To Reach Lofty Aspirations, Virtual Reality Must Be More Than a Novelty

Selling More Virtual Reality Headsets Is a Key Component

Facebook parent company Meta Platforms (FB) is betting that the metaverse will move beyond the gaming world to become more mainstream. Industry analysis shows that the 2021 holiday season provided a boost to sales of the company’s Oculus VR headset, with corresponding app downloads up over 90% when compared to last year at this time. One factor is the elimination of a “tethering” wire that connected earlier versions of the headset to a user’s PC.

Mark Zuckerberg said his metaverse goals go well beyond gaming. The company’s recent name change took that dedication a step further. Analysts say that in order for the metaverse to separate itself from traditional web browsing on a phone or tablet, virtual reality must be a key component. That’s why selling more headsets and getting them into the hands of more users is crucial.

Will Facebook’s Popularity Transfer to the Metaverse?

Less than 3% of Facebook’s user base in the US and Europe own an Oculus VR handset, when tracking overall sales. Still, getting VR equipment into users’ hands is only half the battle.

Facebook is dealing with a series of recent challenges that threaten to erode the company’s standing with the public and diminish trust. Some claim the company has failed to properly police misinformation, and that executives knew Instagram was damaging to young users’ mental health, among other allegations. Analysts say these could be significant obstacles for Meta as it tries to attract users to the metaverse.

A Lack of Trust Could Derail Larger Metaverse Goals

In order to build out the metaverse and fully immerse users in virtual reality, more technology will be brought into people’s homes. Users will be effectively uploading more data into Meta Platforms’ servers by way of sensors, cameras, and other recording devices. Increasingly people are deleting Facebook or limiting how they use it. Many cite a lack of privacy as the reason.

One of the issues recently highlighted by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is that the metaverse will give Facebook a monopoly and become addictive to users. There’s also a concern that the metaverse will allow the tech giant to subvert regulators. Facebook has downplayed these claims while pointing to a $50-million investment that aims to ensure products are developed responsibly. Investors will be eagerly watching as Meta works to attract users to its virtual world.

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ABOUT Meg Richardson Meg Richardson is a writer specializing in markets, technology, and personal finance. She loves breaking down seemingly complex ideas and making them readable and interesting for everyone. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia University. When she is not writing about finance, she enjoys running in Central Park and drawing cartoons.

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