Meta Platforms is working hard—and shelling out money—to make sure it leaves no stone unturned when it comes to making sure its VR products work for a wide range of people. In recent days, for instance, Meta has been looking for very specific demographic groups—young people of South Asian descent or African American females who wear lipstick—for VR testing. My best guess: Meta is doing some final audience checks of its upcoming Project Cambria headset.
The Information has learned that, at least since earlier this year, a user testing company contracted by Meta has been looking for participants in VR tests in the New York area. Meta is not outwardly advertising that it is behind these tests, and participants are asked to sign non-disclosure agreements regarding the nature of their work. That’s a standard practice amongst tech user research programs (growing up near Seattle, there are more than a few video games I can’t say I played in early stages of development). But the compensation Meta is offering is fairly substantial, ranging in the hundreds of dollars for accepted participants—in addition to bonuses for referring others to the tests.
Meta has been quite public about its plans to make mixed reality and VR headsets with eye and face tracking capabilities (like Cambria) as well as photorealistic avatars of people available for use in the metaverse. I’ve now had many conversations with AR/VR engineers and product designers regarding how important it is to test any kind of visual human recognition system—say something intended to track the movement of our eyes or lips, or to scan and give an accurate digital representation of our bodies—against a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and abilities.