The lonely hellscape described in a New York Times piece of Facebook/VR Meta’s platform Horizon Worlds does not sound appealing even to VR gaming nerds, let alone average internet and social media users. So, yes, the metaverse appears to be years away from becoming the vision of parallel-reality fun and utility that Mark Zuckerberg described when announcing his company’s big VR pivot last year.
The company announced a lot of things at Meta Connect 2022, its annual developer conference for its VR efforts and Oculus hardware platform, but what it communicated more effectively than anything else was just how incredibly thirsty — one might even say desperate — Zuckerberg is for his metaverse bet to pay off.
Zuckerberg began the presentation by assuring us that VR is bigger than ever, though almost entirely in relative terms. The original Oculus Rift was only made available to consumers in 2016. It then went into a series of cherry-picked revenue figures compiled by Facebook CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth.
These were individual highlights, rather than the cumulative rapidly increasing ecosystem numbers that Apple used to boost its own mobile App Store efforts in the early days.
The remainder of the presentation was essentially a series of big-up “announcements” (many of which were reheated versions of previous ones) aimed at defining use cases and domains in which the metaverse and VR would actually be useful to people. Zuckerberg covered all the usual suspects: social, gaming, fitness, and the “future of work.” None appeared to be significantly improved or capable of serving as a watershed moment in terms of mass adoption, and the majority had either ambiguous or nonexistent ship dates.
A relationship with Microsoft, which Satya Nadella (Microsft Chairman and CEO) and Mark Zuckerberg simultaneously announced, was one of the largest swings. In essence, Zuckerberg is so motivated to recruit users for the metaverse that he has joined forces with a former rival, a move reminiscent of Steve Jobs’ reception of Bill Gates via satellite link during the 1997 Macworld Boston keynote.
That was successful, but it’s not yet apparent if this will be. It’s early days, as Nadella himself put it, is the overarching and recurrent theme of VR. Zuckerberg also utilized his new avatar and started presenting in the metaverse as himself. The avatar itself marked a significant advancement over earlier versions.