My main feeling after watching the Meta Connect 2022 event was that it was meant to inspire investors, shareholders, and corporate adoption of the metaverse. This was not an event to hype independent developers and VR users.
That’s why there was an emphasis on stats:
- 1 in 3 apps in the Quest Store is making $1M+ in gross revenue
- 33 apps are making $10M+ in gross revenue, up from 22 apps in February 2022
- Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners generated $50M+ revenue on Quest alone
- Zenith Last City earned $1M in 24 hours
- Resident Evil 4 earned $2M in 24 hours
Stats aside, Meta touched on a lot of metaverse developments. I’ve done my best to condense the meaningful news and give my take on each category – ending on their most anticipated news: the launch of the Quest Pro headset.
Oculus is driving developer revenue. However, the consensus among VR gamers is that there simply aren’t enough games coming out on Oculus. Marvel is launching Iron Man VR sometime in November. Other gaming announcements include Population: One (a sandbox game), Among Us VR (spin on the popular game), chapter 2 of Saints & Sinners, and a game called Behemoth from the creators of Skyrim.
Even though Meta continues to promote that social experiences are their primary focus, gaming is still the only use case that actually makes clear sense in VR. And yet, Steam continues to be the most dominant platform for VR gaming.
I think Meta is doing a poor job in satisfying the gaming market, which is a clear path to user acquisition. They announced a partnership with Microsoft’s xCloud allowing you to stream games from Xbox’s clouding gaming, but only in 2D formats. In other words, you can play video games on a TV in VR with an Xbox controller. Cool, but not revolutionary. We want all of these games to be VR-native.
They’re launching an Oculus Active Pack, which is hardware focused on the VR fitness applications. Basically, it’s an added face guard that makes it easier to clean the sweat off your headset and knuckle straps to keep the controllers strapped to your hands. These are cool additives but nothing you couldn’t already find on the third-party accessories market.
Additionally, they’re launching a Fitness API Beta, allowing users and developers to access activity analytics in their headsets. This is necessary if they want to see the VR fitness category grow into something serious. Still, without an integration into Apple Health and Google Fit, I don’t see this going anywhere.
In response to getting roasted by the Internet for their Horizon Worlds avatars, Meta announced some upgrades to their avatars. Namely, their avatars will be getting legs sometime in 2023, thanks to full body tracking through AI models.
They’re really pushing this idea of the avatar being at the center of the metaverse experience, believing that if we see our own identities in the avatar then we’ll care more about the metaverse. That’s why they’re syncing avatar profiles across all their platforms: Oculus, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram Reels.
They want to create a continuity of personal identity across all of their platforms and allow you to create content with your avatar. They’re also launching an avatar store where you can purchase virtual goods for your avatar. This is an attempt to capture the digital fashion creator market from NFT marketplaces, but there was no mention of these being NFTs. Without scarcity, what’s the point?
I’m personally not sold on the idea that Instagram Reels content of your avatar will go that far. At least in the current instance where our avatars look so simple.
However, the work they’re doing on Codec Avatars and Instant Avatars, which are realistic reproductions of ourselves, is quite fascinating. The idea of our avatars being digital twins is much more compelling if they have expressions that match reality. These avatars are the future.
Work & Productivity
Work was emphasized far more over gaming, social, and fitness. You can tell this is where Meta is placing their chips for this next fiscal year.
Starting with a Microsoft partnership that brings the entire suite of Microsoft 365 apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) and Windows 365 to the Oculus platform. Additionally, enabling you to access Microsoft Teams video chat in the headset. Satya Nadella emphasized that they’re integrating the Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Intune to ensure that companies can provision these VR devices for their teams securely.
Overall, I feel like Microsoft just admitted that the HoloLens isn’t great. I thought that Meta should’ve partnered with Google instead to bring the Android phone ecosystem into play, which is the hardware that Meta is really missing. Not to mention, it would give both companies a chance to really make a run at Apple.
Otherwise, Meta announced a few minor upgrades to Horizon Workrooms. The ability to leave sticky notes, create group 3D designs, and breakout meeting rooms. All tiny details that don’t mean much. And pretty much just copies of Oculus apps like Virtual Desktop and Gravity Sketch.
They’re pairing Horizon Workrooms with Portal and Workspace, allowing hybrid teams to collaborate whether everyone has a VR headset or not. And Adobe is promising to bring its creative suite into the Oculus ecosystem.
But all of these productivity promises aren’t that compelling in VR. This brings me to their major announcement.
Oculus Quest Pro
There were enough leaks in the lead-up to this announcement that we all knew Meta was releasing a new headset. So nothing too surprising about the Quest Pro, which is a mixed reality headset enabling you to switch between VR and AR in the headset.
The design of the headset looks great. It’s more balanced and comfortable for long-term usage. The display is much richer. The controllers themselves are now computers, using 3 camera sensors to track their own movements in space, as well as a stylus for easier writing in the headset.
They developed the SnapDragon XR2+ chip with Qualcomm, which will have 50% more power and thus better performance.
The Quest Pro has upgraded open-periphery features (also known as pass-through), where you can see the actual surroundings outside of the headset. This is supposed to make the Quest Pro a better workplace device, allowing you to anchor digital objects in your physical space.
Personally, I think that open-periphery is a bust of a feature if you cannot accurately screen record what you’re creating in augmented reality and send it to your team. Otherwise, it will be a requirement for everyone on your team to have one of these headsets in order to collaborate in this mixed-reality environment. And their mixed reality meeting space, MagicRoom, won’t be shipping until 2023.
At $1,499, the Quest Pro is far more expensive than we all wanted. It makes sense why Meta would position so many of their announcements around the workplace and productivity features, as companies are the only ones that will be able to afford the Quest Pro in mass.
Overall, they went the business route because their stock has been taking hits for the past year and a half. At this price point, though, if they can drive a lot of corporate pre-orders then they may be able to send a signal to their market that they’re doing something meaningful in workplace technology.
Lastly, Meta showed us some cool research they’re working on relating to the future of human-computer interactions. They showcased a wristband-based neural interface that allows you to control a computer with minimal hand gestures.
It utilizes EMG (electromyography) to understand your muscle movements and map them to computer commands. With machine learning, this tech would adapt to each user’s normal typing, swiping, and other actions.
Their neural wristband was by far the coolest thing they showed us during the entire event. And very well could be the future of how we interact with technology entirely.