Forward-looking: While the metaverse concept has been around for decades, and many describe its first, albeit quite basic, incarnation to be 2003’s Second Life, Facebook parent Meta is leading the push into the kind of VR-powered shared world that people associate with Ready Player One. And being Facebook, that means plenty of ads, some of which could utilize people’s biometric data such as eye tracking and body movements.
Protocol reports that a series of patents was recently granted to Meta that may give us an idea of how the company could one day monetize the metaverse.
Some of the technology does sound enticing and has the potential to make the metaverse more immersive: a magnetic sensor system for wearing around the torso to track movements and a photo analyzer that can recreate skin textures to create a virtual avatar identical to your physical form—if that’s what you’d want.
While that may sound like the futuristic vision sci-fi authors have been writing about for years, it’s important to remember that this is Meta we’re talking about here, so advertising is a priority. There’s talk of virtual stores, which is pretty much a certainty, and companies who “sponsor the appearance” of real-world objects.
It seems that Meta could also use this biometric data for advertising purposes, similar to how Facebook uses personal information for ad-targeting. Nick Clegg, Head of Global Affairs and Communications at Meta, told the Financial Times, “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.”
Like all patents, there’s no guarantee that any of those listed by Meta will ever become a reality. And if eye-tracking ads do become part of the metaverse, they’re unlikely to feature the retinal scanning tech seen in Black Mirror episode Fifteen Million Merits, in which advertisers force us to keep our eyes on their ads or face punishments—well, they probably won’t.