Facebook ‘metaverse’, a crazy gamble or a marketing ploy?

Facebook 'metaverse', a crazy gamble or a marketing ploy?

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‘Metavers’ the tech word for 2021? The term has fallen into remission in the past fifteen years, and the term from the sci-fi literature of the 1990s has returned to favour in recent months under the leadership of many Silicon Valley experts.

At the heart of this new craze is Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. In June, the famous leader gave a rare interview to The Verge, to provide the public with an outline of Metaverse Made in FB. Throughout the interview, the American billionaire described ” Internet incarnation », where the user will be shown the content. For a brief definition, refer to an article the company published at the end of September: A “metaverse” is a collection of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who are not in the same physical space as you. Or apologizing for a parallel virtual world, where there are no physical barriers, and where you can have coffee in a larger-than-life environment with someone on the other side of the world.

Oculus, a very small sector giant

If Zuckerberg himself He becomes the spokesperson for the metaverse because he intends to place the concept at the heart of the company’s development strategy. In the director’s vision, virtual reality (VR) aims to establish itself as ” Technology that provides the clearest form of presence In other words, virtual reality is necessary to achieve the immersive feeling necessary to create metaverses.

Are Mark Zuckerberg’s ads from this summer really that big, or is it just a new marketing cover for his VR startup? The truth certainly lies between the two. Because Facebook has long believed in virtual reality. In 2014, the social media giant spent $2 billion to buy industry leader Oculus. Today, the brand is integrated into the “Reality Labs” division, which is the first in the headphone market, according to Counterpoint, ahead of Sony, HTC and DPVR. Even its latest helmet model crushes the competition with a 75% market share since the start of 2021.

But, despite Facebook’s hopes, the Oculus app wasn’t enough to get the general public, nor businesses, excited. In 2017, for example, Facebook announced a very ambitious goal of “transformation”. billion people in virtual reality To achieve this, he hoped the explosion would come from the ‘Oculus Quest’, a new model of headphones that gets rid of messy wires and the need to connect to a computer. In short, a smaller, functional, self-sufficient VR headset. A small revolution in the sector, Quest doubled Three times the number of sales of virtual reality software, but it was not enough to blow the market, the fault, among other things, from the lack of applications.

Likewise, its successor, Quest 2, released at the end of 2020, may crush the group’s sales records, but only 5-8 million copies have been sold, according to various estimates. Far from the pharaonic goal of Zuckerberg. In other words, even if the virtual reality sector shows rapid and exponential growth, this technology remains a niche phenomenon and should instead be placed, for now, in the Facebook disappointment camp.

There is no tangible horizon

In the virtual reality market, Facebook does not stop at the role of construction. In 2019, the group showed the first images of “Facebook Horizon”, an alternate world in virtual reality. The project is still in its infancy, and lays the foundation for the metaverse, although the term was not in use at the time.

Concretely, the tech giant eventually wanted to offer users development kits, like video games second life, roblox gamewhere Maine Craft. The idea? Turning Horizon into a “sandbox” world by allowing its residents to create – and eventually sell – anything and almost everything, within the confines of virtual world rules. Thus, Facebook will create a new economy of products and services within Horizon. revolution ? Not really, because that kind of customizable universe in VR already exists, like VRChat, which was launched in 2014, without the financial and business power of Facebook, that’s right.

Barring that again, this horizon with a thousand possibilities seems very far away. In April, Facebook finally spoke about the project again – after a year-and-a-half’s silence – and presented a preview titled “Horizon Workrooms”. A kind of zoom-in into virtual reality, Workrooms allows its users to meet remotely in a virtual office room, with VR helmets mounted on their heads. Participants without this expensive equipment (€350 for Quest 2) can join the meeting as in a traditional video conferencing system. But they will remain in two dimensions, with their pictures projected onto the wall of the virtual room.

The company, which tested the tool internally for 6 months, highlights the feeling of immersion: “Ohn people are heard as if they were in a real room, making conversations flow more smoothlys. “A very meager achievement compared to virtual reality illusions.

Fire power of the Metaverse

Therefore, to support the new VR development strategy, Facebook is releasing the wallet, and this is the real novelty of the “metaverse”. The giant plans to invest at least $3 billion over ten years to develop a new generation of virtual reality headsets. He also promised to spend $50 million thinking about ethical questions on the Metaverse, and predicted 10,000 recruitments in the European Union within five years.

To set up, the metaverse needs lighter helmets – by Zuckerberg’s own admission – and above all, a large number of applications. Users should want to spend time there, especially in a corporate context. But virtual reality has disappointed the professional world for the time being, he confirmed exhibition Nosingh Duyuk, Associate Director of MC2i Consulting:

The company drastically reduced its investment in VR in 2019. There weren’t enough interesting applications for large accounts. Very few companies had the skills to model training effectively, and we had hoped that there would be greater customer adoption of this technology. ‘, is justified.

Not only must Facebook improve its own tools, but it must also succeed in dragging an entire industry, including software, with it if it is to realize its ambitions. For example, Facebook Horizon furniture should be able to travel to other virtual worlds, created by third parties. The tech giant knows that an equation that is limited to “FacebookLand” will not be enough, and could also attract the wrath of regulators again.