“We believe that the next computing platform has the potential to be more social, more human than anything that’s come before,” Zuckerberg said during a keynote presentation at the company’s Meta Connect conference on Tuesday.
The metaverse includes virtual spaces where people can work, play and socialize, but Zuckerberg also made it clear there’s still a long way to go before this futuristic idea becomes a reality.
Meta faces an uphill battle as it tries to pave the way for a more immersive internet. The social media giant has faced several privacy scandals and scrutiny from lawmakers as it pushes forward with its metaverse ambitions. The US Federal Trade Commission accused Meta of illegally trying to expand its “virtual reality empire” and is trying to block the company’s acquisition of Within Unlimited and its VR fitness app Supernatural. Meta has pushed back against allegations that it’s harming competition.
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Not everyone, though, is buying into the metaverse. Roughly 57% of US online adults say they’re not familiar with the term, according to market research company Forrester.
Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, said Zuckerberg is overselling the idea that VR headsets could eventually replace the smartphone. Some of the main challenges, she said, are the price of VR headsets and the limited ways people can use them.
“I don’t see it as a wholesale replacement,” Ask said. “I see it as something where we’ll spend some of our time.”
Meta is trying to convince people that it’s worth buying a VR headset. From social networking to work, the company tried to sell the public on the idea that VR can be used for more than just playing games. Meta also said it’s working with eyewear company Essilorluxottica on a new pair of glasses that will be “a portal to the metaverse.”
Here’s everything Meta announced Tuesday:
Meta Quest Pro
The Meta Quest Pro virtual reality headset.Scott Stein/CNET
Meta has been teasing the release of a high-end VR headset ahead of the conference, and it finally unveiled more details about the product.
The company said the device, called the Meta Quest Pro, includes “high-res sensors for robust mixed reality experiences, crisp LCD displays for sharp visuals, a completely new and sleeker design, plus eye tracking and Natural Facial Expressions to help your avatar reflect you more naturally in VR.”
The higher-end headset is also more expensive than the Quest 2, which starts at $399. The Quest Pro will cost $1,500 and is scheduled for release on Oct. 25. The cost includes the headset, controllers, stylus tips, partial light blockers and a charging dock.
Meta is taking preorders for the Meta Quest Pro today in certain countries. It’ll also be available for preorders at some retailers, such as Best Buy, and platforms, such as Amazon in the US, UK, Canada and France.
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VR for work
Horizon Workrooms includes VR meeting spaces that let people collaborate as avatars.Meta
Meta wants people to use VR for more than just playing games.
The company said it’s adding more features to Horizon Workrooms, where people can get together with their colleagues in a virtual meeting room. In 2023, for example, Meta says you’ll be able to join Horizon Workrooms via videoconferencing service Zoom.
Meta is also partnering with Microsoft as it tries to get more people to use VR for work. Microsoft products such as videoconferencing tool Microsoft Teams are coming to the Quest 2, along with the suite of tools available in Microsoft Windows 365.
Meta is teaming up with Adobe as well and said Adobe’s Substance 3D apps will become available on the Meta Quest Pro and Meta Quest 2, allowing artists and designers to model 3D objects and collaborate inside VR.
Xbox, New games
Set on a virtual spaceship, Among Us is a social deduction game where players have to identify imposters before the imposters kill their crewmates.Meta
Gaming is still a big reason why people are buying VR headsets. Meta revealed when new VR games will be released on the Quest 2.
Among US VR, described as a “party game of teamwork and betrayal,” is scheduled for release on Nov. 10 for $10 in the Meta Quest and Rift stores. Marvel’s Iron Man VR is coming to the Quest 2 on Nov. 3.
Population One, a VR battle royale game launched in 2020, is releasing a way for players to create and share new games within their virtual world. Population: One Sandbox is scheduled for release in December.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners — Chapter 2 Retribution will make its debut on the Quest 2 on Dec. 1. Skydance Interactive, the team that helped design that game, is also working on a new VR survival game called Behemoth. A release date for Behemoth hasn’t been announced yet.
Meta continues to expand its VR partnerships. The company said game developers Camouflaj, Twisted Pixel and Armature Studio are joining Meta-owned Oculus Studios.
Meta also unveiled a partnership with Microsoft to bring Xbox Cloud Gaming to VR through the Quest, even though neither companies said when it would be available.
Horizon Worlds is a social VR platform where people can create and explore virtual spaces.Meta
Meta is trying to improve its social VR platform Horizon Worlds, where users can explore virtual spaces such as a comedy club or concert venue as avatars. Users are also able to create their own virtual worlds.
The company released Horizon Worlds in 2021, but the social VR experience hasn’t picked up much steam.
Outside of safety concerns such as harassment, Horizon Worlds has also dealt with other woes. Meta’s VP of Metaverse, Vishal Shah, reportedly told Meta employees that Horizon users have complained that the experience is buggy and even the company’s own workers aren’t using it that much.
Shah said at the conference that Meta is working on a web version of Horizon Worlds but didn’t say when that version will be released. Meta is also testing a way for people to take a video in Horizon Worlds and easily share it to Instagram as a short-form clip.
When Zuckerberg posted an image of his avatar to announce the release of Horizon Worlds in France and Spain, users mocked the low-quality graphics. Zuckerberg then shared a new image with a more detailed rendering of his avatar and noted that he would share “major updates to Horizon and avatar graphics.”
At Connect, Zuckerberg unveiled what his new avatar looks like and said the company also plans to add a highly requested feature: legs. The company’s present-day avatars appear only as floating torsos with heads, arms and hands.
Supernatural is a VR fitness app that lets users take boxing classes and meditate.Within
Meta expects people to sweat when they’re working out in VR, so the company is releasing an “active pack” on Oct. 25 that includes a wipeable facial interface along with wrist and knuckle straps.
The company said that VR fitness app Supernatural is launching “knee strikes” so people can help build muscles in their core and work out their lower body.
A new VR fitness app called Gym Class will make its debut in the fall on the Quest store.
Studios such as Blumhouse and Dreamworks are part of the deal to bring NBCUniversal content to the metaverse in 2023.Meta
VR users also watch movies and TV on streaming platforms such as Netflix in virtual spaces. Now they’ll have more options to choose from.
Meta announced a partnership with NBCUniversal that’ll involve creating new experiences around TV series such as The Office.
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