“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, when concluding Facebook Connect 2021. Even during the firm’s grand rebranding and refocus on the Metaverse, the CEO spoke about a better beginning promising an idealistic view of a futuristic tomorrow where digital and physical worlds come together.
The years following Connect 2021 were transformative for Meta as the company transitioned from a social media company to a serious technology firm. In 2022, the firm internationally debuted Horizon, a metaverse hub for socialisation, work, and education. But now it’s 2023, and where does the firm’s Metaverse stand?
Now, Meta is rolling out its Horizon Metaverse service across a portfolio of XR headsets for consumer and enterprise end-users. At the same time, adoption for both technology solutions is notably slow, following an initial boom thanks to a low-price Quest VR headset which may have slowed following new tech trends and an expensive Pro device.
Although Meta is pushing multiplayer-ready immersive worlds for gaming and the future of work, firms like Pico, Decentraland, Engage, and HTC VIVE are all debuting Metaverse services to provide different use cases.
The Metaverse Promise
Zuckerberg presented the Metaverse concept as the “successor to mobile internet” in his Connect 2021 keynote. The firm has built upon its vision in recent years, predicting that headsets may take over laptops as the world enters the web3 and spatial computing era.
Although the move is not without its detractors, many analysts claim that Meta’s immersive journey is plagued with low user bases, and some see the Metaverse hype train as derailed thanks to the rise of chatGPT. Although, in reality, these technologies co-exist. Moreover, the firm’s Facebook lineage makes critics sceptical of Meta’s mission due to the firm’s previous user data controversies.
However, Meta remains optimistic, supporting its Horizon Metaverse platform as a web3 service which integrates user-generated content (UGC) systems to promote platform growth.
In his vision for the Metaverse offering, Mark Zuckerberg aims to create the next version of the internet where you will not be limited to passive consumption and interactions.
Users can relax in a Horizon Home environment, call a friend to meet via integrated Messager features, create a personal avatar, collaborate, play games, create content, and work.
The Metaverse Offerings
The Horizon suite of immersive applications encompass other platforms, such as Venues for concertgoers and Workrooms for workplace collaboration.
Horizon’s original premise to provide a VR platform for bespoke virtual experiences is now led by Horizon Worlds, the unifying hub which allows Horizon users to jump between Metaverse services via immersive portals.
Moreover, for enterprises, Meta claims that workplace XR solutions could create the foundations for the future of work.
The Horizon Metaverse Experience
Meta first introduced a home application during the early vision of the Quest headset – originally known as the Oculus Quest, before the rebranding from Oculus to Meta. This home space allowed users to access headset applications and communicate with friends.
Now Meta has expanded the concepts into Horizon Worlds, where users can explore environments to find and enjoy immersive multiplayer experiences.
Moreover, Workrooms is Meta’s enterprise solution for remote meetings and collaboration. The firm first rolled Workrooms out before the Horizon launch. However, now the service is significantly boosted by the emergence of the Horizon Metaverse hub and Quest Pro MR device, the Menlo Park-based firm designed with workers in mind.
Finally, the Horizon hub includes Venues, a metaverse solution for enjoying live events with immersive visuals.
In October 2021, Meta announced a $10 million Creator Fund to encourage more creators and developers to come and build their dream worlds within the Horizon Metaverse. In the years following, Meta continued to promote content creation for its Metaverse service, introducing builder tools for immersive content developers at all skill levels. The SDKs and resources allow users to create anything from MR games to Metaverse assets.
While some criticise Meta for its significant monetary take out of users’ Horizon content, the firm continues strong with its goals as it ramps up for the Meta Quest 3. A device which will presumably help breed more life into Horizon.
Immersive Gaming Quests
No matter how integrated the Metaverse or XR becomes in every day or workplace life, the landscape of its foundational development from gaming will never leave – and for a good reason.
The gaming space allowed the Metaverse and XR industry to grow, with consumer-grade success stories like the Meta Quest driving interest in serious immersive gaming. Mover, popular VR gaming solutions from HTC VIVE and Valve attracted more consumers to the emerging space.
The gaming industry has a loyal user base already familiar with virtual spaces, 3D environments, and interactive experiences – so the transition to spatial computing is natural.
Thanks to consumer interest, many XR and Metaverse firms are gaining capital and resources generated from the gaming industry. Moreover, trusted gaming engines like Unreal and Unity are gaining new usage as RT3D engines. The transition allows broader development pools to leverage RT3D engines to easily create high-quality XR content for Metaverse platforms, VR training services, collaboration suites, and more.
The Meta Quest portfolio has a strong and growing gaming lineup from its digital storefront. Meta looks to expand this coverage via games on its UGC Metaverse platform.
Future of Work with VR
Research collected by Meta UK’s Future of Work division in 2022 highlighted how 81 percent of questioned individuals want to work in collaborative environments.
The report claims that roughly 16 percent believe video calls help them feel present in meetings. A further 14 participants thought video conferencing led to greater collaboration with colleagues.
Meta thinks that businesses should start investing in XR headsets rather than laptops because of these figures.
Meta also advises businesses to investigate Metaverse services as soon as possible to best prepare for the future of work.
While Meta is attempting to lead the Metaverse, the firm encourages competition between rival brands and open collaboration to ensure an interoperable future for Meta.
Moving into the Metaverse
Zuckerberg envisions seamless interoperability between its Horizon Metaverse applications to transform how people connect and create transformative technology solutions.
While it remains to see how Meta executes and implements its vision over the coming years, Metaverse platforms could have significant responsibilities as new challenges prevail.
The Metaverse should “be a constellation of technologies, platforms, and products,” says Nick Clegg, President of Global Affairs for Meta.
The President of Global Affairs also noted that his firm’s Metaverse service would not be “built, operated or governed by any one company or institution.” He added that numerous global companies, startups, and the public sector would contribute to its development to provide a trustworthy enterprise solution.
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