Facebook says they have 10,000 employees working on XR, or about 1/6 of the company’s 58,604 employees.

I’ll do some simple math based on this public information. I’ll include my notes in brackets if you want to try other variations or tell me where I’m wrong.

Using their public projections from Q1 2021, we might reasonably expect they spend about $6 billion on XR this year for salaries, hardware and overhead.

[ assuming 1/6 * 4 * (Q1’s “cost of revenue” + “R&D”) = $6B ]

Compensation alone for 10,000 mostly Silicon Valley employees could exceed $5B a year, depending…

I’ve worked for some really big companies to help define their AR & VR programs early on. Skepticism of powerful players is always wise.

But it really makes a difference when a company’s core incentives, their income and KPI, are aligned with the needs of consumers, long-term.

I avoid companies whose business models serve other masters. Even assuming best intentions, as Upton Sinclair said: “It’s difficult to get a person to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it.”

Ad-driven companies work, figuratively, like Casinos, although ad buys are really betting on us. …

Advertising is gambling on us

When I raise concerns about ad-driven business models, most people shrug. Some may even get defensive. Ads pay a lot of salaries. They pay for so much of the online world that we consider essential. So why kick the golden goose?

Hear me out. Ads themselves are mostly harmless. We might complain about some overly loud videos for medicines we don’t need, or when ad-laden webpages jump around like monkeys on cocaine. We might vaguely suspect our cell phones spy on our conversations (they rarely do).

If you’re visiting a giant free buffet every day, you probably aren’t going to…

[Neuroscientists: feel free to correct anything here with better information for non-scientists to learn. Others: please read this as a primer.]

Some people soundly reject the premise that eye-tracking is somehow better (today) than other forms of technological mind-reading. I can understand this reaction. Eye tracking (ET) is not literally reading minds — neurons to be precise — where the best science fiction imagines lifting our thoughts directly.

We could argue that our eyes are only the place where our central nervous systems (CNS) are directly exposed to the world. The eyes are at the very least a window into…

A slurry of recent articles assert that Facebook increases polarization and perhap radicalization among its users. Facebook is circling the wagons to counter this narrative, even asking its employees to help push back. After all, if they claim to be the company that brings people together, it would be unfortunate to be widely seen as having the opposite effect.

The first step to understand how Facebook may or may not polarize us is to look at how recommendation engines work. …

The Road to Individual Autonomy

You’re walking down the street. You notice random teenagers gawking at you and then shying away. And not just a few. What’s going on? You ask a savvy friend for help.

They eventually figure out what happened. When you use Trawler’s (the leading fictional social network) AR glasses and add the “BodyNet” app, your clothing — as far as you can tell, just yours — becomes transparent to the person wearing the glasses. It’s like x-ray vision.

Nude. You. What?!

You don’t even have an account with Trawler, let alone your own AR glasses. …

About: This article was originally published on Motherboard (aka vice.com) in May 2019. This version contains new information and graphics.

Avi Bar-Zeev spent the last 30 years working on AR/VR/MR, helping companies like Disney, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple make decisions about how to unlock the positive potential of new technologies while minimizing harm. He helped start the original HoloLens project at Microsoft. Nothing in this article should be read as disclosing unannounced products or ideas from any company.

Humans have evolved to read emotions and intentions in large part through our eyes. Modern eye-tracking technology can go further, promising new…

A VR veteran weighs in on the problems with connecting your headset to Facebook

Stylish dark blue image of a man wearing Oculus headset.
Stylish dark blue image of a man wearing Oculus headset.
Photo: Minh Pham/Unsplash

The leaks are true.

Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, just announced the Oculus Quest 2, a very decent low-end VR head-mounted display (HMD) for under $300. This has been the company’s own internal quest for many years: to most cheaply solve the most common frustrations users have with VR. The theory is, with everyone now cooped up at home, and with the drop in price, the Zoom-fatigued and occasionally unwashed masses will now jump into VR’s new immersive social experiences by the millions.

At least, that’s what Facebook hopes will happen.

The company must have bought millions of components…

So you’re thinking of buying a surprisingly inexpensive XR headset from a notorious social networking company, but you worry about being tracked?

You are not crazy. But maybe you have some questions?

As you may know, the business model of social networks involves extracting your most personal information, your needs and emotional biases, and then using this information to target ads and keep you coming back. It’s no joke that you’re not the real customer here. Instead of paying directly for a service like Netflix, you’re paying indirectly, in the form of higher prices for the products you buy. …


November 20 Update:

Biden/Harris won the election (both popular & electoral college) by a big enough margin that the 12th Amendment gambit we describe below is not going to work — not that Trump won’t try.

Trump has lost 25+ alleged voter fraud cases, mostly thrown out for lack of evidence or lack of standing (as in: is there an actual victim?). Trump’s lawyers are making claims so wild about widespread fraud they should IMO be disbarred if they can’t prove it. FWIW, Trump has won one minor case, but it doesn’t matter.

The GOP has reportedly nudged several states with GOP legislatures…

Avi Bar-Zeev

Design and Technology Leader (fmr. HoloLens, Apple, Google Earth, Second Life, Disney VR) Profile photo is from generated.photos (read “Who owns YOU?” for why)

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