Why Meta’s virtual-reality avatars are finally getting legs

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. virtual reality / ˈvɜr tʃu əl riˈæl ɪ ti / (n.) – an artificial world, produced by a computer, in which the avatar imitates the actions of a person controlling it

    The researchers are using virtual reality in their study.

  2. ridicule / ˈrɪd ɪˌkyul / (v.) – to make rude comments and make fun of someone/something

    Sarah doesn’t speak so much in meetings because she doesn’t want to be ridiculed.

  3. in hopes of / ɪn hoʊps ʌv / (idiom) – expecting or wishing for something to happen

    We launched a weekend sale in hopes of attracting more customers.

  4. jumpstart / ˈdʒʌmpˌstɑrt / (v.) – to cause something to start more quickly by giving it extra help

    Short courses can help me jumpstart my career even before I finish college.

  5. perceptual / pərˈsɛp tʃu əl / (adj.) – relating to the way people interpret and understand what they see or notice

    Perceptual skills, like evaluating and problem solving, are important in this computer game.


Read the text below.

Why is it so hard to build a metaverse avatar — a visual representation of ourselves in the digital world — that walks on two legs?

“I think everyone has been waiting for this,” said a cartoonish digital version of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, unveiling his new avatar legs and jumping up and down at a virtual-reality event. “But seriously, legs are hard. Which is why other virtual reality systems don’t have them either.”

Early avatar models introduced by Meta, as well as Microsoft, have been ridiculed for appearing as legless, waist-up bodies floating around their virtual worlds.

That’s in part because tech companies have been eager to show off their progress in building out virtual-reality environments while still working on the technical challenges of making avatars more human-like and realistic. Meta renamed itself from Facebook last year in hopes of jumpstarting its corporate transformation into a provider of metaverse experiences for work and play.

Zuckerberg described legs as “probably the most requested feature on our roadmap” and said they will be available soon on Meta’s Horizon virtual-reality platform. He said the challenge is perceptual, involving how the brain — taking in images seen through a virtual-reality headset — accepts a rendering based on how accurately it is positioned.

Legs are harder to render accurately because they’re often hidden from view.

“If your legs are under a desk or if your arms block your view of them, then your headset can’t see them directly,” he said.

Zuckerberg said the company has been working to improve how its artificial intelligence systems track and predict where legs and other body parts should be moving.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Are you fond of virtual reality? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Meta hopes to be a provider of metaverse experiences for work and play. What do you think are the benefits of virtual reality? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • According to the article, tech companies have been eager to show off their progress in building out virtual reality environments. Why do you think this is the case? Discuss.
  • Meta, as well as Microsoft, have been ridiculed for their early avatar models. If you were a member of one of these companies, how would you have felt (ex. motivated to do better, disappointed)? What would you have done to address the criticism? Discuss.