Metaverse: neurons connect to the Internet

Facebook’s evolution into Meta opens the door to the future development of a Metaverse, a virtual 3D environment, and opens up new opportunities for neural interfaces for the general public.

Neurotechnology is at the forefront of the immersive reality revolution, fostered by the colossal investments of GAFAM in their quest for the Metaverse. Neural interfaces have the potential to shake up the industry by improving the experience and interaction with virtual worlds, paving the way for mass adoption.

What happened

Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that his company, formerly Facebook, had changed its name to “Meta”. This name change clearly indicates the strategic goal: to connect people in virtual worlds, also known as the Metaverse. With this in mind, the company plans to hire 10,000 people and invest at least $ 10 billion in this project over the next few years.

Impact on our investment case

What is a neural interface?

Neural interfaces are often thought of as direct connections to the human brain, exemplified by brain implants, such as the one developed by Elon Musk’s Neuralink. In reality, it is not necessary to have a direct connection with the brain. The term encompasses any device capable of connecting with the human nervous system, including peripheral nerves, in order to read or modulate neuronal activity.

In recent years, neurotechnology has benefited from numerous innovations, from artificial intelligence to specialized semiconductors, which have taken it beyond the framework of the “pure laboratory”. But while there is an increase in healthcare applications and adoption (especially neuromodulation devices which have become quite common), neural interfaces are still struggling to penetrate consumer markets.

Facebook and AR / VR

Facebook’s interest in immersive technologies dates back to 2014 with the $ 2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, a developer of virtual reality headsets. Five years later, it acquired CTRL-Labs, a small neurotechnology company working on a nerve sensor in the form of a bracelet that directly detects the electrical activity of motor neurons that innervate the forearm and hand. This technology, now developed within Facebook Reality Labs, detects intentional hand movements and allows users to interact in virtual worlds with extreme precision.

Putting neural interfaces within the reach of the greatest number

The industry is always on the lookout for the “killer app” and we believe that immersive technologies (AR / VR) could be the gateway to the mass market of consumers.

Clothing, such as wrist-based neural interfaces, are the perfect candidates for consumers because they are familiar devices and they allow non-invasive access to nerve fibers located just under the skin. New companies (e.g. NextMind or MindPortal) are developing non-invasive, wearable headsets for the purpose of reading and writing directly from the brain to enhance the virtual experience and, hopefully, eventually replace virtual reality glasses. Brain implants, like the one developed by Elon Musk’s Neuralink, are technologically impressive yet invasive, requiring surgery, hampering their adoption by consumers, not to mention ethical issues around data privacy.

The future success of Facebook’s Project Metaverse remains questionable, but what is certain is that immersive reality is starting to be quickly adopted in various industries, especially in the video game industry. Neurotechnology will directly benefit and in turn enhance virtual reality experiences, bringing the Metaverse closer to materialization.

Our point of view

Facebook’s investment in virtual reality and neural interfaces for the general public could prove to be the trigger, which the neurotechnology sector needs to reach the mass market. Adopting neurotechnologies will allow the Metaverse to become a reality. At AtonRâ, we follow this sector closely and we believe that immersive technologies, an industry which is expected to reach> $ 450 billion by 2030, will soon be part of our daily lives.

 
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