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A Vocal Data Privacy Lawyer Joins Facebook’s VR Team

For the better part of a decade, Washington D.C. lawyer Joseph Jerome has pushed state and federal lawmakers to better understand tech privacy issues. In recent years, Jerome has devoted some of his attention to the unique concerns raised by the rise of VR and AR.

His next act: tackling AR/VR privacy matters inside Facebook.

Jerome announced the move on Twitter Tuesday. While the company declined to say much about Jerome’s new role as a privacy policy manager at Facebook Reality Labs, we can glean some idea of what his priorities might be from an interview he gave Reality Check earlier this year, coinciding with a paper he wrote about steps companies should take to make VR safer for children. 

In the interview, Jerome took aim at the absence of basic parental controls on Oculus Quest headsets (Facebook says its headsets are for people age 13 and older). Given the violence inherent in some of the VR games available on the platform, Jerome said he thinks parents should have the ability to blacklist certain apps and watch what children do in VR on a separate screen.

“I feel a little bit disappointed by Oculus,” Jerome said at the time regarding the VR child safety measures (or lack thereof). Perhaps Jerome will start his time at Facebook by addressing some of the shortcomings he’s identified.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to give details about Jerome’s position and instead directed The Information to a tweet from Rob Sherman, Facebook VP and longtime Deputy Chief Privacy Officer, where he said Jerome’s “expertise will be crucial to building new technology to connect people in a way that's respectful and responsible.”

AWE Plans a Swift Return to In-Person Events

Augmented World Expo, one of the most prominent business conferences in the AR/VR industry, is looking to get back to Santa Clara, CA. On Tuesday, the organizers announced the first set of sponsors, exhibitors and speakers at AWE 2021, which will be held from Nov. 9–11 in the Santa Clara Convention Center.

The announcement boasts that over 250 exhibitors have already registered for the event. As fruitful as some online events have been during the pandemic—including those that tested the limits of VR social platforms—there are likely several companies that are eager to show off the prototypes that they’ve essentially had to sit on for the past year.

Here’s one such possibility: Niantic CEO John Hanke will kick off the event as the year’s keynote speaker. With chipmaker Qualcomm registered as one of AWE’s top-tier sponsors, Hanke could take the opportunity to provide another look at the Niantic/Qualcomm AR glasses design he teased back in March.

Inching Closer to Realistic Avatars

In other news from both Facebook and the world of conferences, two new papers published by researchers at Facebook Reality Labs show off the company’s strides toward photorealistic avatars, something CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he’d love to see come to VR. Realistic VR avatars are likely still years away, but this new research suggests Facebook is closer to that goal than you might guess.

The papers, which will be presented at 2021’s annual SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference next month (still an online event this year), are highly technical. One concerns avatar rendering efficiency, which is no small concern when it comes to recreating something so detailed as the human face. The other focuses on achieving believable lighting of said avatars. In the latter paper, Facebook’s researchers note that their new lighting method not only achieves realistic results, but does so in real time while the avatar moves according to motion captured by face tracking cameras.

In March, Zuckerberg told The Information that he’s excited to get face tracking tech into future headsets, which would help create and animate more realistic avatars. With the tech already up and running in the lab, Facebook may feel compelled to put face tracking features on a fast-track to the next Oculus headset. 

Other news:

  • Matterport and PTC announced a new AR partnership. Customers will be able to use PTC’s Vuforia AR software to explore detailed 3D scans of places from Matterport.
  • Bay Area startup Rokid passed its crowdfunding goal for the Rokid Air AR glasses. These glasses are not capable of spatial AR, instead letting viewers see a virtual screen. They also need to be plugged into a phone or laptop.

Thanks for reading Reality Check. I’d love to hear your thoughts any time at [email protected] And if you know someone who might like this newsletter, just forward it along and point them to www.theinformation.com/reality-check so they can sign up for it.

See you tomorrow,

Mathew


Mathew Olson is the writer for The Information’s Reality Check, a newsletter devoted to following trends, innovations and news in AR and VR. He is based in New York and can be reached by email at [email protected] or Signal at 646-694-0692.
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