You Might Not Be Ready for the Metaverse, but Facebook Is

The new virtual reality

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook is trying to jumpstart the metaverse with a new virtual reality headset and rebranding effort. 
  • The metaverse is a term used to describe shared virtual world environments which people can access via the internet.
  • But users still face hurdles with the cost, comfort, capability, and complexity of virtual reality headsets that could allow better access to the metaverse.
A parent and child using virtual reality headsets together.

Oscar Wong / Getty Images

Virtual reality is going big. 

Facebook is working on a new high-end VR headset codenamed Project Cambria. The company says the gear will allow users to better interact with the growing metaverse, ​​a kind of digital space that lets you do things you can't in the physical world. The metaverse has been a long-sought dream, but experts say Facebook may finally be able to pull it off. 

"People will be able to virtually go to school or work and actually feel like they are sitting in a classroom or the office, but are actually wearing a headset at home," virtual reality expert Ashley Crowder, the CEO of VNTANA, told Lifewire in an email interview. "It will be 100x better than staring at a Zoom screen."

Mixing Reality

Facebook is betting on the future of VR and the metaverse. The company changed its name to Meta Platforms Inc. to signal its focus on the metaverse, which it claims will be the successor to the mobile internet. It's also pouring money into software development that could bolster the growth of the metaverse. 

The metaverse is a term used to describe shared virtual world environments that people can access via the internet. Facebook says the metaverse will be made more lifelike by using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) with its Project Cambria headset. The headset is only a prototype at the moment, but Facebook has said that it focuses on face- and eye-tracking.

While many companies are scrambling to make the metaverse a reality, Facebook is the company that's in the best position to begin to drive adoption, since it already has social, software, and hardware platforms, along with its massive reach and financial situation, VR expert Aaron Franko of software company Saritasa told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"However, for the metaverse to become a reality, it must be designed from the ground up as an open platform with security and safety at its core," he added. "It will also require massive amounts of content creation, which means creators must be motivated to develop through options for monetization or recognition."

Not Ready for Prime Time

But the metaverse is still a ways off. Users still face hurdles with hardware cost, comfort, capability, and complexity, Franko said.  

"As with most new technology, early adopters are willing to overlook or 'deal with' these issues, but the average user will wait until the utility or usefulness of the metaverse outweighs these factors," Franko added. "Much like internet usage exploded upon the mass adoption of the smartphone, some equally ubiquitous interface will need to be developed for the metaverse to become part of everyone's lives."

If the technological obstacles can be overcome, observers say that the metaverse could change the way users interact with the internet. The power of the internet is that it organizes enormous amounts of content and easily connects us to it, Franko said. 

Someone sitting in a chair, wearing a virtual reality headset.

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

"The drawback is it's delivered to us in a two-dimensional format, whereas the real world has three dimensions," Franko added. "We are unable to truly experience all aspects (or dimensions) of the people, places, and things that we have access to on the internet."

The promise of the metaverse is that it allows us to experience people, places, and things as they exist in the real world from anywhere at any time, Franko said.  

"The metaverse provides a place where we can customize all aspects of our environment, including ourselves," he added. "In the metaverse, age, race, size, and gender (and even species) are completely customizable, so we can be whomever (and wherever) we choose to be."

Facebook's vision of the metaverse could better connect users, Daren Tsui, CEO of IMVU, an avatar-based 3D social network, told Lifewire in an email interview. Say, for example, you have a passion for Picasso's art, but you live in a small town where no one you know appreciates modern art, and you don't have access to his work in a museum. 

"You can go in the metaverse and find people with that same passion, visit virtual museums with your new friends, and, through AI, even interact with the man himself," he added. 

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