Virtual reality review 2022: a year to forget

Image: Meta

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2022 has been a tough year for the VR and AR industry, despite or perhaps because of the Metaverse hype. But 2023 gives hope.

The VR year was undoubtedly marked by Facebook’s rebranding and reorientation towards the Metaverse.

The Metaverse: It’s a mysterious thing that knows many definitions, some already exist, some are far off sci-fi fantasies and don’t necessarily require virtual reality or augmented reality. A confusing thing, this metaverse. Even experts can’t agree on what exactly it is, let alone consumers.

After an initial whirlwind that swept through the industry and brought back bad memories from 2016, the Metaverse quickly ran out of steam. Enthusiasm has given way Metaverse fatigue.

In a blog post in which Meta’s chief technology officer reflects on the past year, the M-word is not mentioned once. Instead, you only hear him talk about “the future.” A future a decade or more away that current technology can hardly do justice to. Which raises the question of whether Zuckerberg was too early with his Metaverse bet.

Why make so much noise about something that is still so far away and that provokes embarrassing comparisons (Second Life and Co.)?

A difficult year for Meta

For the most important engine in the VR and AR industry, that was it most challenging year in company history to date.

Strong competition from TikTok, Apple’s app tracking metrics, the general economic situation and, last but not least, Zuckerberg’s Metaverse obsession drove Meta shares down. A circumstance that erupted into stopped projects and ultimately into mass layoffs.

In addition to its core business, Meta has also suffered setbacks in virtual reality and augmented reality. The Meta prestige project and the under-attended proto-metaverse Horizon Worlds have repeatedly made negative headlines, most recently with the lifeless selfie of Zuckerberg’s avatar (see article image ), which has achieved meme status and may haunt Meta for years to come. A planned expansion from virtual worlds to smartphones and browsers has been postponed until next year.

Mark Zuckerberg with Holocake 2

Over the summer, Meta gave some interesting insights into VR research. However, it will be many years before the technical concepts are ready for the market. | Image: Meta

A legal dispute with the US competition authority FTC, the shutdown of a fundamentally important XR project and the postponement of Meta’s first AR glasses to 2026 were other low points for Meta.

Despite these setbacks: Zuckerberg continues to cling to the Metaverse vision and wants to invest in virtual reality and augmented reality for the long term. His belief that a new computer era is coming didn’t play out. Don’t expect a spontaneous turnaround. For this, Meta should scale even more than 2022.

New VR Hardware: Business and Wealthy Only

Other key players could have supported VR and AR 2022, but largely chose not to.

Playstation VR 2 was finally presented in detail, but the launch was postponed until next year. The French Lynx R1 mixed reality headset will also officially start in February 2023, almost a year late.

And what about Apple? The mixed reality headset, prophesied for many years, is now set to be unveiled in 2023, according to a knowledgeable Apple analyst and supply chain analyst. I wouldn’t bet on that though.

2022 would have a explosive material year can become. The devices that eventually appeared are technically very interesting, but uninteresting for end users. They will not drive the market decisively forward.

Launched in September, the Magic Leap 2 AR headset is aimed at businesses and barely made the headlines at launch. Meta Quest Pro received more press attention, but turned out to be an overpriced beta device and a mixed reality development kit that lacks proper software and apps.

The beginning of the mixed reality era

Microsoft’s AR strategy has raised many question marks this year. In February, rumors swirled that the development of Hololens 3 had stopped. A few months later, Microsoft AR visionary and Hololens inventor Alex Kipman left the company.

But also the development of military holo encountered difficulties. After all: at the end of the year, Microsoft’s vice president for mixed reality indicated that a successor to the Hololens 2 is in the works.

However, these admissions don’t sound very convincing, especially since Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has made it clear that Microsoft’s Metaverse will focus on software in the future. A software partnership with Meta announced in the fall fits into this context.

Quest Pro with controllers, diagonal front view from left

Meta Quest Pro ushered in the era of mixed reality headsets. | Image: MIXED

It may be many years before the industry can build advanced but slimline AR glasses. That’s why she tryna develop it now Mixed Reality Headsets with Video Seamless Reality. The form factor of these glasses has great advantages, but also disadvantages compared to classic AR headsets with transparent optics.

The Meta Quest Pro, which released in October 2022, is one such mixed reality goggle, with many more likely to follow in the years to come. Apple’s first XR hardware is expected to be a mixed reality device, and Samsung and Google are also said to be developing mixed reality headsets.

Carmack leaves Meta

There was good news this year for German VR users and those who want to become one: after the introduction of Meta accounts, Meta ventured back into the local market at the end of the year and started selling Meta Quest 2 and MetaQuest Pro.

With the launch of the Pico 4 in the fall, German consumers even had a choice of two standalone VR headsets for Christmas business – one positive market development. A year earlier, it was zero.

There was another surprise at the end of the year: John Carmack left Meta for good. The programming legend has worked in the VR industry for a good decade, helped revitalize technology and had a major impact on it by paving the way for self-sufficient virtual reality: from Samsung Gear VR (2015) at Oculus Go (2018) at MetaQuest (2019).

His departure marks the final conclusion of the Oculus era: Ten years of VR hardware searching for a form that could lay the groundwork for mainstream success and found it in the standalone form factor for now.

The question now is how far Meta and other manufacturers can take Carmack’s formula. His departure from the VR industry isn’t the beginning of the end for VR, it’s the end of its beginnings.

2023 and 2024: Mixed Reality and high-end VR

What the industry missed in 2022 it could make up for in 2023: With PlayStation VR 2 and MetaQuest 3 are launching two consumer helmets and could give a new impetus to the industry.

Hopefully with impressive proprietary software, because on that front the last two years have been disappointing. If Apple finally dares to enter the market, virtual reality and augmented reality could attract as much attention as they have had since 2016.

Playstation VR 2 with controllers floating on a blue background.

Playstation VR 2 with Sense controllers. | Picture: Sony

Reports of Apple’s headphone launch should not be overstated. VR and AR require more from Apple than Apple VR and AR. The industry is still in its infancy and Apple has plenty of time in the world to enter the market: even the iPhone currently has more advanced augmented reality features than the $1,800 Meta Quest Pro.

Even in the ideal case: big leaps in the industry should not be expected in 2023 either. Virtual reality and augmented reality will grow slowly and organically, the latter in the form of reality headsets mixed. This technology is what I’m most looking forward to and what PSVR 2 will bring to the table in terms of high-end VR experiences.

Order Quest 2 and Quest Pro

All information about Meta Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro can be found in the linked tests.

Meta Quest Pro is not yet available in Germany, but you can easily get it from Amazon France. Tip: Right-click on the website and select “Translate”.

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