Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is betting his company on a version of the metaverse centered on virtual reality (VR), at least for the foreseeable future, the company said in a blog post published yesterday (March 23). But that’s not what consumers are asking for.
The company’s VR initiatives can be summed up in the development of its Quest headset, which is intended to transport users into the virtual metaverse, a digital environment where users can work, shop, play games and more. But many consumers just aren’t interested in wearing a pair of tech goggles while their avatars work and hang out in a digital world, according to a report by Deloitte.
In contrast, Meta’s augmented reality (AR) enterprise, or its smart glasses that blend metaverse technologies with real-world surroundings, could be an essential stepping stone to a full-blown virtual experience. But that’s not where Meta expects to make much progress in the coming years.
“Our vision for the creation of true AR glasses will require years of progress to make our devices slimmer, lighter, faster, and more powerful, all while consuming less battery power and generating less heat,” Meta executives Kevin Salvadori and Bruno Cendon Martin said in the post. “Metaverse adoption for the foreseeable future will continue to be driven predominantly through Virtual Reality.”
Zuckerberg has set his sites on the metaverse when few are asking for it. Investors see billions in losses for Meta, while consumers have yet to embrace the metaverse as the future of the internet. While skepticism about virtual reality abounds, AR technologies have been tested and somewhat welcomed by consumers through apps like Pokémon Go, Snapchat and IKEA Place, the program that shows users what furniture would like in their homes. Even if consumers aren’t directly asking Meta for smart glasses, the technology fits into their lives with greater ease than the headsets the company is developing.
Meta’s smart glasses are expected to hit the market in 2025, but they won’t have full AR capabilities until 2027, according to the Verge. In the meantime, Meta is planning three new VR headsets, despite the company’s struggles to keep users engaged in the Quest 2, which launched in 2020, the Verge reported.
Zuckerberg paints the metaverse as a place users can “do almost anything you can imagine,” he said in October 2021 when he changed the company’s name from Facebook to Meta. “Our goal is to help the metaverse reach a billion people and billions of dollars in commerce in the next decade.” The company has reportedly sold 20 million headsets since its first unit launched in 2019, according to an internal company presentation viewed by the Verge. But Horizon Worlds, the company’s metaverse platform accessible solely through the headsets, has only 200,000 monthly active users, with only an 11 percent retention rate, according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s less than 0.007 percent of the monthly active users on Facebook.