Facebook’s metaverse is key to its survival strategy

The Oculus Quest 1 VR headset.
The Oculus Quest 1 VR headset.
Image: Facebook/Handout via REUTERS
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Like a Thanos snap, the power of the Facebook universe seems to be slowly fading away into dust before our very eyes. So in response, the company is working on building a new one, specifically, a metaverse. 

This week, Facebook will invite the public inside via its Facebook Connect event, dedicated to its efforts in the realm of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality, two elements of its new metaverse strategy. But the event will be held in the shadow of ongoing controversies related to a new whistleblower who emerged on Oct. 22, joining the criticisms lodged against the company by former employee Frances Haugen earlier this month. 

The negative spotlight on Facebook has been so intense that it’s discussed changing its name, in hopes of shedding the dinged-up image its brand and repositioning the company with an eye to its future.

Both VR and AR are a part of Facebook’s attempt to completely transform how the public views its company. The aim is to shed the confines of social media and remake Facebook—new name included—as a metaverse company focused on immersive experiences that capture your attention habits more accurately than any laptop or smartphone could.

“We believe that this is going to be the successor to the mobile Internet,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a company earnings call months ago. “You’re going to be able to access the metaverse from all different devices and different levels of fidelity from apps on phones and PCs to immersive virtual and augmented reality devices.”

A new Oculus Quest headset leak could be Facebook’s attempt to make metaverse cool

Facebook may reveal its new moniker during its upcoming Connect event. And along with a potential new name may also come a more mainstream-friendly approach to VR, based on a series of newly leaked images.

“Excited to get an early look at some of the technologies that will underpin the metaverse,” Andrew Bosworth, Facebook AR and VR chief and newly minted chief technology officer, said Oct. 13 via Twitter. “We work on several prototype headsets to prove out concepts, this is one of them. Kind of. It’s a long story.” 

The Twitter post from Bosworth included an image of him wearing a slicker, more futuristic version of the company’s wireless VR headset. Speculation about the image immediately ramped up that it might be the long-rumored Oculus Quest Pro, or Oculus Quest 3. He quickly posted another photo of himself wearing a clunkier prototype VR headset. Still, the first image stuck in the minds of industry watchers.

Now, several new tutorial videos posted by Twitter user Bastian (who credits someone named Samulia for unearthing the videos) reveal what appear to be new Oculus tutorial animations of users wearing a VR headset that looks a lot like the one worn by Bosworth weeks ago. 

If accurate, the newly designed VR headset would be a major aesthetic leap forward for the company’s Oculus VR division tasked with moving headsets from the nerd outlier category to something most mainstream users would feel more comfortable and somewhat stylish wearing. A move toward a more style-centric design would also dovetail perfectly with Facebook’s new Ray-Ban Stories smartglasses, which are being framed by the company as an appetizer to fully AR-enabled Facebook smartglasses in the future. 

The many problems Facebook faces now transcend any one issue. At this point, Zuckerberg and his team need to reframe the narrative with a complete refresh. Luckily, for Zuckerberg, bending reality is exactly what VR and AR are good for. The only question will be if users are ready to live in this new metaverse powered by the organizational DNA of Facebook and all its deep bruises.