2023: Could be the make-or-break year for Metaverse
I could tell you about all the VR headsets and AR glasses and theoretical applications I tried last that supposedly defined the vision of the 2022 metaverse. Instead, I'll just talk about the best thing I've done last year.
I thought 2022 was going to be a big year for VR and AR and even the metaverse, which is a buzzword for how the world's internet and virtual communities, including social media, could evolve. It wasn't. The recession, the crypto crash, waves of tech layoffs, and the delay of many of the most anticipated VR / AR devices quickly turned the year 2022.
Now it looks like 2023 will be the big year of immersive Augmented RealityApple's long-awaited headset is all set to arrive and is expected to shake up the landscape. Meta's Quest 3 is confirmed. The PlayStation VR 2, is coming in February. And who knows what surprises the new year will bring?
As for the metaverse, it only goes as far as mass social adoption. I'm more interested in the hardware that powers this type of technology because until VR and AR headsets make their next leap, it's still a challenge to expect people to spend more time in them than they already do. But here's what 2022 showed me and where it points to 2023.
The two headsets that impressed me the most this year ended up in 2022: The Magic Leap 2 and the Meta Quest Pro.
Many of them are mirror products, trying to approach the future of mixed reality from the AR side; the other comes from the VR side of mixed reality. Both are trying to be nice and more reliable. Both show that there is still no perfect shape for The Next Headset, but we are slowly coming to a consensus on how the devices could do it.
Magic Leap 2, the sequel to the original Magic Leap headset was released in 2018. It has evolved from a device for the masses to a commercial headset. The hardware is significantly better at mapping overlapping, glowing virtual objects into the real world with a larger field of view. But it's not an ideal set of AR glasses. It's powered by a more powerful discrete processor connected to the strap-mounted minicomputer it's attached to, and its single controller is good for basic controls, but not necessarily for fully immersive interactions.
Meta Quest Pro Virtual Reality Headset
Meta Quest Pro, a VR headset that combines mixed reality, feels like an AR device. The Meta Quest Pro isn't that much of a change from the two-year-old Quest 2, and it's certainly not worth the extra $1,100 for someone who isn't a developer. But its advanced eye and face-tracking capabilities, and better-mixed reality with colour cameras, will be what many VR headsets (and AR headsets) will see in 2023 and beyond. The messy reality of What about headphones connected to the phone?
Qualcomm has been promising a wave of phone-connected AR and VR devices for years, and they're starting to appear. Qualcomm's latest small AR glasses initiatives, by 2023 and 2025, can work wirelessly with phones. It's probably quite likely that the powerful phones we carry with us will give way to smaller headphones in the next few years. Apple could plan this approach with an expected mobile phone in 2023.
Apple's long-awaited headset, likely to feature VR mixed reality similar to what the Quest Pro offers, could shake up the landscape like nothing since the Oculus Rift. Apple products disrupt and take over categories: iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods.
Can Apple do the same VR and AR?
It's a much bigger challenge, especially with the technical issues and the expected price (well over $1,000, maybe several thousand), and the global recession.
What interests me, even more, is who else is coming out of the woodwork besides Apple. Google has been quiet about AR and VR for years after it discontinued the Google Daydream platform, but recent efforts like Project Starline and assistive smart glasses show that research is ongoing. Samsung also hasn't had a new AR or VR device in years, although the company pioneered VR with the Gear VR and tends to jump in early with bold, experimental products. Will 2023 be the year of surprise product introductions?