Mark Zuckerberg shows off these prototype headsets to create support for his $10 billion Metaverse bet

The company, formerly known as Facebook, said in February that it expected spend at least $10 billion this year On research and development on virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, including computerized glasses or headsets.

on Monday, meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed just how much progress the social media company has made toward that goal by revealing several unfinished headset prototypes the company has built in its labs.

Zuckerberg bets for the future of the social networking company founded on virtual reality, which immerses users in computer-generated worlds, and augmented reality, which superimposes computer-generated objects on the real world.

Last year, the company changed its name to Meta to highlight the company’s new emphasis on the Metaverse, a virtual world where Zuckerberg imagines people would spend more time — ideally, through advanced computerized glasses.

If Zuckerberg succeeds in mainstreaming head-worn computers, Meta will have a new revenue stream of hardware sales, and it will control its own hardware platform, allowing it to move from other companies to platform changes. will be less sensitive. For example, on its last earnings call, Meta said the recent privacy changes Apple made to the iPhone It’s costing it $10 billion in foregone revenue this yearBecause it hinders a company’s ability to target ads to precise audiences.

The VR market is currently small, and there are questions about how big it can get. According to an estimate by IDC, Meta currently dominates headset sales, with its current $299 Quest 2 accounting for 78% of all headset sales in 2021. but there were Only 11.2 million VR headsets sold Total during the year – a very small number compared to smartphones or PCs.

Meanwhile, investors are skeptical that Meta’s pivot away from its core business of ads and apps. The stock has fallen more than 53% so far in 2022 due to fears of rising costMobile ads were hampered by mild growth forecast, increased competition from TikTok, and the impact of Apple’s iPhone privacy change.

Monday’s performance did little to quell those fears — Meta’s stock closed down more than 4% on Tuesday, despite a broader rally in tech stocks. US markets remained closed on Monday to observe the Juneteenth holiday.

What did Zuckerberg show?

Zuckerberg said during his demonstration that Meta is developing the next generation of virtual reality displays, designed to provide users with a realistic enough experience to feel like they are in the same room with other virtual people. are in. Current displays have low resolution, exhibit distortion artifacts, and cannot be worn for long periods of time.

“It’s not going to happen before we can create visuals in full fidelity,” Zuckerberg said on a call with the media about the company’s virtual reality efforts. “Instead of just seeing them on screen, you’ll feel like you’re there.”

Zuckerberg said, “The issue today is that compared to what your eye sees in the physical world we have now closed on the order of the screen’s vibrancy or more.”

For the past few years META has regularly shown its progress by working on virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses to partners and the press, to encourage investors to consider the project worthwhile, and for those with high-paying experience in VR. To help recruit developers and executives. a R.

In these roundtable presentations, META regularly shows incomplete prototypes for use in research, which is unusual in consumer electronics. Gadget companies like to perfect products and talk about them with the press before figuring out how they will be manufactured. For example, Apple, which is working on its own headset, never shows a prototype.

“These prototypes, they’re custom and bespoke models that we built in our lab, so they’re not products that are ready to ship,” Zuckerberg said.

Here were the prototypes he showed:

Butterscotch. Butterscotch is designed to test high-resolution displays in which pixels are so small that the human eye cannot tell them apart. A new lens meta has been developed in Butterscotch that narrows the headset’s field of view, making it possible to render finer text and display increased realism.

However, Meta says the prototype “wasn’t shippable anywhere” because of how bulky and bulky it is – plus, the prototype still has exposed circuit boards.

half dome 3. Meta has been working on Half Dome headsets since at least 2017 to test a type of display that can move the focus point of the headset’s optics by how far. With Half Dome’s technology, Meta says, resolution and image quality could improve enough for users to make giant computer monitors inside headsets for them to work with. The latest version, 3, replaces the mechanical parts with liquid crystal lenses.

Holyoke 2. Meta says it is the thinnest and lightest VR headset the company has made and is fully capable of running any VR software if it is connected to a PC. However, this requires specialized lasers that are too expensive for consumer use and require additional safety precautions.

“In most VR headsets, the lenses are quite thick and have to be placed a few inches away from the display in order to focus properly and cast light directly into your eyes,” Zuckerberg said. In Holocake 2, Meta uses a flat, holographic lens to reduce bulk, in addition to lasers.

Starburst. Starburst is a research prototype focused on high-dynamic range displays that are brighter and show a wider range of colors. Meta says HDR is the only technology that oozes extra realism and depth.

“The goal of all this work is to identify which technological paths are allowing us to meaningfully improve in ways that seem to reach the visual realism we need,” Zuckerberg said.

mirror Lake. Meta also showed off a concept design for a ski-goggle style headset called Mirror Lake. Mirror Lake is designed to combine all the different meta headset technologies it is developing into a single, next-generation display.

“The Mirror Lake concept is promising, but right now it’s just a concept that doesn’t have a fully functional headset yet built to prove the architecture,” said Michael Abrash, chief scientist at Meta Reality Labs. “But if it flourishes, it will be a game changer for the VR visual experience.”