Facebook/Meta files patent applications for ‘metaverse’ tech including sponsored digital goods and tools that could use biometric data to target ads
Facebook/Meta’s plans for revenue in the virtual reality “metaverse” includes technologies that could target advertising using biometric data and virtual stores where brands can sponsor digital goods, tools for which the firm has reportedly filed hundreds of patent applications.
The applications to the US Patent and Trademark Office show Meta hopes to build an advertising network on virtual reality platforms that mirrors the one from which it already earns $85 billion (£63bn) per year online, the Financial Times reported.
Some of the applications were granted as recently as this month, the paper said.
The applications include those for tracking eye and face movements, typically collected in a headset using tiny cameras or other sensors, which can help adapt the VR experience to the user’s needs.
One of the patents, granted to Meta on 4 January, involves a system for tracking facial expressions through a headset that would then “adapt media content” based on the information.
A separate “wearable magnetic sensor system” would be placed around the torso for “body pose tracking”, with the application showing a user represented in the metaverse as a knight in armour.
An “avatar personalisation engine” would create three-dimensional avatars based on a user’s photos, with tools including a “skin replicator”.
Another patent indicates how such data could be used specifically to personalise advertising based on a user’s age, gender, interests and “how the users interact with a social media platform”, including their likes and comments.
Meta head of global affairs Nick Clegg said information such as tracking eye movements wouldn’t necessarily be sold directly to advertisers, but could be used to “understand whether people engage with an advertisement or not”.
Another patent application sets out a system for allowing third-parties to “sponsor the appearance of an object” in a virtual store, using a bidding process similar to Meta’s existing advertising auction procedure.
Some critics have criticised the firm’s metaverse plans, with early Facebook investor Roger McNamee calling the scheme “dystopian”.
Facebook/Meta has been criticised by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, who alleged the firm prioritised profits over users’ well-being.
Meta declined to comment on its patent applications but added that they “don’t necessarily cover the technology used in our products and services”.
Meta has said it intends to spend $10bn a year for the next decade developing the metaverse, which it sees as the next step for the internet, making it more immersive.
The company promoted its vision over the weekend with a Superbowl advert that shows animatronic creatures who have been separated in the physical world donning VR goggles to rejoin one another in a virtual reality environment.