A series of patents recently granted to Meta show how Facebook plans to collect biometric information like body poses and pupil movement, and use it to sell virtual ads. The documents, first spotted by the Financial Times, give additional insight into how the company plans to monetize the metaverse.
The vision illustrated in the dozens of patents includes a highly realistic virtual reality experience filled with human-looking avatars, their movements dictated by tracking the user’s real-life facial and body movements through different wearable equipment. Patented technology includes a “magnetic sensor system” worn around the torso, for example, and a photo analyzer that can recreate skin textures.
These technologies would not only make virtual experiences more realistic, but also help the company sell products to users. Meta has made clear that it sees commerce, not hardware, as the real revenue driver for the metaverse. "Clearly, you could do something similar [to existing ad targeting systems] in the metaverse — where you’re not selling eye-tracking data to advertisers, but in order to understand whether people engage with an advertisement or not, you need to be able to use data to know,” Meta's Nick Clegg told the FT.
The company's newly patented technology ranges from simple things like virtual stores to more complex ideas that would allow companies to “sponsor the appearance” of real-world objects (virtual Nikes, anyone?) or receive personalized advertising in virtual reality.
Patents are not products, of course, but it's a clear look at how Meta sees the possibilities for virtual advertising and product placement. For instance: Meta could use data like users’ eye movements to see which products they’re staring at a little too long. Advertising tailored in this way would carry with it a host of ethical and regulatory issues. It could also prove incredibly lucrative.