Meta reveals its latest VR headset and metaverse strategy


Mark Zuckerberg is all-in on the idea of the metaverse being the next big computing platform, and having rebranded his company accordingly, yesterday saw Meta open its Meta Connect  2022 event with a range of announcements and interviews to show new hardware, the evolution of its VR services, and the longer-term strategy behind them.

The hardware is a new VR headset called the Meta Quest Pro, with a $1.5k price marketing it out as a high-end product. It’s aimed at designers, professionals and flush-with-cash early adopters rather than the consumers targeted with the $399 Meta Quest 2 headset. “The people who are really interested in VR being able to be their primary workstation over time,” is how Zuckerberg described the former group in an interview with The Verge yesterday.

Meta is very keen to get more people working with its headsets, so yesterday also saw a big update for its Horizon Workrooms VR space, with better avatars; virtual whiteboards; breakout groups; Zoom integration and a ‘Magic Room’ feature designed for ‘hybrid teams’ (i.e. some in a room together and others working remotely) to collaborate.

Meanwhile, Meta is bringing its Horizon Worlds metaverse to non-VR platforms – phones and computers – and improving the coding and modelling features to help people build better spaces within it. That could be interesting for labels and artists exploring the platform, which Meta recently admitted needs a lot more work to be “usable and well crafted”.

Meanwhile, the YouTube VR app is getting more social through the ability to watch videos with friends; Meta will launch its ‘Meta Avatar Store’ later this year with the promise of “partners across sports, entertainment, and more” selling virtual clothing – we’ll await news of the music partners with interest – and those avatars will now (finally!) have legs, rather than just torsos, heads and arms.

It was all very much a push to create confidence in Meta’s vision of the metaverse, with the additional announcement that the Meta Quest Store has now passed $1.5bn of game and app sales, including 33 titles that have grossed more than $10m apiece. But in his The Verge interview, Zuckerberg stressed that VR remains a long-term challenge, not a sudden mainstream hit.

“This is the first version of the work VR device line that we’re shipping, and it’s not going to be until later this decade, when we’re on V4 and V5, that this stuff really starts to get fully mature,” he said, later adding: “It’s not like this stuff is going to be fully mature in a year or even two or three years. It’s going to take a long time to build out the next computing platform.”

There’s a lot more in that interview beyond VR, for example Zuckerberg talking about Facebook’s plans to take on TikTok by putting more ‘recommended’ – i.e. not from friends – content in people’s feeds. “I actually think we’ll get to a future in the next couple of years, where, I don’t know, you might have 30 percent, 40 percent of the content is recommended…” Another stray comment that bears thinking about: “Most of the meaningful interactions at this point are shifting to messaging…”)

None of this is directly music-focused, but as our industry thinks about what the metaverse might mean for music, for artists and for rightsholders, it’s useful to follow Meta’s launches and thinking. Even if you disagree with it, in which case you may enjoy TechCrunch’s takedown of yesterday’s announcements. “Meta keeps saying VR is the future, but everything it shows us is an inferior rehash of the things we already have… a collection of tacit admissions that the best they can hope to do is ape a reality we are all desperately trying to leave behind…”

Written by: Stuart Dredge