Why VR Is Still Great Even Though Everyone's Dumping on Meta

Awesome technology comes at a cost

  • Investors are thrashing Meta’s foray into the metaverse, but some experts say the tech is still fun and helpful. 
  • The game Beat Saber, for example, offers a solid workout. 
  • One observer said VR gear needs to get more comfortable to see widespread popularity.
Metaverse concept picture that combines AR and VR.

Mr.Cole_Photographer / Getty Images

Meta's stock may be plummeting as investors complain that its vision of the metaverse is losing money, but recent advances in virtual reality are making the technology fun and useful for users. 

The news about Meta is downbeat, which may signify the industry's fate as the company is one of the top players in virtual reality. The company has invested billions in its Quest line of VR headsets to access the metaverse, a version of the Internet as a universal and immersive virtual world. Don't believe the hype, some experts say. 

"For everyday users, VR offers an escape to another time and place—real or imagined," Ryan Harmon, the president of Zeitgeist Design & Production, a company that produces immersive experiences, told Lifewire in an email interview. "Depending on the content, VR can put you at the center of a forest, on a beach, in outer space, or in the middle of a story-rich interactive experience where you play the main character."

Going Virtual

Meta is getting a bad rap in recent negative reviews of its VR products, John Pavlik, a journalism and media studies professor at Rutgers University, contended in an email interview.

Meta's VR platform, the Quest, and its recent addition, the pricey Quest Pro, "is quite good and features many compelling VR applications, including Beat Saber," Pavlik added. "Where the company gets much of its criticism is in its early attempt at building a metaverse platform (networked virtual worlds, which may include VR but are not equal to VR). Its Horizon Worlds is a limited first attempt in this arena. Problems, including virtual sexual harassment and virtual assault, are among the serious problems associated with the metaverse platform."

Pavlik said he uses VR as a teaching and learning platform for his students to explore how VR differs from previous media platforms. "In my personal life, I use VR as an enjoyable and immersive journey into virtual realms where anything is possible," he added. 

Pavlik said there are some top-notch apps on the market for users who want to explore the potential of VR. He recommends the game Beat Saber, the travel simulation Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, and the cinematic app This is Not a Ceremony

"Beat Saber is a fun, physically active immersive game played in VR," he added. "Space Explorers features video captured on the International Space Station and gives the user a highly authentic experience via VR. This is Not a Ceremony premiered at the Sundance Institute 2022 and gives the user a compelling social justice experience while in VR."

VR vs AR

The industry's image problem may be partly due to confusion around the terms used. Meta often refers to its VR headset as a way to access the metaverse. The metaverse is commonly described as a version of the Internet that acts as an immersive virtual world. Virtual reality headsets are a way to access the metaverse by using near-eye displays to give users an immersive feel of virtual worlds. There's also the term augmented reality (AR) which is an interactive experience that combines the real world and computer-generated content.

Harrison Montgomery, the head of growth and marketing at the AR company Aireal, explained in an email that part of the metaverse is AR, but AR can also be standalone and independent of the metaverse. Meta focuses on VR in its current product lineup. 

I use VR as an enjoyable and immersive journey into virtual realms where anything is possible.

"AR is a very natural action for the user by viewing digital content as it co-exists with reality," he added. "When you have that type of experience, it's intuitive, it's natural, and it's honestly the best form of visual articulation because it's already interacting with an environment that humans are already preprogrammed to know how to interact with."

John Burris, the chief strategy officer at the pioneering metaverse app IMVU, said in an email that both augmented reality and the metaverse benefit users. He predicted both areas would evolve and grow. 

"There is 'real life,' the metaverse, and somewhere in between them is augmented reality. There will be instances when someone wants to augment (add to) their real-world experience by overlaying information, communications, offers, etc.," he added. "And there will no question be times when people want to fully immerse into the metaverse. I do think that full VR experiences with heavy headsets will continue to see low adoption."

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