Working out Meta Kinks

October 19, 2022 / Ben Bajarin

There are numerous challenges facing Meta’s vision and ambition for AR/VR/XR, whatever term you prefer. The most important thing from Meta’s posture is their recognition of how difficult AR/XR will be from both a technological standpoint and a user adoption standpoint. And the reality they have embraced is that this market will take a really long time to develop. These two recognitions from Meta are clever for a few reasons.

Firstly, by acknowledging developing solutions humans want to use for any length of time will be extremely difficult, expensive, and take many years, Meta is positioning itself for the long haul in a way that tells the market they have the ability to be patient and work out the kinks with the market. Every new technology has to start somewhere, take its licks, and go through growing pains. Meta is saying they are willing to put in the work, take the licks, and listen to the end market and the software developers to see where this whole thing goes.

Meta, like many of us, is under no illusion this market develops anytime soon. Recognizing this again sets them up as the large organization with the financial resources to invest in technologies needed to make AR/XR/VR a mainstream market and suggests to the market very few companies are positioned to do so. Meta is essentially saying no startups will threaten them, and only other big tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, have a shot at playing a role in developing this market in some shape or form from a hardware standpoint.

What’s the Point of Quest Pro?
Every new technology has to start somewhere. Meta has decided to embark on what’s more of a public RND project than work out the kinks internally. Personally, I have no problem with this, as opposed to Apple’s approach where we won’t see something until Apple believes it’s ready. But, by taking this approach, in many ways as Google did with Google Glass, Meta will face criticism and in some ways, people may turn more bearish on the potential as they experience things that feel awkward and not fully finished.

Quest Pro is more of a technological example of how blending reality of the physical and digital world has far more potential than VR but requires much more technologically sophisticated hardware. Meta is putting into the hands of the market, a product that contains early technology around mixed reality but is baked just enough for the market to experiment and discover what use cases, user-interface paradigms, and software have the most upside potential and where it falls short. Sometimes, and for some companies, these solutions have to be worked out in public because there are so many more questions than answers regarding what is valuable and what is not with regard to mixed reality.

Our AR/XR Future is in the Hands of Developers
Any future in AR/XR, and even VR, rests solely in the hands of developers. Hardware and platform companies can only do so much to make a category. Their efforts are on the hardware technologies that can unlock software potential from creative developers. This is perhaps the main thing I’m looking for with the Quest Pro’s early market trials. What will developers do with this new technology and will they focus on repeating the past or creating something entirely new? The latter is the way markets get made but adoption cycles for brand-new experiences take much longer. The entire software paradigm is likely going to shift in mixed reality, and no one has any idea what experiences humans will gravitate to as of yet. Hopefully, Quest Pro gets into enough hands of early innovators to start experimenting so we can look for signposts of things that may have the most future potential.

For developers, it will be less clear how they make money but that is not entirely necessary in this early stage. What matters is some showcase experiences emerge that give us confidence there will be a market around mixed reality at some point in time in the near future. That is why understanding Quest Pro as more of a public RND project and developer beta is the perspective I’m taking at this point in time.

There is a vast sea of fair criticisms to make around the current technology, platform, and software implementation around Quest Pro and this ambiguous term of the metaverse. But this is the path that has to be taken to work out the kinks. Whether Meta is the right company or not to develop this market is an entirely different question, but at least–for now–many of us who study and observe these markets can hope to learn from Meta’s early efforts and gain a glimpse at what may be possible in the world of computing someday in the distant future.

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