The future is metaverse. It was promised a year ago by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, a company he renamed Meta to underscore the depth of his commitment. On Wednesday, the young billionaire wanted to showcase the progress his team had made during this time at a major corporate event. He had to prove that the immersive virtual environment supported by the virtual reality in which he works has eyes and a face, and that it is more than just entertainment.
The star announcement was the Meta Quest Pro, a renderer more advanced (and expensive) than the one that’s been on sale so far, the Quest 2. It’s the device with which he wants to convince the world that his idea is that good. It says many things about the direction Mita is taking.
1. Virtual reality mixed with physical reality
The launch confirms what has already been circulated in the sector: at this stage of the project, the path to entry into the metaverse will be mixed reality, that is, the overlay of digital elements over physical reality. makes sense. For those who haven’t grown up with video games, it can be aggressive to first immerse yourself in a 100% fantasy environment, no matter how tempting and realistic it may be. It’s nicer to put on some glasses and still see the room you’re in, but it’s sprinkled with some VR stuff, like a drop-down screen hanging in the air or an avatar of a colleague. This way, no connection to the physical world is lost: you take something from the desk, look out the window, and then focus on the multitasking screens before you.
With Quest 2, which has sold around 15 million units, you can only navigate through 100% virtual worlds. For example, Horizon Worlds, where the user in his avatar navigates through all kinds of scenarios and interacts with others (the social network of the Meta becomes the metaverse). But its appearance is still simple, far from the graphic perfection that Zuckerberg is striving for. The technology needed to deploy the metaverse that California is contemplating isn’t ready yet. It will take years. Until then, it is best to mix the digital world with the physical world.
2. Not suitable for all pockets
The second element that jumps out has to do with rent. The cost of the new Meta viewer is 1,800 euros ($1,500 in the US), compared to 400 for its predecessor. The jump is big, and it’s a wake-up call: Metaverse is, for now, a luxury product. “The target audience of Meta Quest Pro, as its name indicates, is Positives: Large multinational companies and qualified professionals. Many Fortune 500 companies and European equivalents have already shown interest in it,” Mark Rabkin, Vice President of Reality Labs, the Meta company that makes the glasses, said Thursday in a virtual meeting with journalists from around the world, where EL PAÍS participated.
The exclusivity of the new glasses preempts them as a universal product. Unless they show that they are giving access to something we didn’t have before and convince us that we need it. “If we were to put it up for sale for less money, we would be offering it,” Rabkin said. “We’ll see a lot of competition in the market. The only thing we were looking for when we designed it is if the VR experience is really different, and the answer is yes. Once you put it on you’ll see how different it is from other viewers, the sharpness of the image, the lack of dizzyness when you take it off.. .then you understand the price,” he added.
Meta’s leap to manufacture premium viewers can also be interpreted as a preemptive move in the face of another rumor pervasive in the industry: Apple is preparing to land in the sector with its mixed reality glasses. BiteDance, the Chinese tech company behind TikTok, already has VR headsets on the market and will be competing in this tech race.
3. Doing is better than playing
From the start, Zuckerberg has talked about the metaverse as the place where we will have fun, shop, socialize or work in the not too distant future. The bet will focus, at first, on that last layer. The first preachers of the metaverse should come from there, those who begin to inform the population that the idea is good, and that it is worth spending hours there. “For virtual reality to reach its proper potential, we need to get to the point where the 200 million people who buy work computers each year can do at least some of their tasks better in the metaverse,” Zuckerberg said on Wednesday.
Focusing on the home workplace with its commitment to mixed reality. Also with the high price of glasses. Oddly enough, Microsoft is the first big tech company to commit to challenging Zuckerberg’s total commitment to metaverse. Just days after changing the Facebook name to Meta, Microsoft announced the introduction of custom avatars in its Teams tool. Another announcement announced on Wednesday is a collaboration between the two companies so that Teams or Microsoft 365 can be used from Quest Pro. Zuckerberg was able to recruit the best metaverse work lead site for his cause.
4. The legs have arrived
One of the biggest criticisms the Meta metaverse proposal received was that avatars, the digital representation of users, left something to be desired. The dolls have a childlike appearance and are cut at the waist. That has changed: Avatars have improved in identification and now have legs. Although this also results in ridicule now.
Meta mode is not the best it can be. In July, the company reported its first annual decline in revenue: $28.022 million, nearly $1 billion less than the same period a year earlier. Zuckerberg warned that there would be a hiring freeze and there would be restructuring, something he hasn’t heard of since Facebook started in 2004. Facebook is no longer acquiring users and TikTok and Snapchat are on the rise. If you can make your metaverse your next great communications platform, it won’t all matter.
5. Time will tell
When Apple entered the tablet market with its first iPad in 2010, some analysts didn’t see the point of the device. Why use a big mobile phone to surf the internet when you have a laptop with a mouse? Today, tablets coexist with personal computers, which are gradually gaining ground.
This is the moment when reviewers must decide whether the Quest Pro binoculars (and its competitors) will also remain whimsical, or, on the contrary, become a must-have accessory in homes and offices. If they succeed, there is already a sector directly affected: screen manufacturers.
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