Facebook, aka Meta has made a lot of big claims about its plans for the Metaverse, a virtual world where people can meet, play, and work. However, a recent patent filed by the company may introduce one of its plans for users of the Metaverse.
Players in virtual reality games like VRChat already enjoy creating custom avatars, changing their outfits, and otherwise customizing their virtual self to express themselves. While some might enjoy masquerading as a digital avatar that looks nothing like them, this new patent seeks to bring a bit of the real world into the Metaverse.
The Facebook patent was published in late July, and reveals plans to develop a system that will let users upload their own clothing into the Metaverse. The system is designed so that multiple pictures are taken of the user, which records data about the color, shape, and design of what they're wearing as well as their body. This information is then taken and converted into a three-dimensional mesh based off of the clothes, and another based off of the body beneath it.
In computer graphics, a mesh is what makes up the underlying structure of a model, giving it its general shape. It can then be further refined with the implementation of certain texture maps, like normal maps. The patent mentions that it intends to create a 'skin-clothing boundary', which may imply that the clothing could even respond to the user's movements, with the boundary serving to keep the clothing from clipping through the body and breaking immersion.
It's an interesting prospect, though it remains to be seen how well it works in execution, or if it even comes about. Other programs and games have struggled to implement realistic 3D face scans from images or video, though as time progresses, that's beginning to change. The idea of uploading an actual outfit that someone owns in real life may appeal to some, though the likelihood of an average user wanting to go to the Metaverse to converse with strangers looking exactly like themselves seems low.
However, that may not be the intended use of this technology. The Metaverse has also been repeatedly promoted as offering a method of communication with co-workers remotely and the abililty to hang out with friends and family who are far away. Looking like one's real self in these instances would likely be helpful and welcomed by many.
The Metaverse has already seen some controversy with users feeling harassed, and when it will truly be put into full use is unknown. Meta continues to lose money in its virtual reality division, but it's clear that progress is continuing to be made on developing technologies that will make the Metaverse more inviting and useful for a variety of user types.