Why Is Meta’s Metaverse Such a Misfire? – IEEE Spectrum

IEEE websites place cookies on your device to give you the best user experience. By using our websites, you agree to the placement of these cookies. To learn more, read our Privacy Policy.
The virtual world’s most noteworthy spokesperson certainly isn’t helping the cause
Mark Zuckerberg's avatar doesn't look his best in Horizon Worlds.
Mark Zuckerberg isn’t a great ambassador for the metaverse.
Meta’s CEO kicked off another round of controversy with a screenshot celebrating the launch of Horizon Worlds, the company’s AR/VR metaverse platform, in France and Spain. Shot in the style of a selfie, it shows a poorly detailed rendition of Zuckerberg’s avatar staring past the camera. Crude 3D models of national landmarks sit behind him on a generic green landscape.
“It was a horrific PR move to put out those photos,” says Stu Richards (a.k.a. Meta Mike), partner success lead at GigLabs and cdofounder of Versed.
Zuckerberg’s virtual selfie quickly went viral across numerous social media accounts. A tweet by user @ordinarytings, which claimed Horizon Worlds is “surely dying in the dark,” led the charge with more than 31,000 likes and over 4,500 quote tweets or retweets.
It’s not unusual for a tech CEO to receive a thrashing on Twitter, but the scale of the response–boosted by Mashable, The Daily Dot, and Kotaku–was suffocating. It’s hard to mount any defense of Meta’s ugly, simplistic screenshot. “I think the response is fair,” says Richards. “I’ve not been super impressed by what they’ve put out.”
Clearly, Zuckerberg’s post did not go as planned. But this raises the question: why?
“If they’re going to use game tech to build a VR game platform that’s supposed to be a cross between a Roblox-style UGC platform and a social MMO, maybe they should have people who have experience.”
—Rafael Brown, Symbol Zero
Rafael Brown, CEO of metaverse event company Symbol Zero and former game designer, thinks the company’s metaverse issues are rooted in difficulty keeping up with the level of fidelity common in the game industry.

“Facebook is out of touch with game-style software-development practices and expectations on art direction and character/avatar development,” says Brown. “Keep in mind their other internal projects like Quill, et cetera, that they’ve jettisoned and lost [staff over].”
Brown points out that Meta’s avatars have changed numerous times since the company’s purchase of VR hardware maker Oculus in 2014. These changes can be witnessed in other, past controversies, such as Zuckerberg’s ill-advised AR tour of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The avatars used then are different from today’s and radically different from the ghostlike avatars shown by Oculus in 2016.
This is how the Oculus avatars looked in 2016.www.youtube.com
There are other signs of instability. Meta’s VP of Horizon, Vivek Sharma, recently said he’s leaving the company for “a new opportunity.” Days later, the company announced it will shut down the Facebook Gaming app, a competitor to Amazon’s live-streaming platform Twitch, which eliminates an important avenue Meta could use to reach users.
“All I wonder is, if they’re going to use game tech to build a VR game platform that’s supposed to be a cross between a Roblox-style UGC platform and a social MMO, maybe they should have people who have experience,” says Brown. “They really need better art direction, technical art direction, game direction, and tools direction.”
Zuckerberg tried to quell criticism with a follow-up post about a planned update to avatar graphics. It’s an improvement, to be sure. But the real glimmer of hope was shown at Siggraph, a computer graphics conference held in August of 2022.
A group of researchers from Reality Labs, Meta’s AR/VR research division, showed a paper titled “Authentic Volumetric Avatars from a Phone Scan,” which describes how smartphone photos with depth-of-field data can be paired with machine learning to achieve sharp, photorealistic results with accurate real-time facial animation. The detailed expressions shown by researchers at Reality Labs stands in stark contrast to the current state of Horizon Worlds’ avatars.
This video, demonstrating authentic volumetric avatars from a phone scan, was shown at Siggraph 2022.www.youtube.com
Richards notes that Meta’s current mainstream headset, the Meta Quest 2, may be partially responsible for the Horizon Worlds’ limitations. “[Meta is] building out tech that will have the mechanics in place to better focus on things like expression,” says Richards—but the affordable Quest 2 opted not to include sensors that can gauge users’ expression or track their eyes. “They’re trying to create adoption first. Once that happens is when they’ll focus more on integrating features.”

Meta might be ready to turn that corner with a headset to be announced at Oculus Connect 2022. While most details remain under wraps, Zuckerberg offered an early overview of its features during a recent interview on The Joe Rogan Experience.
Zuckerberg said the upcoming, yet unnamed headset will offer “the ability to now have eye contact in virtual reality, have your face be tracked so that your avatar is not just this still thing, if you smile, or you frown, or you pout, whatever your expression is, to have that actually in real time translate to your avatar.” His remarks sound a lot like what's already been shown at Siggraph and in other, earlier Meta research demos.
This could silence critiques of Horizon Worlds’ awkward, stilted graphical style—though only if it works as advertised.
Matthew S. Smith is a freelance consumer-tech journalist. An avid gamer, he is a former staff editor at Digital Trends and is particularly fond of wearables, e-bikes, all things smartphone, and CES, which he has attended every year since 2009.
Meta's technical failures are important to cover, but the demise of the metaverse will likely stem from the fact that not enough people of means have sufficiently empty lives to jettison the real world for any form of a metaverse. IEEE's emphasis on the technical side of technology is understood, but it is high time that IEEE and other professional organizations weighed in on the social ramifications of technology. After all, we understand it best.
I somehow think projecting real faces is still the way to go
Formerly rival technologies have come together in Samsung displays
Sony's A95K televisions incorporate Samsung's new QD-OLED display technology.
All these products use display panels manufactured by Samsung but have their own unique display assembly, operating system, and electronics.
I took apart a 55-inch Samsung S95B to learn just how these new displays are put together (destroying it in the process). I found an extremely thin OLED backplane that generates blue light with an equally thin QD color-converting structure that completes the optical stack. I used a UV light source, a microscope, and a spectrometer to learn a lot about how these displays work.
Samsung used a unique pixel pattern in its new QD-OLED displays.
Peter Palomaki
A few surprises:
As for the name of this technology, Samsung has used the branding OLED, QD Display, and QD-OLED, while Sony is just using OLED. Alienware uses QD-OLED to describe the new tech (as do most in the display industry).
—Peter Palomaki
Story from January 2022 follows:
For more than a decade now, OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays have set the bar for screen quality, albeit at a price. That’s because they produce deep blacks, offer wide viewing angles, and have a broad color range. Meanwhile, QD (quantum dot) technologies have done a lot to improve the color purity and brightness of the more wallet-friendly LCD TVs.
In 2022, these two rival technologies will merge. The name of the resulting hybrid is still evolving, but QD-OLED seems to make sense, so I’ll use it here, although Samsung has begun to call its version of the technology QD Display.
To understand why this combination is so appealing, you have to know the basic principles behind each of these approaches to displaying a moving image.
In an LCD TV, the LED backlight, or at least a big section of it, is on all at once. The picture is created by filtering this light at the many individual pixels. Unfortunately, that filtering process isn’t perfect, and in areas that should appear black some light gets through.

In OLED displays, the red, green, and blue diodes that comprise each pixel emit light and are turned on only when they are needed. So black pixels appear truly black, while bright pixels can be run at full power, allowing unsurpassed levels of contrast.
But there’s a drawback. The colored diodes in an OLED TV degrade over time, causing what’s called “burn-in.” And with these changes happening at different rates for the red, green, and blue diodes, the degradation affects the overall ability of a display to reproduce colors accurately as it ages and also causes “ghost” images to appear where static content is frequently displayed.
Adding QDs into the mix shifts this equation. Quantum dots—nanoparticles of semiconductor material—absorb photons and then use that energy to emit light of a different wavelength. In a QD-OLED display, all the diodes emit blue light. To get red and green, the appropriate diodes are covered with red or green QDs. The result is a paper-thin display with a broad range of colors that remain accurate over time. These screens also have excellent black levels, wide viewing angles, and improved power efficiency over both OLED and LCD displays.
Samsung is the driving force behind the technology, having sunk billions into retrofitting an LCD fab in Tangjeong, South Korea, for making QD-OLED displays While other companies have published articles and demonstrated similar approaches, only
Samsung has committed to manufacturing these displays, which makes sense because it holds all of the required technology in house. Having both the OLED fab and QD expertise under one roof gives Samsung a big leg up on other QD-display manufacturers.,
Samsung first announced QD-OLED plans in 2019, then pushed out the release date a few times. It now seems likely that we will see public demos in early 2022 followed by commercial products later in the year, once the company has geared up for high-volume production. At this point, Samsung can produce a maximum of 30,000 QD-OLED panels a month; these will be used in its own products. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not that much.
Unfortunately, as with any new display technology, there are challenges associated with development and commercialization.
For one, patterning the quantum-dot layers and protecting them is complicated. Unlike QD-enabled LCD displays (commonly referred to as QLED) where red and green QDs are dispersed uniformly in a polymer film, QD-OLED requires the QD layers to be patterned and aligned with the OLEDs behind them. And that’s tricky to do. Samsung is expected to employ inkjet printing, an approach that reduces the waste of QD material.
Another issue is the leakage of blue light through the red and green QD layers. Leakage of only a few percent would have a significant effect on the viewing experience, resulting in washed-out colors. If the red and green QD layers don’t do a good job absorbing all of the blue light impinging on them, an additional blue-blocking layer would be required on top, adding to the cost and complexity.
Another challenge is that blue OLEDs degrade faster than red or green ones do. With all three colors relying on blue OLEDs in a QD-OLED design, this degradation isn’t expected to cause as severe color shifts as with traditional OLED displays, but it does decrease brightness over the life of the display.
Today, OLED TVs are typically the most expensive option on retail shelves. And while the process for making QD-OLED simplifies the OLED layer somewhat (because you need only blue diodes), it does not make the display any less expensive. In fact, due to the large number of quantum dots used, the patterning steps, and the special filtering required, QD-OLED displays are likely to be more expensive than traditional OLED ones—and way more expensive than LCD TVs with quantum-dot color purification. Early adopters may pay about US $5,000 for the first QD-OLED displays when they begin selling later this year. Those buyers will no doubt complain about the prices—while enjoying a viewing experience far better than anything they’ve had before.


Leave a Comment