Meta, the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, grabbed its belt at both ends and fired, ousting 11,000 employees or 13% of its workforce after quarterly profits fell nearly 50% and fell 70 % of share price.
Which reminded me that just a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg announced the formation of Meta and its VR development wing, Reality Labs. Wow! It seemed like the future was almost here, making the advent of home computing a historic event.
But would I… or would you… ever use it? A few months later, I went to a show you might have heard of – the Immersive Van Gogh, which has a VR component.
At first, after putting the headphones on, I felt like I was in a full surround movie. It was interesting but not convincing. This changed when a low door opened in a far wall. One second I was on a stool wearing a helmet, the next I felt myself sliding toward the open door, realizing my head was about to hit the lintel.
Whoops ! The sensation reminded me of the warnings I had read that virtual reality could cause nausea.
I ducked down and grabbed the seat of the stool, clinging on as I descended a steep flight of stairs.
“The 360 camera is panning down the stairs,” the rational part of my brain had to scream to be heard. The rest of my brain kept my hands hooked to the stool, my shoulders hunched and my head tilted from the near miss of the lintel.
I walked through the chalet door feeling like I was on a strange open-air tour bus. My head turned to see how my daughter was taking this. She was not here. It and the long room full of people had been replaced with more garden. I was alone.
What I’m saying is that the illusion was convincing. Don’t like where you are? Put on a helmet – one of the 10 million that Meta has shipped or millions more made by their competitors and now on the market – and transport yourself to another place and another time.
As technology improves, the choices will expand. Already, 360 video cameras are becoming mainstream, starting at $400 and going from there. They are used in a variety of situations, from building construction to amateur drone photography. Put on your helmet and explore inside a maze of beams or… .
How long, I wonder, until we all put on headphones to chill out during an evening of full surround video entertainment or pick up headphones from a desk to work with co-workers across the world ?
Well…Facebook’s retirement, Meta says, won’t impact Reality Labs even though it has hemorrhaged money. Meta always says virtual reality is the future. It probably helps that Apple and Microsoft, among others, seem to think the same thing and that there is a tremendous growth in ancillary elements for this new technology coming to market.