Is Zuckerberg too soon?


Image: Meta

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VR and AR are developing at lightning speed and at the same time far too slowly. Could Zuckerberg have played too big too soon?

Meta is stuck in the biggest crisis of its 18-year history. The company’s value fell 70% last year. Mark Zuckerberg laid off 11,000 employees last week. Further austerity measures and job cuts are likely to follow if Meta’s situation does not improve.

The reasons for the crash are multiple: the weakening of the global economy, Apple’s anti-tracking measures and strong competition from TikTok are putting pressure on the advertising industry. Moreover, the number of users of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp is no longer growing as it was in the early years.

And then there’s the massive Metaverse project that happens every year. tens of billions devoured and should only bring profits from the next decade.

Bad timing for the Metaverse bet

Meta’s problems aren’t limited to Zuckerberg’s costly and, for many people, elusive metaverse obsession. But the very risky gamble comes at a most inopportune time as the company struggles on many other fronts at once.

“The pressures facing Metaverse’s business in 2022 are acute, significant, and unrelated to the Metaverse,” Metaverse advocate and investor Matthew Ball told The New York Times last month.

Photorealistic codec avatar by Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg sees VR telephony as a killer virtual reality application. It could be many years before this technology is ready for production. Image shows Zuckerberg’s codec avatar. | Image: Meta

That might be a bit of a stretch, given that Meta’s stock started falling shortly after Facebook’s name change to Meta and before the company released disastrous quarterly results in early 2022. But Ball’s point is different: this meta not just at the wrong time chosen, but could simply be too soon.

“There’s a risk that almost everything Mark said about the Metaverse is correct, except the timing is further away than he imagined.”

VR and AR could take longer, much longer

It looks like the blurb of a story describing the virtual reality and augmented reality industry over the past ten years. Anyone who has followed the industry during this time knows that technology is developing at lightning speed and at the same time extremely slow.

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Virtual Reality was able to register its first commercial successes, but one can at least wonder if many people put on their helmets regularly. This is also due to the form factor, which is finally progressing ten years (!) after the start of this VR wave, but which is far from optimal.

Augmented reality avatars with a digital game board in a living room

Meta’s Project Nazare AR goggles have been in development for many years. So far, however, there are only concepts to see. The marketing of the device is now scheduled for 2026 after a postponement. | Image: Meta

And what about augmented reality? Despite its enormous, endlessly repeated potential, the sister technology has so far hardly manifested itself in everyday devices, with augmented reality in smartphones being an exception. Ten years have passed since the unveiling of Google Glass, but AR glasses suitable for the general public remain legendary, which means that they are pushed back a few years every year.

Meta requires perseverance

Regardless of how the two technologies evolve, I am increasingly convinced that virtual reality and augmented reality are at an earlier stage of development than most observers would assume and that, despite what has passed so far, there is still a lot to do until they surpass their beginnings. At least if the evolution continues to be as linear as it has been for the past ten years.

This virtual reality only in 15 to 20 years Maturity reached and augmented reality only in 20 to 30 years unleash their potential. If that were indeed the case, we have to think about the consequences it would have for the industry.

How many great ideas and start-ups were there around the hype year 2016 or earlier in the history of virtual reality, which largely failed because the technology was not yet mature.

“They were ahead of their time.” Yes, but it’s a cold consolation – and a disturbing thought for Mark Zuckerberg.


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