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Image: Meta

AI and the metaverse: It’s a two-way street

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we’re taking a look at Meta’s AI research and the role it plays in building the metaverse, as well as Activision Blizzard’s decision to not release a new Call of Duty in 2023. Plus: AR feels!

The key to a better metaverse is better AI, period

On Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg hosted a virtual live event with some of Meta’s top AI researchers to highlight some of their current work and goals, including plans to build a Babelfish-like universal speech translator and an explanation of the algorithms that curate people’s Instagram feeds.

Ostensibly, the event was on how AI can help build the metaverse, with Zuckerberg calling AI key to unlocking advances in AR and VR hardware and software. However, Meta AI Research managing director Joelle Pineau told Protocol that Meta isn’t primarily focused on any kind of metaverse AI.

  • Instead, Meta’s AI researchers are building foundational technologies that will enable all kinds of applications, whether for virtual spaces or the real world.
  • “We tend to be reasonably agnostic about the use cases for such early-phase research,” Pineau said.
  • That open-ended approach to AI research is very much by design. “A lot of this work is five, 10 years in the future,” Pineau said. “If you get too narrow too early, you’re going to miss out on a lot of opportunities, either from our own researchers or from research that is happening around the world.”
  • Zuckerberg echoed some of that in his own remarks. “We can do this metaverse work today because of the long-term investments we started making in AI and virtual reality starting almost a decade ago,” he said.
  • In other words: If you want to build a better metaverse, you don’t just build metaverse AI, but you invest in AI, period.

There is some cross-pollination happening between the company’s metaverse work and its AI research.

  • This includes giving AI researchers early access to prototype devices, and keeping them in the loop on the AR/VR product roadmap.
  • “The metaverse is a big inspiration for the research that we do,” Pineau said.
  • Having a company that actually sells products in these areas also helps gather insights on how people actually use AR and VR devices, which can inform AI research.
  • “When we have the device, we have an early peek into what the experience might be, what the data might look like,” Pineau said. “It allows us to really build models differently.”

AI’s impact on the development of AR, VR and the metaverse was on display in some examples shared during Wednesday’s event.

  • In a video shared by Zuckerberg, he was using a prototype called the Builder Bot to create a VR environment simply by talking about it in conversational English.
  • Meta’s AI researchers also shared some advances in building multimodal assistants that are better at contextualizing commands, which will be key to any assistant functionality on AR glasses.
  • AI is also key to building new interfaces, including haptics, for future metaverse hardware.

Ultimately, the relationship between the people who build metaverse products and AI research could shape up to be a two-way road. Not only will AI improve the metaverse, but virtual worlds may also help researchers build better AI.

“Every time I solve a new problem, I learn something that I carry back to my science,” Pineau said. “The metaverse is a new playground for all of us. As a scientist, I will learn something by going out on that playground. Even as citizens, we will be changed by these experiences.”

— Janko Roettgers

Activision is dragging Call of Duty into the future

The creators of Call of Duty are doing the unthinkable. After more than 16 years of annual releases and top-charting sales milestones, the shooter series is skipping a year.

The decision, though subject to change due to Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, could have a substantial ripple effect on video game retail and the stability of the traditional, boxed game product. Each new entry of Call of Duty has been the bestselling console game in North America almost every year since 2009, and it’s often the case that a prior year’s entry ranks in the top five or even three bestselling games of the year due to Activision’s late holiday release schedule. If Call of Duty shifts away from its annual model, it could accelerate already fast-moving trends in the console industry and further align console gaming with its mobile and PC counterparts.

Read more.

— Nick Statt


New process control technologies and improved operational efficiencies will deliver the necessary quality, precision and cost-effectiveness to move next-gen therapeutics forward. This can only be achieved if the industry embraces the shift to smart manufacturing, particularly with the use of IoT and edge applications.

Learn more

In other news

Spotify starts selling its Car Thing to everyone. The Bluetooth audio adapter for older cars can now be ordered for $90 from Spotify, but it can only be used by paying subscribers.

Netflix launches an interactive trivia cartoon from the makers of “Black Mirror.” It’s gamified, but not a game. Or is it? Here’s how the streaming giant continues to blur the line between narrative content and gaming.

Sony offers a first look at the PSVR 2 headset. The device is designed to look like the PS5, but we still don’t know how much it will cost or when it is going to be available.

Facebook Reels goes global. Meta is also giving creators more tools to monetize their content.

Twitch is offering streamers monthly minimums. Select streamers will get a more reliable monthly income if they commit to running a certain number of ads.

Bobby Kotick is set to get a golden parachute. The Activision Blizzard CEO will be paid as much as $15 million if he’s fired without cause after the Microsoft acquisition closes, according to a new SEC filing.

Sony is slowly embracing the cloud. The third entry in the Shadow Warrior series from indie developer Flying Wild Hog will release Day One on PlayStation Now, a first for Sony’s cloud gaming service.

Lego is entering the sports game market. The toy company has partnered with publisher 2K, a longtime rival to Electronic Arts, to develop sports games, according to VGC, and plans to let its exclusivity license with Warner Bros.’ TT Games expire.

Happy flowers

This is neat: An AR artist who goes by the Twitter handle syntacticspice has built an AR filter that reacts to the wearer’s emotions, as measured by an EEG headset. “When I think sad thoughts, my flowers wither … and when I think happy ones, they bloom,” syntacticspice wrote on Twitter. And no, the filter is not just measuring facial muscle movement; it’s actually trained on happy and sad memories. Is “Inside Out: The AR Experience” next?

— Janko Roettgers


As we move into a world after COVID-19, the biopharma industry must understand how to maintain this incredible pace of innovation without forfeiting precision or quality. Smart manufacturing — otherwise known as Industry 4.0 — converges IoT, software-defined infrastructure, advanced analytics and AI to create more flexible and interoperable digital manufacturing platforms.

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