A giant leap for the metaverse?

Of all the differing visions of how the metaverse might actually take shape, One of these is actually pretty easy to see in action right now.

Augmented reality — the overlaying of virtual elements with our real world through means as diverse as a full-fledged headset or just your everyday smartphone — is already all around us, be it Pokémon Go or an app to help you arrange furniture. The hitherto mainly VR-focused meta is now also getting involved in the game and continues its mission to make the metaverse a reality: The Financial Times reported Sunday that the company is in talks to partner with leading augmented reality startup Magic Leap.

While there are currently no plans to build a Meta-Magic Leap headset, the collaboration between the main player in the metaverse and one of the main players in business-focused AR reflects a larger trend. Despite the current difficulties in getting the social metaverse off the ground, major advances in AR technology are already transforming medicine, infrastructure, and manufacturing backstage. Adding practical AR technology to Meta’s immersive VR platforms could go a long way towards building a virtual world in which users feel more comfortable and spend most of their digital lives.

I spoke to Daniel Diez, Magic Leap’s chief transformation officer last week – ahead of the release of the FT report – about the company’s work to integrate AR into the fabric of America’s workplace and how the company’s alignment with the… exclusively developing tools for business has helped develop technology that Mark Zuckerberg now seems to envy. The interview has been edited and shortened for clarity:

It’s now apparent that the actual process of Metaverse, AR, and VR development occurs on a long timeline that doesn’t necessarily align with a hype cycle around any particular technology. Is that an advantage or a challenge for your work?

Hype cycles are really important. They bring people at least some piece of a new technology and then inevitably there is a hangover and disappointment, but then companies set about figuring out how to use it, which is what’s happening now.

Check out AI: There was a cover of Newsweek In 1997 it said: “The last resistance of the brain.” Then there was Watson and the Go champion that Google’s AI defeated, and now we have ChatGPT. In the space between those cycles, it revolutionized industries like advertising. This action takes place between hype cycles and then comes back as a completely different beast.

What role does Magic Leap play in the AR/VR hardware landscape?

Magic Leap is a tool for work. It is a tool for very precise work.

There are manufacturing scenarios; it is used in guided assistance in health care and operations; It is used to train first responders and police officers. These are precise scenarios that require the ability to “capture” digital content in the physical world. I can put a digital model of my cell phone on this table and it stays there, and when I look away it’s still there as if it were a physical object. The device constantly scans the room and creates a digital twin of the room at all times. It has cameras everywhere, including on my eyes, so it knows exactly where I am and can flawlessly reposition the digital content as I walk around it.

This is very different from VR, which is great for gaming and entertainment purposes. But if I threw you a tennis ball while you were wearing a Meta Quest Pro, there would be a lag and you wouldn’t be able to catch it. When you think of high precision use cases like surgery or manufacturing, the idea that comes to mind is that you have a delay long enough to miss a ball like yours does Pass-through VRis really not an option.

How do you make these partnerships successful given how new the technology is? I think about the catastrophe Microsoft’s HoloLens and the US Army.

One of the barriers to AR adoption has typically been the content ecosystem, which is now really starting to thrive. There are actual solutions that can be deployed today, which is a big change since the release of the first HoloLens or even the first Magic Leap.

The other part has to do with the device itself and the development platform. AR was typically associated with big, clunky, and hot headsets where images weren’t sharp, text readability was poor, and field of view very limited. When we started production of the second generation of the headset, we reduced the weight by 50 percent and, I think, an overall reduction in headset size of 25 percent, while keeping the computing package and battery separate. When we hear from people who are unhappy with the platform they’re using, it’s usually because of one or all of these issues they’re struggling with, and we’ve addressed them with Magic Leap 2.

How does artificial intelligence support these tools?

There are a lot computer vision already integrated into Magic Leap. The scans we perform, the 3D digital tools we create, and the way the device interprets the world—much of it is machine learning and AI. It’s the nature of the platform.

There’s more leeway when we start thinking about enabling platform-level functionality so vendors can leverage an extremely powerful tool to collect massive amounts of data about the physical world.

Do you think enterprise applications will eventually play a bigger role than games or entertainment in driving AR adoption?

We made a conscious choice to work with people in manufacturing, healthcare and the public sector because we knew we could deliver practical value. These were all areas in which people stayed are already used to wearing something on their eyes. So there was one hurdle we didn’t have to overcome in addition to delivering that value. The equation is form factor, plus the solution we offer and then the price. Those are the three things that determine how fast the acceptance curve goes. People will always be more willing to smear something on their eyes when they get something of great value that actually helps them.

As AI veterans Come out of the woodwork to share their thoughts In view of the hype wave triggered by ChatGPT, people are extremely skeptical.

Rodney Brooks, the robotics researcher and former head of the Laboratory of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spoke to IEEE Spectrum Last week at a gala where he shared his thoughts on “artificial general intelligence”, OpenAI’s sky-high rating and more.

Brooks dismissed the idea that anything like OpenAI’s GPT models could lead to an AGI, or a machine with human-like cognitive abilities: “I think they’ll be better than the Watson Jeopardy!” IBM said, “It’ll be medicine solve,” Brooks said. “Not at all. It was a total flop. I think it will be better. But not AGI.” He also dismissed the “disaster hype” that AI would wipe out entire professions, such as the legal profession or truck drivers.

But he’s not entirely pessimistic that AI can be transformative — he just thinks it’s going to take a while to get where it’s supposed to be. “…One of my other ‘Seven Deadly Sins of AI Prediction’…was how quickly people think new things will be introduced,” Brooks said. “It takes a while to deploy, especially when it comes to hardware because it’s just a lot of things that all need to be balanced. It takes time.”

Meanwhile in Europe… A group of activists took up the decidedly opposite end of Brooks’ argument when it comes to AGI.

Gian Volpicelli from POLITICO reported today about the activist collective Pause AI, which demonstrated outside Microsoft’s Brussels office on Tuesday to urge the company to halt AI development over fears it might halt it kill us all. Inspired by the writings of Nick BostromJoep Meindertsma, founder of Pause AI, described to Gian his group’s ultimate goal of halting AI development until humanity can make sure it doesn’t slip out of our control.

“The speed of AI progression scares me the most because I don’t see the same speed of progression in AI alignment,” Meindertsma said. “There is a possibility that we may face extinction in a short time.”

And as Gian notes, there are some powerful players who are sympathetic to his cause. Elon Musk has pushed for a moratorium on AI development, and a heated debate AI risks are raging in influential research institutions.