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Meta’s “Horizon” virtual world may be about to explode. Here’s why

Meta will launch a web version of Horizon, its virtual world or “metaverse” later this year that will be accessible on “all platforms” CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed – access to Horizon currently requires a Quest VR headset.

While Meta is investing huge sums in the virtual world via its Reality Labs unit (over $10 billion in 2021 and $3.3 billion over the past 12 weeks of 2022 alone) it still has fewer than a million users in the world.

Bringing it to all platforms on the web could finally give it the push it needs to start catching up with other Meta platforms (2.9 billion people used at one of its family of apps on a daily basis in June): expect to see it heavily promoted on those platforms and a push for enterprise adoption too, whether for meetings or events. 

Meta in August 2021 launched its open beta version of Horizon Workrooms: a virtual room for collaborative work designed for enterprise use, but predictably, the need for VR headsets has been a major hurdle and to most organisations already deploying a multiplicity of collaboration software tools, it looked gimmicky.

Having the same experience (albeit a 2D one) accessible via browser could rapidly change that.

(Business messaging is [another] “area where we see big potential… we estimate that a billion users are messaging with a business each week across WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram” Meta said. We expect it to start promoting the opportunity to provide customer service and messaging in the web version of Horizon soon. A world of convincingly engaging AI-powered avatar bots tackling customer problems may not be far away…)

web version of Horizon Worlds 2022

Zuckerberg was speaking on July 27, 2022 as Meta reported its Q2 earnings.

(Meta revenues of $28.82 billion fell 1%, below expectations and look set to fall further in Q3. This quarter’s costs rose 22%, while net income slid 36% to $6.69 billion. Layoffs at Meta are on the horizon. Zuckerberg said “Our plan is to steadily reduce headcount growth over the next year… I expect us to get more done with fewer resources”, adding “previously challenging periods have been transformational for our company.”)

Zuckerberg also confirmed plans to release Meta’s enterprise VR headset “Project Cambria” this year.

The experience here is getting pretty awesome” he said: “It will be a high-end device focused on professional users and work with high-resolution color mixed reality. I’m really looking forward to getting this one out. This is just one milestone in the long-term path, but I think people are going to be pretty blown away by this.”

Meta had confirmed in Q1 it was working on the enterprise VR headset, saying it will “be more focused on work use cases and eventually replacing your laptop or work setup… with improved ergonomics and full color pass-through mixed reality to seamlessly blend virtual reality with the physical world. We’re also building in eye tracking and face tracking, so that your avatar can make eye contact and facial expressions.”

As Meta promises a web version of Horizon, Zuck shrugs off costs

With Meta’s Reality Labs posting an operating loss $2.8 billion in the second quarter, other companies’ shareholders might start getting more than a little concerned, but Meta’s shareholder structure gives Zuckerberg sustained influence and he is intent on continuing to invest in the Metaverse, he told analysts on the Q2 call.

“I feel even more strongly now that developing these platforms will unlock hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions over time. This is obviously a very expensive undertaking over the next several years.

“But as the metaverse becomes more important in every part of how we live from our social platforms and entertainment to work and education and commerce, I’m confident that we’re going to be glad that we played an important role in building this. The next milestones to look out for here are the continued expansion of Horizon, our social metaverse platform, and the continued improvement of our Avatars platform, how you express yourself and interact in the metaverse as well as the commerce around that” he concluded.

What are your views on the “metaverse”? Let us know.

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