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Meta Celebrates 10 Years of VR Development

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Will Meta’s VR metaverse ever become a thing, or will it be a multi-billion dollar albatross that will forever haunt Zuck and Co.?

Today, Meta is celebrating 10 years of VR development, with the date marking the anniversary of Meta’s initial acquisition of VR company Oculus back in 2014.

Zuckerberg Oculus Rift

Look at young Zuck here, nose pinched tight in an early Oculus headset.

Even back then, Zuckerberg had a vision of what VR would become, which has since powered his mission to build the next stage of computing.

And it has yielded significant advances. Oculus, which is now integrated into Meta’s Reality Labs VR division, has evolved into Meta’s Quest VR headsets, which function as standalone, untethered VR devices, which was unthinkable back in 2014.

Meta has also ushered in new forms of digital connection, in VR spaces, games, smart glasses, now powered by AI, and its flagship “Horizon” VR social experience.

And while Meta’s VR progress hasn’t always been praised as such, especially when Zuck posted this image:

Mark Zuckerberg in the metaverse

What Meta has been able to achieve in the space is amazing, even if it’s not happening at the pace that many would like.

But it has come at a cost.

Overall, Meta has spent over $50 billion on VR development, including $17 billion in 2023 alone.

To put that in perspective, $50 billion is higher than the entire GDP of more than half the nations in the world.

And those investments, as yet, have not paid off. While VR take-up is gradually evolving, Meta continues to lose money on its big bet, and will likely continue to take a major financial hit every year, as it looks to boost take-up, and make VR engagement a major element.

Apple, for example, recently launched its $3,500 Vision Pro VR/AR headset, which Meta has criticized as being too expensive. But building a VR headset is, inevitably, going to be costly, and a lot of that cost is going to be passed onto consumers. Unless the provider is willing to eat some of it in order to maximize usage and take-up.

That, seemingly, is where Meta is heading, with the company planning to preview its own advanced AR glasses later this year. The device, according to Meta, is too expensive for consumer release as yet, but eventually, you would assume that Meta will be looking to get it into people’s hands, to then build towards its broader Metaverse vision.

Which could require taking another short-term loss for longer-term gain.

It’s a risky strategy, but the logic is sound, and it does stand to reason that we will all soon be engaging in VR and AR, as the technology that powers such evolves. That does seem like the future, even if we can’t all see it yet. And while Meta’s VR losses are massive, and will continue to generate headlines, consumer behaviors do point to this being the next stage, sometime within the next decade.

Meta has long held that the metaverse is a long-term goal, and that the reality of the experience won’t be tangible for the vast majority of people for several years yet.

But in five years time, things will be much clearer, and in 10 years, maybe we’ll be praising Zuck for his forward thinking and nous.

Or, we’ll be reading a million think pieces about how he lost hundreds of billions on a project that never came to fruition.

I’d be more willing to bet on the former, given the broader trends that are emerging.  

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