Facebook shows off eerie VIRTUAL human avatars that look like real people

META, formerly known as Facebook, is working to create lifelike avatars of its users that they can control in a virtual world called the "metaverse".

The idea is to allow people to build customisable, digital versions of themselves so that they can one day attend social events without leaving their homes.

Developed by the newly rebranded company's Reality Labs research division, the "Codex avatars" were wheeled out during a Facebook event on Thursday.

They will be entirely customisable, with users able to change their hairstyle, clothing and more at the press of a button.

"The goal here is to have both realistic and stylised avatars that create a deep feeling that we're present with people," Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg said during the live-streamed Facebook Connect '21 showcase.

The avatars will be controlled using virtual reality goggles and exist in the metaverse, which Zuckerberg discussed at length on Thursday.

It's touted by Meta as the next stage of the internet, and will apparently change the way we work and socialise for good.

According to meta, users access the space using virtual reality glasses to attend parties and meetings as if they're really in the room.

"Immersive, all-day experiences will require a lot of novel technologies," Zuck said during Thursday's event.

"For the last seven years, our research team has been working on a broad array of technologies that are necessary for these next-generation platforms."

One of those technologies is Codec avatars, which Reality Labs unveiled to the world in 2019.

During the Connect – Meta's annual conference on its virtual reality projects – researchers revealed some recent innovations to avatars.

Primarily, the team has been working on giving users better control over their eyes, facial expressions, hairstyles, and appearance.

The realistic way that an avatar's hair and skin reacts to different lighting conditions and environment was also showcased, as well as how the company was working on interactive clothing that reacted to touch.

The technology is still in the early stages of development, and likely won't be available to the general public for years to come.

As well as avatars, Meta also used its showcase to detail its plans for the metaverse in the coming years.

The metaverse is a term coined in the dystopian novel "Snow Crash" three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley.

It refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual realm which can be accessed by people using different devices.

According to Meta, its take on the technology will allow people to play tennis or chess with players who aren't there physically, create art and interact with digital objects that react realistically to user movements.

The big news, however, is that Facebook has changed its company name to Meta – a rebrand that focuses on building the metaverse.

The name change comes as the world's largest social media company battles criticisms from lawmakers and regulators over its market power, algorithmic decisions and the policing of abuses on its services.

Zuckerberg said the new name reflected its work investing in the metaverse, rather than its namesake social media service, which will continue to be called Facebook.

"Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can't possibly represent everything that we're doing today, let alone in the future," said Zuckerberg.

The company, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, said the change would bring together its different apps and technologies under one new brand. It said it would not change its corporate structure.

The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators.

In other news, astronomers claim to have spotted the first known planet outside of the Milky Way.

Star Trek’s William Shatner, 90, became the oldest astronaut in history after a trip on Blue Origin rocket earlier this month.

Nasa is gearing up to launch a spacecraft that will crash into as asteroid as part of a trial of a new planetary defence system.

And, find out about the wildly impressive Panasonic 65HZ1000 TV, which makes most tellies look rubbish.

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