A reflection on Meta Connect 2022
I’ve been attending quite a few developer conferences and launches over the last while from Microsoft’s Build 2022 to Google IO 2022, or Apple’s WWDC and latest product launch conference. Where most of these events have announced what feel like incremental improvements and additions to an already well-known ecosystem, none has provided the equivalent ‘wow’ factor as Meta Connect 2022, a one-day virtual event.
Though I will readily admit that I am an afficionado of immersive technologies, I am not a Facebook or social media enthusiast. Yet the work done by the Meta team on avatars, the company’s new (if pricey) Meta Quest Pro headset, and the suite of supporting software for developers, is phenomenal. This is especially impressive since not many of us would have considered Facebook a hardware or device manufacturing company only a few years ago.
This doesn’t mean all the stigmas attached to the company – with its Facebook platform not so long ago mired in data privacy scandals – have just been swept under the rug by a corporate name change. Nonetheless, Meta Connect 2022 demonstrated that the company is serious not only about its investments in extended reality (XR) technologies, but also in going back to its roots of being a social and media platform – albeit now in its own conceptualization of the Metaverse. And what better way to redefine oneself than by creating a brand-new universe.
Though the conference had many highlights, here are some of my key takeaways:
- Meta: Meta seems to have taken a hard look at who they are and seems to be refocusing on its core business: the social interactions between their users. Or as CTO Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth and Zuckerberg put it in their keynote address, “helping people connect.”
Takeaway: This is where Capco also sees the greatest potential for immersive platforms to help our customers – the creation of better connections for onboarding, training, and collaboration in a world in which hybrid workplaces are fast becoming the de-facto standard.
- Microsoft: The announcement of a Meta-Microsoft partnership to deliver immersive experiences (which I had expected to see at Microsoft Build), was a welcome surprise. Though it is unclear what this means regarding Microsoft’s own foray into immersive technologies, it is certain to please many enterprise customers given Microsoft’s grip on that market segment.
Takeaway: Many of our customers have standardized their mobile device management, identity management and productivity, and collaboration suites on the Microsoft platform. This new partnership is therefore likely to facilitate faster adoption of immersive headsets in the corporate world. In addition, the opportunity to access platforms, such as Teams, via these devices will further enable the integration of immersive experiences within the corporate environment.
- Avatars: Meta has listened to its users and is offering them full-bodied avatars with facial expressions (and legs, the lack of which had sparked much derision). This will be the case not only on immersive platforms but across all of Meta’s platforms. Though a techie, such as Oculus Consulting CTO John Carmack – or me, for that matter, may not see a lot of value in this (as he made clear during his own Meta Connect presentation), it is what users want.
Takeaway: We have heard first-hand many of our own customers express concerns about avatars’ lack of arms, legs, moving lips or eyes across the different metaverse platforms we have explored together. With Meta leading the pack, we can hope to see this change in the near term.
- Quest Pro: The Meta Quest Pro headset is clearly not the next generation version of the Quest – it is, right now, in a category of its own, not only because of its price tag, technology or bundled accessories but primarily because of the combination of VR and mixed reality (MR) use cases it enables.
Takeaway: The ability to use MR to blend the real world with digital information and interactions makes this headset compelling for productivity use. The ability to map rooms and physical objects, to amplify user experiences with contextual digital data and interaction elements, and to, crucially, also see what is happening around you while remaining semi-immersed in a digital experience, will collectively allow us to explore further productivity and collaboration experiences for our clients.
- Developers: Last, but most definitely not least, was the appeal to the developer community. In the same way that Apple and Google have recognized the importance of a vibrant developer ecosystem, so has Meta. The tools available for both developers and creatives will be what allows the hardware to be successful by enticing these communities to create novel and diverse solutions for the platform. Not only did Meta convey the business benefits for some of its top-selling game developers, but following the keynote, they showed off some of the new tools that will be available to these communities to build amazing immersive experiences on the Meta hardware or in the Meta ecosystem.
Takeaway: The ability of Meta to provide both appealing hardware and the software development tools required to get the most out if that hardware will help keep it ahead of its competition in the XR device space. Right now, this competition may only be the likes of Pico and Lenovo, but tomorrow it may well be Apple.
So, is Meta the “new, improved and cooler” Facebook, or just the same company with another name? Will Apple be able to top Meta in the coming year with their promised but elusive headset, or offer a metaverse platform that is more appealing?
While the jury is still out on these questions, I trust you are as excited as me to explore the new immersive experiences that Meta and others are offering today. So, grab a headset and join the Capco team in exploring the frontiers of the next digital revolution!