Facebook was sued more than two years ago over allegations it illegally copied and shared the world’s largest repository of digitized and realistic three-dimensional objects and scenes. It was a case that, at the time, didn’t seem to square with the main mission of the world’s biggest social network.
The planned jump by the company now known as Meta Platforms into the metaverse, however, now makes clear the possible stakes in the US litigation, and the potential value of the 3D database owned by a once-obscure Lithuanian home-design startup called Planner 5D.
Meta’s research scientists are racing to let computers “see” the same way people see — to achieve the seemingly simple but technologically formidable task of recognizing that the cylindrical paper object resting on the flat surface is a coffee cup on a table. Planner 5D’s database of more than a million digitized objects and scenes offer data that, the company says in that suit against Meta, is critical to training computer vision algorithms.
At a court hearing last week, Meta asked a federal judge in San Francisco to tighten the secrecy in the case, in which the former Facebook and Princeton University are accused of scraping, copying and sharing Planner 5G’s unique trove of 3D objects and scenes.
That kind of data can train an artificial intelligence system to convert a string of pixels and numbers into the recognition: “This is a coffee cup.” Or, as a video Meta recently released as part of its public posts about its ambitious plans to help build the metaverse, to teach computers to distinguish between a Boston terrier, a border collie and a Shetland sheepdog.
“The goal of computer vision is to try and develop techniques that allow you to basically go from that set of numbers to understanding what is in that image,” Laurens Van Der Maaten, research director at Facebook AI Research, said on the Meta video linked to the company’s metaverse videos.
Computer vision, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a conversation during an Oct. 28 keynote address at the company’s annual developer conference, is one area of technology where Meta needs a breakthrough to realize its plans for the metaverse.
“Over time, I hope we’re seen as a metaverse company,” Zuckerberg said during his address with the chief scientist for Facebook Reality Labs, Michael Abrash. “The metaverse is the next frontier, just like social networking was when we got started.”
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