Currently everyone is talking about the emails recovered by The Washington Post from Meta directly. I’m not saying I believe one side or the other, but it raises several questions that have not been answered, or at least I haven’t seen anything as of yet.
How were the emails recovered? Is there a whistleblower that provided the emails? Could this been even more convoluted where TikTok spoofed emails to appear coming from Meta to bolster their own brand (sometimes bad press brings good business…i.e. Chris Rock Ticket sales).
All tin foil conspiracy theories aside, this all begs the question that Facebook has been under severe scrutiny for quite some time. Why would they use a third party to smear a competitor, unless they were truly hurting. There are plenty of angles in which the situation can be perceived, plenty of closed door conference room huddles where none of us will ever know what truly goes on. As a user of the plethora of social platforms, this is alarming. Business can be cut throat, but to do something like this, and sloppily at that, is amateur. If this does turn out to be absolutely without a doubt true, for shame. But, I’m just one guy with an opinion.
Consider this speculation until more sources are readily available
The VR Wars (as I am calling them), is very reminiscent of the console wars between Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo. Virtual Reality is the new king-of-the-hill battle royale.
First to market is Meta’s Oculus. It helps the tech was available to Facebook/Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg at $2 billion back in 2014. So they definitely have a leg up. Since purchase, they have released several iterations, most recent, the Oculus Quest 2, with rumors of the Quest 3 (“Project Cambria”) to be released within the next year. Apple is working diligently on their iteration of a VR headset and eagerly projecting a release date of late 2022 to early 2023. Google’s hat to be tossed into the ring Project Iris, is rumored to be in the works and is hoping to hit consumer markets in 2024. “Metaverse” is now looking to be more of a universal term for virtual reality versus Meta having the strong hold on the term as a branding ploy. Frankly, I would like to think the other two competitors would look for a more global term for virtual worlds rather than leaning into Meta’s infant foothold. This would allow for the average consumer to break free from the indoctrination of the term associating all virtual worlds back to Meta. This could very well be a far-fetched dreamscape as most consumers already relate anything VR to Meta/Facebook, but here’s to hoping.
Initial speculations are showing Google’s hesitation jumping into the ring, as previous works in VR/AR has not panned out well, or even performed to the minimum projections they had been hoping for. Think back to Google Glass, the wearable tech (eyeglasses) that would overlay what we now have in Google Lens in mobile devices. In practical application, it made sense, and showed plenty of promise and benefit. Personally, I think it was slightly ahead of its time and the average consumer wasn’t ready for it.
If it would have stayed in development, and released within the past couple of years to present, it would have done much better. Looking at everyone who has wearable tech now, primarily smartwatches. With that said Google does have historical repertoire in the space and have advanced a lot of their AR tech stack in mobile devices. They could easily play to their strengths building off their perceived failures and existing successes. Furthermore, Google already knows so much about all the consumers, it would make sense for them to leverage the harvested first party data. The ongoing joke that Google knows everything about everyone, might as well let them do as they wish and the end user reaps the benefits (along with the dystopian big brother fears).
The speculation around Apple’s development has been wildly varied. From cost, design, release, and specifications. The largest takeaway that is both alarming and undesirable is the rumored price point. Apple products for decades has been perceived to be luxury items. Always inflating their end user pricing, and within the past few years being an advocate of “user privacy.” Without inundating this post with my own personal opinions of the Apple model, there are two things concerning about the pricing of their offering. For one, it is presumed their VR/AR offerings could be in the ballpark of $3k (with a potential subscription service). The second point that is concerning (if this pricing model turns out to be legitimate) is people will pay this. Not for the tech, but because of the status appeal. Don’t get me wrong, they will have some top level tech in their devices, but I can only assume by the time they release their devices, there’s a good chance they have been surpassed by competitors. This has happened numerous times in the mobile phone arena.
Lastly, thinking to the point they are taking user privacy to heart is laughable. Again, attempting to restrain my personal opinions, but the only thing Apple has done is allowed their users to removed the ability for advertisers to personalize ads for their preferences. They have spun their agenda to make them appear to be the hero by removing ads from platforms altogether. They did not use that language explicitly, but Apple lied to their consumers. It seems like it worked, because from what I have seen only advertisers are upset about it. Which begs the question how attune are Apple users in general. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Meta has the upper hand with approximately 10 Million units sold by mid November 2021. In the next year or two when Apple and Google are geared to release their headsets, there’s a good chance Meta has doubled or tripled this number with the added new Quest 3 headset release. No matter which way you slice it, Google and Apple have an uphill battle. Both have their own illustrious brands with consumer perceptions. Apple as the “user friendly” and Google as the “know-it-all.”
If this war is to be won, will it boil down to price, tech, or status? There’s still a lot of time, questions, and development before we will see actual competitive answers/analysis. I could see Apple taking the short win using a subscription service, similar to their mobile pay-to-own plans and lumping VR into it. Which would give them ongoing revenue. Let’s not even think about insurance claims and protection plans. Contracts galore.
Google could cripple the market with their previous attempts at AR and including existing successful tech in their headsets. This working in conjunction with all of their owned/earned first party data. They could easily compile the experience to every end user, creating the best possible consumer curated experience. The internet is slowly abandoning the cookie, but Google has been making drastic strides focusing on the user cohort. This could make the bucketing of user data into the VR realm that much more customized and curated for every end user. All of this combined with the rumored price to be available to everyone. It is assumed this will be either at the same price of Oculus devices or less, to ensure market capitalization.
Overall it is a very exciting time. Like the early console wars, VR/AR is the new battlefield, and we will have to wait and see who will claim victory. As a Meta Oculus Quest 2 owner, I am excited to see what these competitors bring to the arena, and what they will do to shape the landscape.
When I close my eyes and think back to my earliest memories of “virtual reality,” I think of those full body containers from the 90’s in malls, the movie Hackers, and other wonky movies and tv shows (too many to list), the 90’s was a weird time. We could easily go on for quite sometime about the history of VR/AR, who did what and when, but for our purposes now, we are going to focus on Facebook’s (“Meta” – still not a fan of the new parent name) Oculus Quest 2. The other element we won’t be going into is the numerous variants and other devices. Only reason for this is I wouldn’t be able to speak intelligently on them and it would be pure speculation since I don’t have first hand experience with them. With that being said, let’s take a closer look at this mind bending tech.
Out of the box (fairly unique and minimalist packaging), you have your headset, and two controllers and an extremely brief setup guide. There are numerous after-market companies that have developed add-ons and upgrades for comfort, extending battery, or streaming, among other device enhancements. This device at first glance feels right out of the movie Ready Player One (the book is better). It has the futuristic appeal of Back to the Future Part II and has the sleek design to contour easily to your face and hands.
With this being the second iteration of the Oculus, the design and consumer adaptation to the device has advanced light years. A far stretch from my early memories of what VR was at the time. Some movies and tv shows from the 90’s weren’t too far off, but as technology has insurmountably advanced and at such an alarming rate, the Oculus Quest 2 is impressive. That being said, there are constant updates and upgrades happening fairly frequently. The Quest 2 can easily be pigeonholed as just another console gaming system (that you wear on your face), but this isn’t the case. As more companies are embracing the relevance of remote work, with it comes the inclusion of VR meetings, team building exercises, and workflow operations. This is where we start to think about this “Metaverse” you keep hearing about. For now, I think the “metaverse” isn’t the holistic approach or an all-inclusive term of the VR realm. This is just what Marky Mark and the funky bunch (Zuckerberg) are calling it. Think of metaverse as a branding tool to further expose consumers to Meta as a whole. Kind of a brilliant technique because now as Meta is essentially first-to-market with the VR realm and Meta being a part of the metaverse, the average consumer won’t associate VR with anything but Meta devices. At least, until other companies are able to break the spell of indoctrination.
I digress. Without going into too much detail about all that, we can go ahead and remove our tinfoil hats. Back to brass tax. The Quest 2 is a really impressive piece of tech. I mean Zucky did buy Oculus for $2B (yes, that’s a B, for billion). So you get what you pay for and it seems he has some of the best minds on development for Oculus. Not only as I mentioned before this is going to be a great tool for employers/employees but it also has some really great games. Most of which are pay-to-play, but there are demos to get a taste before you commit to purchasing. Outside of games, there are fully immersive apps for meditation, exercise, mental health, and exploring the world, oceans, and galaxies. Some are more breathtaking than others, but so far, I have not had a bad experience with anything I encountered.
It’s not all rainbows and bunnies. There are cons to the device. The stock headstrap that comes with the device is okay at best for the average user. I would recommend the pro strap or going with another brand advanced strap. Depending on how much you end up using, go with something that will increase comfort. Kiwi Design makes a whole line specific to the Oculus Quest 2. Comfort is a huge element, and now that rumors of the Quest 3 are circulating, I truly hope they take weight of the headset into consideration. It’s not very heavy, but after an extended period of time, it hurts the neck and face. The neck from the weight without having a counterweight in place, and the face because you have to tighten the headset a little tight to enjoy the full experience. If too loose, you lose focus, which can be troublesome if you are playing an active game like Beat Saber or FitXR boxing/HIIT especially.
Overall, I would say it is a great device for the average user, and may have tentative implications with how remote business is going. I would like to think if this is going to propel the business world into the future, I could see two way communication and translation services happening in real time. Here’s looking at you Duolingo! That would be a pretty cool element, if not already in the works or already in Beta, and I am behind the curve (wouldn’t be the first time). Dare I say in all reality (har har har), this is not only a gaming console, this could begin the revolution of our species. I know Zucky isn’t everyone’s favorite person, but the vision is promising (if it actually was his or he just slapped his name on it). I’d like to think with new tech and new iterations of this interesting realm, we as people would look first to how it can make things better. I think about what the Xbox Kinect wanted to do with the medical industry, now primarily being used for Ghost Adventures, Ha! The Oculus Quest 2 could easily be the bridge in the gap of virtual education and practical application in so many verticals. Only time will tell, but for right now, I gotta go kill me some zombies.