Meta Changes Its Tone on the Metaverse

(Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash)

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Hey kids, who wants to learn how to weld?

Meta is launching a new series of ads for its VR headsets that take the emphasis off Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse dreams and focus instead on VR headsets as work tools, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Per the Journal, the campaign will feature people using Meta’s VR headsets to help them in sports, medicine, and the most thrilling endeavor of all — welding.

Funtime Is Over

Zuckerberg’s big bet on the metaverse dominated the tech news cycle for a hot minute after he rebranded the company, but the next big hype was hiding just round the corner. Generative AI swooped in and stole the metaverse’s spotlight, not to mention funding. The two aren’t technologically or mutually exclusive, and Meta is pursuing its own generative AI ambitions, but there’s also the matter of what to do with the $21 billion the company has already poured into building the metaverse.

Meta’s VR headsets are its best gateway for getting consumers into the metaverse, but once consumers get there, they need a reason to stay. Meta’s attempt at making a VR space for fun and socializing, Horizon Worlds, has been underwhelming. So it’s been exploring ways to make VR less about fun and more about utility:

  • In October 2022, a year after its big rebrand, Meta unveiled a high-end version of its VR headset called the Meta Quest Pro. It launched at an eye-watering (though hopefully not eyeball-straining) $1,500, and the company presented the headset as a tool for top-level professionals.
  • Now Meta is leaning even harder into that image, just as it gears up to release its third headset — and as Apple prepares to start delivering its own $3,500 headset next year.

Leap of Faith: Even if Meta is easing up on the metaverse messaging, that doesn’t mean the VR/AR space is ailing. Magic Leap, a company that makes AR headsets and was widely thought to be in the palliative stage of its life cycle not so long ago, is staging a comeback by licensing its AR tech out to other companies, the Financial Times reported this week.