure of schools in 184 countries around the world, which has affected learning for 87 percent of learners globally, according to a fact sheet posted by a UN initiative called Education Cannot Wait.

Some of these schools are turning to virtual and augmented reality to help address the needs of these students.

This was a challenge for some platforms, since students don’t usually have VR headsets at home.

Veative now has own virtual reality headset to diversify their products. (Image courtesy Veative.)

One such company, Veative, offers virtual reality-based STEM educational content, serving over 200 schools in more than 24 countries.

During the pandemic, the reported an increase in use — but only after they started to offer web-based mixed reality content that didn’t require that students have virtual reality headsets.

“We managed to pivot and offer our virtual reality content on web-based extended reality,” said Veative’s Dolan. “Schools have welcomed it and we expect to double our user base by the end of summer.”

Other organizations are responding to the challenge by issuing headsets to at-home users, especially enterprises using virtual reality for training.

Nathan Pettyjohn

“Lenovo’s ThinkReality team is receiving more customer inquiries specifically as a response to the global pandemic,” Nathan Pettyjohn, commercial augmented and virtual reality lead at Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group told Hypergrid Business. “Companies are looking for solutions to enhance their workforces through training and re-skilling with immersive virtual reality experiences or using augmented reality to enable workers to do more remotely or be more productive with fewer workers on site.”

Lenovo just announced the release of its Mirage VR S3 virtual reality headset.

It is supported by Lenovo’s ThinkReality software platform, on which companies and enterprises can deploy and manage applications and content.


During the pandemic, companies in healthcare are using virtual and augmented reality for health-based learning, simulation such as surgery, VR-based treatments, and remote monitoring of patients.

XRHealth, for example, has added 500 clinicians on-board its platform and between 500 to 1000 new active patients per month as a result of the pandemic.

The extended reality health company now runs extended reality clinics in 17 states in the United States, with certification from the Federal Drug Administration,

“During this time, both clinicians and patients are seeking out alternative and remote methods for treating various conditions,” company CEO Eran Orr told Hypergrid Business. “Extended reality is a unique platform that is designed to treat so many conditions like pain management, anxiety, memory loss, and hot flashes — and we have experienced a significant spike in interest during COVID-19.”


XRHealth supplies patients with virtual reality headsets.

Its telehealthcare services became accessible to coronavirus patients in all the United States hospitals in March and patients can, on its website, join others in virtual support groups moderated by physicians.

“Our challenge is keeping up with the demand and letting others benefit from our solution, now that we are out there,” said Orr. “Many patients have expressed that they have been getting better results from using our platform than from in-person therapy since their time with clinicians is completely focused on them without the outside noise that comes with being in-person.”

Health surgery simulation using virtual reality, with Arch Virtual platform. (Image courtesy Arch Virtual.)

Vendors providing technology to help train medical staff have also seen increased demand.

Oxford Medical Simulation, another medical training platform in the United States, has recruited more than 17,000 doctors and nurses to train during this pandemic using its augmented reality simulation platform.

Osso VR, a virtual reality surgical simulation platform, has seen a ten-fold increase in demand from teaching hospitals as a result of COVID-19 outbreak and lockdowns.

Forget Titian, here’s a talking dog! Is this digital art’s big moment?

A film noir about a cluttered flat, an animated canine, Yesterday whistled in a corridor … artists in coronavirus lockdown are making the leap to digital. Can they stop people switching over to Netflix?

The last art I saw in the flesh was the Titian exhibition at the National Gallery in London. It was a remarkable, treasurable experience: his group of “poesie” paintings, based on stories from Ovid, had last hung together 400 years ago. Two days later, the museum closed its doors. By then, most commercial galleries in the UK, and many public institutions, had shut. The drift to digital began soon afterwards. Visual arts organisations launched so many podcasts and IGTV broadcasts and film streams and viewing rooms and talks from the archive that it has sometimes been overwhelming.

This week, the most social, crowded, people-watching-oriented event of the global visual art calendar – Frieze art fair, in its New York iteration – is happening on devices everywhere. It has transformed itself into an online shop with art as the scrollable produce. The Asos effect is amplified by the fact that prices, for once, are displayed for all to see. A Martin Creed neon spelling out the words DON’T WORRY could be yours for $150,000 (£118,000).

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Related: You've got mail! The New York paper sending you artworks in the post

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