These University of Waterloo Professors Helped Build the Metaverse

Two University of Waterloo professors are part of a team funded by Facebook’s parent company, Meta, to build the metaverse over the next decade.

The Ontario researchers are one of 17 Canadians who will each receive a $ 30,000 unrestricted grant from Meta’s Reality Labs Research to support their work.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about the metaverse as if it were the future of the internet. Even if there are debates about what the metaverse really is, researchers describe it as the next step for the digital world.

“It’s actually a term that’s been around for a long time and it’s continuing to evolve. It’s like the way people talked about the internet in the 1980s,” said Daniel Vogel, a professor in the university’s computer science school.

But for Jian Zhao, it’s a medium that mixes the real and virtual worlds.

Zhao’s research, also within the school of computer science, examines how humans and computers interact. He said he wanted to better understand how this relationship would work in a much deeper environment offered by the metaverse.

“A lot of information is displayed on desktop computers or mobile phones, but the metaverse is a growing new trend for displaying and exploring information,” he said. “That’s what brings me to this area of ​​research: how people can become more immersive in data, exploring information, and communicating.”

Player using virtual reality system. (Doug Herbert/CBC)

Today, Zhao and his PhD students are exploring different styles of interaction between VR streamers and their audiences. He said he wants to use the grant money to research and find ways to improve virtual reality technology and make it more immersive.

Virtual reality (VR) streaming is very popular in the gaming industry, Zhao said, but most of the technology is aimed at desktop streaming, which can limit how VR streamers share their content. to the audience.

“That’s why we want to … investigate the failures and difficulties faced by the streamer and the viewer and develop technologies to facilitate communication,” Zhao said.

metaverse your projector
Vogel’s research into creating their spatial augmented reality uses a variety of equipment such as cameras and several projectors to track movement and display content. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Spatial augmented reality

Vogel’s work, on the other hand, ventures beyond VR goggles using projections – also known as spatial augmented reality (SAR).

“Imagine having special building materials like paints or wallpaper made of pixels,” he said. “Now everyone can display information: even the walls, the floor, the cups.”

He and his students used special projectors, cameras and calibrated software to make these projections and the infrastructure was developed with the previous grant Vogel received.

Now, thanks to this new grant from Meta, he and his students will be able to try out different scenarios and purchase additional equipment.

Vogel said Meta’s unrestricted grant is a testament to the value of Canadian talent and gives Meta a chance to test new ideas.

“They were also allowed to do indirect experiments on certain ideas – as my lab did – that would be almost commercially feasible,” he said.

“They may have more experimental ideas that they can’t keep inside, but they’re very happy to use some of their funds to help labs like ours look further into the future.

Vogel and Zhao say the development of the Metaverse is still in its early stages and there are bumps along the way. But there they were – and their research – came in.

“Our job as researchers is to try different things and think about some of the problems we might encounter with this new kind of technology and try to work on solving them now,” Vogel said.

daekun kim
Daekun Kim is a third year student working with Vogel. He created the software used in spatial augmented reality in their laboratory. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

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