Facebook has appear the latest adaptation of its acknowledged standalone basic absoluteness (VR) headset, the Oculus Quest 2. The new device packs more accretion power and a bluff screen than its predecessor, and is also US$100 cheaper.


The Oculus Quest 2 is the latest step in Facebook’s abiding action of making VR more attainable and popular. Facebook afresh brought all its VR work under the awning of Facebook Absoluteness Labs, it has appear new applications like the Infinite Office VR workplace, and will also crave a Facebook login for future Oculus devices.

The compulsatory link to Facebook has many consumers concerned, because the social media giant’s chequered history with aloofness and data. VR and its cousin, aggrandized absoluteness (AR), are conceivably the most data-extractive agenda sensors we’re likely to invite into our homes in the next decade.

Why does Facebook make basic absoluteness headsets?

Facebook acquired VR aggregation Oculus in 2014 for an estimated US$2.3 billion. But where Oculus originally aimed at gamers, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg wants VR for social media.

At the same event last year, Zuckerberg said Facebook sees VR as a alleyway to a new kind of “social accretion platform” using the added activity of “presence” that VR affords. For Facebook, the addition of VR-based accretion will be like the leap from text-based command line interfaces to the graphical user interfaces we use today.

This may well be right. VR affords a strong activity of embodied attendance that offers new possibilities for entertainment, training, learning, and abutting with others at a distance.

But if the VR future is the one Facebook is “working in the lab” on, it will action via the company’s absolute social accretion belvedere and business model of extracting data to bear targeted advertisements.

Virtual absoluteness collects real data

A VR angle collects data about the user, but also about the alfresco world. This is one of the key ethical issues of arising “mixed reality” technologies.

As American VR researcher Jeremy Bailenson has written:

…commercial VR systems about track body movements 90 times per second to affectation the scene appropriately, and high-end systems record 18 types of movements across the head and hands. Consequently, spending 20 account in a VR simulation leaves just under 2 actor unique recordings of body language.

The way you move your body can be used to analyze you, like a fingerprint, so aggregate you do in VR could be traced back to your alone identity.

Facebook’s Oculus Quest headsets also use outward-facing cameras to track and map their surroundings.

Facebook VR headsets use Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) to track the movements of the angle in 3D space. This is also addition befalling for accession data about the world.

In late 2019 Facebook said they “don’t aggregate and store images or 3D maps of your ambiance on our servers today.” Note the word , which tech announcer Ben Lang notes makes clear the aggregation is not ruling out annihilation in the future.

Virtual absoluteness leads to aggrandized reality

Facebook wants to aggregate this data to facilitate its plans for aggrandized absoluteness (AR).

Where VR takes a user to a fully basic environment, AR combines basic elements with our real surroundings.

Last year Facebook apparent the Live Maps application, a vision of an all-embracing surveillance accoutrement apparently powered by AR glasses and data calm from Oculus Insight. Live Maps will accommodate many minor conveniences for Facebook users, like absolution you know you’ve left your keys on the coffee table.

In the video above, Facebook’s Live Maps appliance is a vision of a Facebook-owned AR platform.

Now, Facebook has appear its first steps appear making this a reality: Project Aria. This will absorb people cutting glasses-like sensors around Seattle and the San Francisco Bay area, to aggregate the data to build what Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly calls “the mirrorworld,” the next big tech platform.

People are accurately anxious about the ethical implications of this kind of data extraction. Alongside Project Aria, Facebook launched its Responsible Innovation Attempt page, and they’re already quick to accent that faces and authorization plates will be blurred in this data collection.

As we have argued elsewhere, framing questions about VR and AR surveillance in terms of alone aloofness suits companies like Facebook very well. That’s because their antecedent failings are absolutely in the (un)ethical use of data (as in the case of Cambridge Analytica) and their agee belvedere power.

We need more than just ‘tech ethics’

Groups like the XR Safety Initiative admit these arising issues and are alpha to work on standards, guidelines, and aloofness frameworks to shape VR and AR development.

Many arising technologies appointment what is known as the Collingridge problem: it is hard to adumbrate the assorted impacts of a technology until it is abundantly developed and widely used, but by then it is almost absurd to ascendancy or change.

We see this arena out right now, in efforts to adapt Google and Facebook’s power over news media.

As David Watts argues, big tech designs its own rules of ethics to avoid analysis and accountability:

Feelgood, high-level data ethics attempt are not fit for the purpose of acclimation big tech … The harms linked to big tech can only be addressed by proper regulation.

What might the adjustment of Facebook’s VR look like? Germany offers one such acknowledgment – their antitrust regulations have resulted in Facebook abandoning the angle from sale. We can only hope the technology doesn’t become too accepted to be afflicted or challenged.

But adjustment has not always chock-full Facebook in the past, who paid out US$550 actor to settle a accusation for breaching biometric aloofness laws. In the multi-billion dollar world of big-tech, it’s all a cost of doing business.

Another catechism we might ask ourselves is whether Facebook’s virtual-reality future and others like it really need to exist. Maybe there are other ways to avoid apathy your keys.The Conversation

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