Facebook, sorry, Meta, has filed hundreds of applications for patents related to its metaverse, several of which have been granted and point to how the company plans to make money through its virtual world.
According to The Financial Times (opens in new tab), which has reviewed many of said applications, Meta could implement hyper-targeted advertising and sponsored content. There are also proposals to create virtual stores where you can buy digital goods.
Some patents suggest creating even more personalized ads based on a user's age, gender, the likes and comments they leave on social media, and how long they look at specific ads.
"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," said Nick Clegg, Meta's head of global affairs.
Clegg also told The Financial Times in a recent interview, "For us, the business model in the metaverse is commerce-led. Clearly ads play a part in that."
Will any of this actually be made?
Another patent for an "avatar personalisation engine" talks of creating digital replicas of people, with the aim to make the metaverse's avatars seem indistinguishable from real people.
There is also talk of reading a user's facial expressions and adapting content around them, using eye and face tracking technology to enhance the experience (e.g., showing brighter graphics if a user's gaze falls) and a "wearable magnetic sensor system" for body pose tracking. That last one includes sketches that suggest such a system could depict the user as something else in the metaverse, like a knight in armor.
However, patents are never a guarantee that something will actually be made, something Meta itself acknowledged: "While we don’t comment on specific coverage of our patents or our reasons for filing them, it’s important to note that our patents don’t necessarily cover the technology used in our products and services."
While all this technology talk may be exciting for some, many still aren't sold on the metaverse as a whole. If anything, all this talk of ads makes it sound no different than how the Internet already is and fails to make it sound any more beneficial.
Critics also still believe that the company's recent rebranding is meant to distract from last year's leaked documents which alleged that it is purely profit driven, meaning it allowed misinformation and bigotry to spread on platforms like Facebook so long as it made money.