Meta has introduced a VR headset with multiple cameras to track facial expressions and physical motion, a move that some say is another blow to personal privacy.
“When we communicate, all our nonverbal expressions and gestures are often even more important than what we say, and the way we connect virtually needs to reflect that too,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an event announcing the headset, according to Wired magazine. Zuckerberg is aiming to make Metaverse avatars look more life-like.
When an individual dons a Quest Pro headset, it captures data through five inward-facing cameras that monitor facial expressions and eye movements, along with five external cameras for replicating the person’s physical movements.
With the input, the avatar gains the ability to raise eyebrows, wink, and smile just as the person would in real life. Luke Stark, an assistant professor at Western University in Canada, told Wired that the current progression was predictable, and doubted that the default “off” feature would remain as such for long.
“It’s been clear for some years that animated avatars are acting as privacy loss leaders,” he told the outlet. “This data is far more granular and far more personal than an image of a face in the photograph.”
Lucas Rizzotto, a co-founder of AR House, a platform for augmented reality, wrote on Twitter: “Meta was very clever & sneaky yesterday! Note how they never talked about the Quest Pro’s built-in eye-tracking (a controversial feature full of potential privacy concerns), choosing to call it ‘expression tracking’ instead. Now the scary thing sounds palatable and fun!”
Rizzotto added: “This moves the public’s attention away from the controversy & into a use case, giving Meta a window to quietly integrate eye-tracking into their headsets with little resistance. And while I appreciate the cleverness, I hope they’re upfront about how they’re using that data.”
Processing of Personal Data
The raw image data processed in real time on the headset for eye-tracking and facial expressions are “deleted once processing has been completed,” the company’s privacy pages state. The raw data is not collected or stored, it claims.
Calibration data will be stored on devices until the user deletes it. However, Meta does “collect and retain certain data about your interactions with eye tracking as required for the feature to work properly and to provide the feature,” like “information about tracking quality and the amount of time that it takes to detect your eyes.”
Likewise, the abstracted facial expression data are processed on the device or Meta servers to enable the associated animations.
“We collect and retain certain data about your interactions with natural facial expressions as required for the feature to work properly and to provide the feature,” the company states.
Besides this, the user can allow access to the data for apps from the Meta Quest Store or App Lab.
The Epoch Times has reached out to Meta for comment.
According to the company, Meta Quest Pro will be available from Oct. 25 onward for $1,500, which is $1,100 more than Meta’s previous Quest 2 headset, with the package including Meta Quest Touch Pro controllers, stylus tips, partial light blockers, and a charging dock.
The headset will be powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ platform with 12 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, and 10 high-resolution cameras.
In a preview of the device held at the company’s Reality Labs offices in Redmond, Washington, Meta listed more product headset launches on the horizon, although no dates were included.
Meta shares fell over 3 percent after the announcement, and are trading at $124.52 after opening on Thursday, indicating a not-so-enthusiastic response from the market.