Facebook has been called Meta for a year now. A year and many billions of dollars later, the new Meta Quest Pro VR glasses are now on the global market. Is this an act of sheer desperation on Zuckerberg’s part, or is a new economic space emerging here? Spoilers: both!
The PC has tied people to their desks. Thanks to smartphones, humanity has been mobile again for a little over 10 years, but only has one hand free. Also, our 3D view is not made for 2D screens. And the neck pain reminds us that IT isn’t really humane.
The solution: we strap heavy 3D glasses on our heads and abuse our shins on invisible furniture in the living room while disguising ourselves as an avatar. Most also get sick. On to the Metaverse until your eyes water.
Image: The postman calls on October 25. Meta Quest Pro is here. The device is very slim and is balanced and light on the head. The pixels on the screen are still visible. The device is far removed from a retina display, as we are used to from Apple. But still: the eyes only hurt after an hour. Anyone who expects a performance from Meta’s new flagship that is known from modern smartphones will be disappointed. It’s easy to see why Apple is still taking its time with its headset.
Metaverse is as dumb as the first cell phones in 1992
Like most people, the Metaverse is still a foreign land to me. I’m as skeptical of pioneers calling it home today as I am of the weird cell phone owners of the early 1990s. You don’t need a cell phone until you have one.
3D TV will always be a flop
If I have the choice in the cinema, I enjoy a 3D version. The room is really dark, the screen is huge and the sound is good. At home, the experience is incomplete and wacky. Just as stupidly I experience the Metaverse today.
Are PCs and cell phones forever the last word in wisdom?
Who doesn’t sometimes wish for more space on the screen, more scrolling surface on the trackpad and less weight when traveling? It’s actually a shame that Google Glass failed.
Let’s say we could wear a 4K screen with the weight of a typical pair of glasses on our nose. Eye tracking would prevent nausea. An additional screen appears with a look to the right – and the same to the left.
The classic keyboard is actually a measuring instrument for finger movements. A computer mouse measures flat hand gestures. What if you could measure arms and hands so precisely that you no longer need a keyboard or trackpad?
Then only the haptic feedback of the real world is missing. This can only be simulated to a limited extent with small electric motors. But we probably don’t need more.
Metaverse does not replace face-to-face meetings, but the beamer
Even during the lockdown, no one seriously believed that video conferencing could replace real meetings. And they shouldn’t either. They have become an independent form of communication.
For example, collaborating on documents works much better if everyone has their own screens and keyboards and doesn’t have to look at a remote screen. Lectures with projectors were so annoying because you used to have to be in the same room.
Face-to-face meetings are mainly used for side talks. Experience shows that three times as many meetings online are needed to build trust. But because there is no travel time, you simply meet more often.
The Metaverse is like a giant 3D video conference where someone is always present. Appointments are of course also possible. Anyone standing alone is open to conversation – just like in a real conference.
The crux of quality
My virtual twin, the so-called avatar, looks like a prankster. 20 years ago, ready-made computer games were already leading the way.
According to Citigroup experts, it would take a thousand times more Internet bandwidth and processing power to make the experience largely realistic. So this can take a while.
New hardware: Meta Quest Pro since October
First the bad news: this headset is also too heavy to prevent long-term neck pain. In any case, it is balanced as we know it from the competition.
The good news: we have been spared the painful tripping over the furniture in the living room. Outdoor cameras relay the environment indoors. Not only virtual objects appear on the opaque screen, but also the living room furniture. A security area has been defined. When exiting there is a glaring warning that shins are now in danger.
Indoor sensors measure facial expressions and transmit them to the avatar, which now displays the wearer’s visible emotions. This should allow for a mutual sense of presence.
For Zuckerberg, this is a necessary liberation from the technical dependence on PCs and smartphones. Even more threatening to Meta are the privacy-oriented operating systems, especially Apple’s iOS, which are slowly turning off the data tap.
With stand-alone glasses, Meta finally regains control over the hardware and thus over the data. Because these glasses not only analyze the environment, but also the emotions of the wearer, missing living room accessories will certainly be advertised in the future, but only when you are sad. Coincidentally, chocolate is also offered.
How does an economic space arise?
Just like on Facebook, everyone has a fixed identity. It doesn’t matter if you use your real name. Identity arises from one’s own actions, which is reflected in the timeline, the relationships and therefore also the reputation.
The same goes for LinkedIn, Gmail or Twitter. This allows you to log in to other platforms without having to register every time. You can use it as a kind of passport for the internet.
Large platforms thus fulfill functions that are otherwise known only from states. With cyber defense and policing, they ensure external and internal security in their domain. The login function enables formal proof of identity when entering foreign platforms.
What is missing in Zuckerberg’s metaverse to the right state?
What is still missing is its own payment system. Did anyone really think that Mark Zuckerberg would let the failure of his cryptocurrency Libra hold him back?
Gaming currency is known, for example Eve Online. Many Venezuelans keep their heads above water with gaming. With a little skill, game coins can be converted into legal tender.
Meta alone, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, is the largest economic area with 3.6 billion people. And its own payment system has been in preparation for a long time.
One cannot speak today of a market-dominant position in the Open Metaverse, which at some point should consist of the platforms of Sony, Microsoft and many other providers. Because there is simply no real market yet.
However, Zuckerberg has the funding and clients to defend his long-term pioneering role. But in the end it’s about trust. And who wouldn’t put their full trust in the lovable Mark Zuckerberg?