Is this the future of virtual reality?

What you are about to see and hear is a story of utter incomptence and ineptitude… a story of a self-proclaimed visionary who is promising to show us the future but is stuck in the past… who is pushing technology funded by tens of billions of dollars, yet it looks like a ten-year-old free phone app…

Is this hyperbole? No, this debacle is for real. And it’s shocking…

Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook) launched its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds in France and Spain last week. The promotional image posted by CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been underwhelming, to say the least. It has led to headlines like this: “Wave of Criticism Hits Zuckerberg’s Metaverse for Looking Like Crap“. 🙂 That’s no clickbait there. The article goes on to call it “unfathomably bad”. That’s not hyperbole either. See for yourself:

You might think this is some parody or meme, because it seems like it (plus we often post that kind of stuff here). This looks like someone opened Paintbrush from Windows 3.1 and pasted some clip art, then proclaimed it the future of virtual reality, in a funny attempt at satire or parody. But this is the actual image Zuckerberg posted.

Meta spent $10 billion (that’s $10,000,000,000, to show a lot of zeroes) on the metaverse in just 2021. I tell ya, ten billion dollars just doesn’t buy what it used to… 🙂 That’s after already spending billions more in previous years. They’ve been working on this technology since at least 2014 (when they bought Oculus Rift for $3 billion). And Zuckerberg says this project will lose “significant” amounts of money over the next 3 to 5 years.

The good news (if I can even try to spin it that way), is that Zuckerberg said it’s not finished yet, that some parts of it will not be ready for 10 to 15 years. That’s somewhat encouraging, because it sure doesn’t look finished. The bad news is that Meta already has 10,000 employees working on this project, for years, and that’s what they have so far.

Zuckerberg posted a new image shortly thereafter, saying major updates to avatar graphics are coming soon, and that the current graphics are capable of much more. If so, why would he post that crappy picture to millions of people to promote this new product? He’s been the CEO there for decades now, so he ought to know something about marketing (or at least know to consult his PR team).

Also, avatars (your digital representation) are missing your lower half. That looks weird, creepy, and unnatural. I suppose that saves on CPU/GPU usage, but if this is how it’s going to look, maybe the technology isn’t ready for this yet. But the thing is, it should be. I’ve been interested in technology a long time, and I’ve tried virtual reality tech demos over 20 years ago which were better than this. I realize this will get better, but to invest that kind of money in it over that many years and this is the result? That’s mind-boggling awful.

screenshot from Doom 3 on PC, 12 years ago

At least, I hope it gets better. It shouldn’t be too hard — I mean, the bar is really low now — but a graphics rendering engine is not a simple thing to replace in a project this complex. Hopefully they accounted for that. It’s not as simple as just drawing better images. Also, and this is where the story gets even crazier, the graphics have gotten worse over time! I know this just debuted last December, but the technology behind it was developed by Oculus Rift (which had so many potential!). Facebook/Meta bought them 8 years ago, and 10 years ago Oculus Rift could run Doom 3, which had real-time character models that looked like this. So it has gotten considerably worse. I understand why they decreased the graphics quality some, but surely computing power has increased enough in 10 years that it didn’t have to get that much worse.

And while I’m ranting, another thing is that it looks lifeless, boring, bland, devoid of soul, etc. To create an “immersive world”, the graphics don’t have to be realistic, to be fair. There are video games and virtual reality worlds and metaverses already released that will pull you into that world where you feel totally immersed, even without realistic graphics. If the Horizon Worlds is to succeed, it needs to have personality, to be fun, and to bring something to the experience that you won’t get otherwise. It seems like Horizon Worlds is primarily built for investors who want to buy virtual land in this new virtual universe.

If you want to see an intended use of Meta’s Horizon Worlds, here is a video of the first virtual reality interview meeting (along with commentary): Meta Is For Losers.

Another apparent intended use is this commercial for it that debuted during the “big game” earlier this year:

I do not think that ad shows what they think it shows. 🙂 Are they trying to tell you that real life sucks and that you’ll be happy in their virtual world? That’s so ironic given how research has shown that users of Facebook tend to be less happy when using the product. BTW, some of the top comments on that video are worth reading.

FYI, this idea of an online metaverse is not new at all. Second Life is a metaverse that has been out since 2003, which has had over a million regular users and even has its own currency (and has produced real-world millionaires). There are numerous other alternatives out there, too, which are much better, so don’t judge VR on this one app. Oh, and click here to see a comparison between how Second Life looked in 2007 compared to the new Horizon Worlds image. (And someone has compared it to the Zelda game on the Nintendo 64 some 24 years ago, which is amusing.)

To sum up, I think virtual reality (and augmented reality) will become somewhat popular in the future. I don’t have much hope for Horizon Worlds, but that’s okay, because there are other companies making similar projects that are much better. I don’t know if the technology will ever get to the level in “Ready Player One” (great movie, BTW), because corporate interests will probably limit the fun and keep it close-walled so they can control it better and try to squeeze more profit from it. I don’t know how mainstream it will ever become, and while I think it has a lot of fun potential, I don’t know that it needs to be too mainstream. As fun as it is, we still need time around people in real life, which is even better (if done right).

bird poop facials — only $180

I’ve heard of people drinking coffee made from poop, which is crazy enough.  But at least it’s cooked and processed to some degree.  Now there’s a new use for poop.  (But wait, there’s more!)

Now a spa in New York City is offering bird poop facials for $180 each.  Supposedly it gently exfoliates the skin.  I’m no beauty expert, but aren’t there other ways to do that?  Anyway, it’s called a “geisha facial”, which is supposedly a Japanese beauty secret.  (I’m thinking I’d keep the ingredients list secret if this was my product, but I’m no marketing expert, either.)

I know what some of you are thinking — “But you never mentioned the smell!!!”  🙂  Of course they have to account for that; how many people would stay in a spa if it smelled like crap?  At this spa, they surround you with aromas of camellia, lavender, and rose.  They mix the bird poop with a rice bran, so it supposedly smells like toasted rice.  The treatment begins with steam to open the pores and soften the skin, then they leave this poop mixture on your face for five minutes.  I guess they want the bird poop to soak in.  (Remember, they’re a professional business and they charge you a lot of money, so obviously they must know what they’re doing.)  The owner says the bird feces brings out the dirt and dust that builds up in the skin and leaves the customer feeling refreshed.

poop - jar of poopOh, and they don’t use just any ol’ bird poop, because that would be gross.  It’s only from nightingales, because they eat seeds that produce the natural enzyme that is the active ingredient.  Seems to me it would be good to cut out the middleman in this situation…

The article says that about 100 people get this pooperizing procedure done at this spa every month, which, doing the math, brings in $18,000 — every month.  That’s a lot of money for a procedure using bird poop and rice bran.  Seems like a high-profit business to be in.  They must be doing something right.  (I’d guess it’s the advertising and promotion — how else are you going to convince people to pay big bucks to get poop smeared on their face?)

A doctor (also in New York) has predicted that animal extracts will grow in popularity, that they offer “a new definition of natural”, because some marketed natural products could be harmful to the skin.  However, I also learned that because this is sold as a cosmetic rather than a drug, there is no obligation to back up their claims with evidence.

What’s going to be the next use of poop?  Actually, never mind — I don’t want to know.

how turrible is this video?

After I posted the Toilet Stool Rap video, Mango-Man said he wasn’t sure if that’s what he had in mind.  So he sent in a link to a video.  It involves badgers dancing and mushrooms.  This is the short version (36 seconds), but it’s not hard to find the longer versions if you want (which are just repeated).  You might’ve heard of it — apparently it went viral a couple of years ago, and a lot of people have made parodies of it.

My analysis is that this is the lamest video I have ever seen.  I feel dumber for having watched it.  If you watched it, I apologize.  Remember, this came from Mango-Man, so let him know if you think it’s worse than hammered crap*.  He reads the comments, so let your opinion be heard.

* In case you don’t know about hammered crap, it’s the latest rage.  There are numerous ways to play, but the best way is to get a big sledgehammer and a cow pattie.  The cow pattie can be fresh or “aged” — you should try using both to see which you prefer, but I think fresh makes more of an impact.  The rest of the game is obvious — you hammer the crap.  One big smash usually does the trick, and everyone there will remember that day for the rest of their lives.  It’s guaranteed to create lasting memories, stuff to tell your grandchildren about someday…

where to buy coffee made from poop

A while back we wrote about a very expensive coffee made from poop, also known as “Kopi Luwak”.   Now Think Geek is offering it for purchase and consumption in the U.S., calling it Civet Crap Choice Coffee.  It costs $34.99, for 5-10 servings.  Kinda pricey for coffee, and gross to think about, but, hey, it’s rare and exotic and unique!  Restaurants sell this for $50 per cup!

I will not personally be conducting any research / taste-testing on this coffee.  I don’t drink coffee, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to drink coffee made from beans that a wild animal pooped.   If any of you reading this have tried it, leave a comment explaining the “complex flavors” and “highly exotic” flavor.

If you go to the website and see the package it comes in, it’s funny how they felt led to put “edible” on the front of the package…  And it’s rare because “only 500 KGs of this rarity are found each year”.  You know why?  People have to find poop from this animal, collect it, and remove the coffee beans from it.   Then they make coffee from it, for you to drink.