Metaverse success far from certain

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A year after rebranding itself from Facebook into Meta, the social network titan is striving to make the metaverse a routine part of daily life, offering users new features and promoting new virtual reality gear.

But analysts say the company has toned down the hype a bit as it struggles to reach its goal of creating an interactive virtual world that it sees as the next phase of online activity.

The biggest announcement from this week’s Meta Connect event — the company’s giant’s annual conference focused on virtual reality — was the launch of the much anticipated Meta Quest Pro VR headset, targeted at professionals in creative fields.

But there were also legs — as in, legs for user avatars in Meta’s Horizon World virtual realm, as well as facial expressions.


Is this the future? The company says yes. “The metaverse is going to sneak up on us,” Meta Reality Labs vice president Mark Rabkin predicted.

“I think it’s going to feel really far away and then there’ll be certain pockets and niches that are suddenly really useful — and then we’ll realize that the gaps… are getting smaller, and suddenly it’s here.”

For Rabkin, executives can save time and money by meeting in the metaverse, and artists can embrace virtual venues for concerts, comedy shows and other entertainment.

Bridges, skyscrapers, footwear and more can be designed in 3-D using digital tools in the metaverse. “We’re building things that power the metaverse and will be part of the metaverse,” Rabkin said.

“We are investing heavily to pull the future forward a little bit.” A year ago, Facebook renamed itself Meta to signal its devotion to a metaverse future.

Expressive avatars

In a small step on that path, the $1,500 Quest Pro headset — aimed at architects, engineers and designers, among others — boasts new features that are meant to improve users’ perception of actually being in the presence of others.

“The moment that they begin to break into a smile or when they raise their eyebrow… your avatar should be able to express all of that and more,” Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg said at Meta Connect.

The company said it is partnering with Microsoft, Adobe, Accenture and others to sync up popular work software with virtual worlds using Quest Pro.

“At Microsoft, we’re incredibly excited about the metaverse and how digital and physical worlds are coming together,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the presentation.

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