If you tuned in to yesterday’s Meta Quest Gaming Showcase, you got an early look at one of the best VR games ever made. Asgard’s Wrath 2 looks mind-blowingly good, and it’s a reminder of just how far our industry has come in the last few years. When the original Asgard’s Wrath came out in 2019, it felt like a turning point for VR games — the graphics were amazing, the scale of the world was massive, and the physics and gameplay were something else. But the number of people who could actually experience it was held back by the limitations of VR technology at the time.
That’s because four years ago, you needed an expensive gaming PC connected to your headset just to run games like this, which put a pretty hard cap on how many people got to enjoy them. So it’s great news to see that just a few years later, a sequel that’s bigger and better in every way is launching on Meta Quest 2 and the upcoming Quest 3, our line of standalone VR devices. The kind of experiences that were once only possible using a powerful gaming rig in combination with a headset now just work on the headset, making them both accessible to a lot more people — and a lot more fun to play.
This seems like the right moment to reflect not just on just how far our industry has come, but also on why things are about to accelerate once again. It was only ten years ago when the Oculus Rift DK1 kicked off the modern VR era, giving developers and early adopters their first glimpse of the future. The technology took its next leap forward in 2019 with Meta Quest, the first standalone device capable of doing everything on its own — no wires, no attached PC, just a headset that does it all right out of the box.
This set the stage for millions of people to discover the power of VR for the first time, and it became the standard for mass market VR devices. As we revealed yesterday, Meta Quest 3 is the next step in that journey. But it’s also the beginning of something new.
What’s so exciting about 2023 is that after a decade of progress following Rift, the next era for this technology is now coming into focus. Not only will VR make another leap forward in both hardware and content this year, but more people than ever before will also be able to experience an early form of augmented reality on their VR headset. These so-called mixed reality headsets like Meta Quest 3, coming later this year, will add a new layer to VR devices, enabling them to blend the physical and digital worlds together in a way that’s simply not possible on today’s phones and PCs.
The rise of mixed reality is an early milestone in one of the biggest changes likely to come to computing in our lifetimes. Ever since the invention of the first PCs, our digital interactions have been contained to screens which forced us to choose between our devices and our environment. We see this barrier dissolving over time, as AR technology allows us to simply enhance the world around us while remaining completely present. We believe this will be the basis of a new kind of computing platform as revolutionary as the PC itself.
Yesterday we shared a first look at Meta Quest 3, which comes with Meta Reality, a stack of hardware and software that enables the next generation of mixed reality experiences. At its most basic level, mixed reality lets you see the world around you inside your headset and overlay it with digital objects. Meta Reality expands on this by enabling a headset to understand your space, create accurate digital representations of it, and recognize and respond to objects in that space. It also allows you to interact with this blended physical and virtual environment in a seamless, natural way.
We first shipped Meta Reality on Quest Pro in 2022, giving developers and early adopters access to the technology for the first time. Now it’s coming to Quest 3, where every aspect of the device, from the sensors and displays to the operating system, controllers and software, was built from the ground up to make Meta Reality shine.
This isn’t the only way the next generation of devices are evolving. We’re also seeing the beginnings of a much more natural interaction paradigm for computing. Since we first shipped hand tracking on Meta Quest in 2019, it's given people the ability to use their hands in VR just like they would anywhere else, in ways that go far beyond tapping fingers on a screen. This doesn't just make devices easier and more intuitive to use — it also unlocks entirely new kinds of experiences.
Computing platforms combine ways of delivering information to the user with ways of getting information from the user, and every major platform shift over the last 50 years came with new ways to interact with the machine. A new display paradigm often comes with a new input — with the smartphone, that was the touchscreen. In VR, it means using your hands. Specialized controllers are still a powerful tool, just as they have been on PCs and game consoles for decades. But the more we can do with just our hands, the more accessible our devices will become to more people.
Hand tracking will take another step forward on Meta Quest 3, and we’ve already seen how this technology can help people be more creative and expressive, play entirely new kinds of games that aren’t possible anywhere else, and control their device in a much more natural and intuitive way. Apps like Hand Physics lab are showing how this new way of interacting with a computer can help us build new kinds of experiences in VR and beyond.
As the VR ecosystem gains momentum and is boosted by the new possibilities of mixed reality, the big winners will be the developers and users who can take advantage of everything this space has to offer. We’ve already seen strong signals of the value that can be created in VR: incredibly passionate communities have formed around things like VR gaming and fitness, and the connections being made in immersive social spaces are becoming a powerful new form of social networking. The value people can find in the current generation VR devices is clear from the numbers: more than half of all people using a Meta Quest each day spend more than an hour in the headset.
Developers building in VR are also seeing impressive early results. When Among Us VR launched last year, it sold more than a million units in its first ten weeks, and since last year the number of titles in the Meta Quest store that have made over $25 million in revenue has doubled.
And the value of this new generation of immersive experiences extends far beyond our platforms, and beyond VR itself. Anyone paying attention to how young people use the internet today knows that some of the most compelling examples of virtual worlds and world building are on hyper successful platforms like Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft, which have attracted hundreds of millions of people.
An entire generation is growing up native to these virtual world environments, much like previous generations grew up with websites and mobile apps. Even the way people express their virtual identity has made a notable shift in recent years, moving beyond profile pictures and bios to embodied avatars and digital clothing. A survey by Roblox last year found almost 3/4 of Gen Z Americans saying they’ll spend money on digital fashion, and 70% get inspiration for how they dress in the physical world from the way they dress their avatars.
Meta’s platforms have played a major role in these kinds of shifts many times throughout our history, from the rise of social profiles themselves to the move to group chats. We’re seeing it happen on our platforms once again today, and recently celebrated a billion avatars created across our platforms. When viewed as a whole, trends like these are among the strongest signals we’ve seen that give us confidence in the long term potential of the metaverse.
THE AI REVOLUTION
Adding to all this is the AI revolution that has taken shape in recent years, which will accelerate everything it touches. Machine learning has been a foundational technology in VR products for many years, and it was breakthroughs in computer vision that made devices like Meta Quest possible in the first place.
AI is everywhere in modern VR systems, even in places most people wouldn’t expect, like the next generation Touch Plus controllers shipping with Meta Quest 3. They won’t have the large tracking rings that have become commonplace on most other devices — instead, a cutting-edge AI model can estimate their position in 3D space accurately enough that tracking rings are no longer needed.
These are the kind of places where AI allows for computational heavy lifting that would otherwise be impossible on a mobile device without advanced sensors or additional hardware affordances. For controllers, the result is a sleeker, more versatile accessory that feels much more natural in the hand. But it goes well beyond controllers, and we’re seeing this kind of AI-enabled progress across our hardware and software teams.
But with more recent advances in AI systems that can both understand and generate content, the biggest impact of AI on the metaverse will likely be in how it makes creation and expression as easy in 3D as it is today in 2D. At Meta we’ve seen first hand how valuable a shift like this can be. Billions of people use platforms like Facebook and Instagram every day because they make it possible for everyone to express themselves online — the success of a social technology is very directly connected to the way it democratizes expression and creation.
So just like Instagram helped anyone be a creator, we want generative AI tools to level the playing field in the metaverse. And they won’t just boost the power of individual creators, they’ll also act as a force multiplier for developers, giving small teams the horsepower of larger studios and accelerating innovation across the board.
This is an incredibly exciting time to be working on new technologies, and the progress we’ve seen over the last decade has reinforced our commitment to keep building for the future. What’s most exciting about all of this is that while our full vision for the metaverse is something we expect to take shape over the coming decade, all the key technologies I’ve talked about here can be experienced right now, and are on a path of rapid improvement.
We’re once again seeing the fruits of years of investment in emerging technologies, as we have so many times in the past. And with all the things set to launch this year, 2023 is shaping up to be a year when the future once again comes into focus.