The Metaverse had a very bad week

It’s been almost a year since Facebook has renamed itself Metaand founder Mark Zuckerberg and company are facing serious doubts from the public, the media, and some of their own employees about the future of their focus on the metaverse.

just yesterday, Meta has officially unveiled its new Meta Quest Pro VR headset. The premium platform will cost early adopters $1499.99, and the headset was designed specifically for work, rather than gaming. And as Zuckerberg shared with The edge, Meta targets people who regularly upgrade their PCs to upgrade to the Quest Pro instead, saying “Basically it’s a step towards the 200 million people who buy new PCs every year and start gaming VR work, plus all the people playing, hanging out, etc.”

One of the main ways Zuckerberg and Meta hope consumers will use their VR headsets is in Horizon Worlds; the company’s virtual reality software that uses avatars to attempt to digitally replicate in-person interactions.

You might know Horizon Worlds from its most viral moment last summer, when Zuckerberg posted a selfie of his digital avatar in front of a very low-texture render of the Eiffel Tower. Internet users have not hesitated to denigrate the visuals of Horizon Worlds avatars.

This apparently led Meta to scramble, as The New York Times reports that employees have been working to create a new, higher-quality version of Zuckerberg’s avatar in an expedited timeline. We then saw Zuckerberg himself show off the updated avatars at this week’s Meta Connect event.

If Meta’s real goal with the Quest Pro is work productivity, there’s a big problem right now. According to a separate report from The edge Last week, it seems that even Meta teams working directly on the Metaverse aren’t enjoying the VR workspace.

In a memo to employees from Metaverse’s Vice President of Meta, Vishal Shah, the executive wrote, “For many of us, we don’t spend much time on Horizon and our dogfooding dashboards show that quite clearly. . Why is it? do we love the product we’ve built so much that we use it all the time? The simple truth is that if we don’t like it, how can we expect our users to like it? »

And, in the NYT report, several employees apparently rushed to buy their own VR headsets after management insisted they hold meetings in Meta’s Horizon Workrooms app. This suggests that while Meta has any serious hope of getting people to strap on a VR headset to go to work, there’s some serious work to be done on the software side.

This memo, coupled with that of Meta reported a hiring freeze and potential layoffs, has apparently generated some enthusiasm for the Metaverse from Meta employees. According to the New York Times, more employees have started holding meetings in Horizon work rooms… when it works. Earlier this year, a notable meeting was hampered by technical issues, forcing employees to redirect the meeting to Zoom, according to an employee who spoke to The New York Times.

Privately, Zuckerberg was reportedly “frustrated” by the backlash over his avatar photo, and in a report by Reutersthe founder apparently said in a meeting that “realistically there’s probably a bunch of people in the company who shouldn’t be here”, and that he would “increase the pressure” by raising expectations and by introducing more aggressive goals.

Meta is also the subject of criticism from some in the VR industry. Former Oculus CTO John Carmack said in a interview that Meta’s $10 billion level of loss in the VR and AR department in 2021 has made it “stomach ache thinking about so much money being spent”. In a talk in the Metaverse this week (via arsTechnica), Carmack said “there’s a bunch I’m grumpy about” when it comes to Meta’s VR hardware and software.

Carmack said his vision is to exist in a virtual arena with “thousands of avatars spinning around,” but the technology and user numbers just aren’t high enough to make that a reality right now. moment. Instead, Carmack was presenting in a near-empty virtual classroom that aired on Facebook as a 2D video.

At least publicly, Zuckerberg doesn’t doubt his company’s initiative to push hard for the Metaverse, telling The Verge that they still expect the initial reaction to be negative, and that “this is the first version of the line of working VR devices that we’re re-shipping, and it’s not until later in the decade when we’re on V4 and V5 that this stuff will really start to fully mature.”

We won’t know for years whether this is really the growing pains of new technologies, as Zuckerberg thinks, or an unproven concept taken too far. But for now, maybe Meta should look to Fortnite to see a concept of how the Metaverse can actually work.

Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over six years of gaming industry experience with signings at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine, and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.

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