State of the Metaverse, according to Mark Zuckerberg

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OPINION: Facebook is also embarking on a process that seeks to free itself from depending on other companies for its business, writes Wesley Diphoko.

Mark Zuckerberg has revived the metaverse concept. It’s a well-known fact he is not the originator of the concept.

In our modern era, however, he’s one person who’s taking a lead in driving the technology industry towards thinking about the metaverse.

All of a sudden, companies have chief metaverse officers, metaverse strategies and “metaverse” is on everyone’s lips.His thoughts and plans about the metaverse are worth following and understanding.

This is even more important in a world that claims a lot of things about the metaverse. Here’s the state of the metaverse, according to Zuckerberg and as presented at the Meta Connect, the company’s annual developer conference.

Work in progress

What stood out from the presentation by Zuckerberg at Connect is simply that we are far from experiencing a fully built metaverse.

A year after Facebook was transformed to be Meta and to focus on the metaverse, it’s becoming clear that developing the metaverse is more complicated than thought.

Zuckerberg has realised the complexity of building the metaverse and he’s scaling down in the short run. The approach seems to be the gradual introduction of the metaverse elements.

A woman sitting at a desk works on virtual screens using Meta’s Quest Pro device, which the company is pitching as a productivity tool, in this undated handout picture. Meta/Handout via REUTERS

If you look carefully when you use Facebook or Instagram, you will notice that when you comment, your avatar (if you have one) is starting to appear. Zuckerberg has confirmed that we will start to see elements of the metaverse everywhere.

As part of the announcement, Meta also introduced the web version of the Horizon World (virtual world).

Part of this means that you will have the option to experience the virtual world without the need for a headset which is one of the difficult parts in building the metaverse.

The Meta team say you will use the headset gear for immersive experiences.

Worlds on the web is going to be the first way a lot of people across the world experience a virtual world. And while the web will not give the full VR experience, it will open it to a new population of developers, creators and people.

The company showcased work its doing to bring Meta Horizon Worlds to other platforms, so a user can eventually pick up a phone or laptop and visit friends who are hanging out in VR, and vice versa.

If you’re watching a comedy show for example, you’ll be able to send the link to your friends, so they can join without a headset, no matter where they are.

In addition to dropping the metaverse in phases, Zuckerberg views early adopters as key users of the metaverse for now.

Zuck has scaled down on his lofty vision of the metaverse where virtual reality-powered services would transform every aspect of people’s lives, from the school environments to their family time.

FILE – Founder and CEO of US online social media and social networking service Facebook Mark Zuckerberg. FILE PHOTO: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD/AFP

For now, he views corporate America as his target. He pitched corporate America on becoming one of the early adopters of this vision through the company’s new — and pricey — VR headset, the Quest Pro.

“As in-person work ramps up, we want everyone to feel like they’re present, even if they are not physically there,” Zuckerberg said.

“For virtual reality to really reach its full potential, we need to get to the point where the 200 million people who buy new PCs each year for work can do some or all of their work even better in the metaverse.”

Another interesting development around the metaverse is the open approach that Zuck is taking in the process of building it.

Meta announced that the Meta Quest Pro headset will offer new integrations with Microsoft products that are ubiquitous in the working world.

The Microsoft Teams video conferencing system would be available through Meta’s Horizon Workrooms, the company’s virtual reality space targeted for teams, the company announced. Microsoft 365 programs would also be offered.

“We are clearly going through a once-in-a-lifetime change in how we work,” said Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, who appeared at the conference, “and every organisation today is looking for new ways to reconnect, re-energise their workforce at home, in the office and everywhere in between.

“That’s why we are bringing Microsoft Teams’ immersive meeting experience to Meta Quest.”

Zoom was also not left behind. Avatars from the Meta world will start to appear on the platform that became popular during the pandemic.

The open approach is the correct one instead of a walled garden. Zuckerberg seems to understand that the metaverse needs more players than just the Meta team or the Meta version of the metaverse.

Facebook is also embarking on a process that seeks to free itself from depending on other companies for its business.

The Apple’s move on privacy around the ads platform has impacted Meta’s revenue.

This highlighted the weakness of not owning hardware to serve consumers. This time around, Zuckerberg is serious about building hardware while building the software.

This is a wise move by the tech leader who built his wealth on software.

Going forward, Zuckerberg will own the hardware and software, a Steve Jobs approach which allowed Apple to deploy great services.

* Wesley Diphoko is the editor-in-chief of Fast Company (SA) magazine. You can follow him on Twitter via @WesleyDiphoko

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