Since Mark Zuckerberg introduced his VR-heavy Metaverse vision in late 2021, I have often questioned his strategy’s logic. I have been researching the concept of VR for decades, and the idea of a person wearing 3D immersive goggles for long periods does not seem feasible for mainstream consumers.
To date, VR goggles have struck a chord with gamers and within specific enterprise-based verticals. One of my partners and I created a dedicated site called a “Metaverse Resource Center”, where we list at least 140 enterprise-focused uses of VR. However, they are all vertical applications dealing with field services, training, customer service, simulations, and many other business-only focused applications.
Zuckerberg and his team are doubling down on VR for consumers. The root of this strategy dates back to their acquisition of the Oculus Quest for $2 billion in 2014.
While the primary reason Facebook bought Oculus Quest was for gaming, Zuckerberg clearly saw this device as a way to deliver VR gatherings, meetings, and even events via VR in the future. Zuckerberg still believes VR is to be the technology that will drive his broader vision of the Metaverse to business and consumers.
However, in an update on Meta’s strategy in the fall of 2022, Zuckerberg finally introduced the term MR or XR, or mixed or extended reality, into his updated Metaverse vision statement. So although he is doubling down on the VR strategy, he has broadened that vision to include MR and XR.
Interestingly when updating his view on the Metaverse last fell, he only mentioned Augmented Reality in passing. Indeed, AR was not a high priority in his latest comments on Meta’s Metaverse vision.
To be fair, his partnership with Ray-Ban to create Ray-Ban Stories was a little nod to an AR-like experience, albeit just to be used for short video recording for posting on What’s App and other social media sites. But Ray-Ban Stories does not give users any superimposed information at the center of AR-based visions.
Last week, Meta added more fodder for a potential AR strategy that could be a part of a future Metaverse vision’s additional focus. On December 30, 2022, Meta announced the acquisition of a Netherlands-based company named Luxexcel.
Luxexcel can print 3D lenses to make prescription glasses. While applicable for VR headsets, it can also create smart lenses that can be integrated into LCD displays and holographic film.
Although Meta has not publicly commented on how they would use Luxexcel technology in their products, the fact is that this company’s technology is ideal for use in glasses as well as VR headsets.
Does this mean that Meta is pivoting to extend their vision beyond VR to an AR solution as well?
Possibly, although I suspect this acquisition has more of a VR slant initially. But by buying Luxexcel, it gives Meta a powerful technology to use not only in VR headsets but ones that could add an AR solution to their broader Metaverse vision.
I have often written that I am convinced that AR is the technology that will drive the most significant wave of consumer interest in any Metaverse concept. And Apple is poised to be the primary company that will introduce the broader market to the use of AR glasses and what it can deliver in terms of providing more consumer-friendly Metaverse applications.
Meta’s purchase of Luxexcel is an exciting development and one that could help Meta broaden their top-heavy VR strategy in the future.
It will be important to watch how this acquisition influences Meta’s future designs and strategies, as I think Mark Zuckerberg is more concerned about Apple’s AR focus and strategy than he is willing to admit.