Dec 19, 2022 - Technology

Meta exec defends VR investment, promises Quest 2 successor next year

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Photo Illustration of Andrew Bosworth

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Picture Alliance, Amy Osborne/Getty Images

Critics and the stock market have looked harshly on the billions that Meta has been pouring into virtual reality and the metaverse. But CTO Andrew Bosworth defends the investment.

The big picture: Bosworth told Axios that Meta is putting what amounts to about 20% of its resources into these long-term projects, with the remainder still supporting core businesses like Facebook and Instagram.

  • "It’s pretty reasonable for a company of our size and in our industry," he said.

Bosworth hailed the progress Meta is making in VR, especially with this year's Meta Quest Pro headset.

  • But he also acknowledged that a slowdown in Meta's core business as the advertising market cools will limit how much the company spends in VR and other areas. "Our investments are responding to the business conditions," he said.

In a year-end post, Bosworth also confirmed that Meta will introduce the successor to its Quest 2 VR headset next year, but declined in the interview to offer further details, such as whether it will support color mixed reality — an advance from the Quest Pro that he described as a key breakthrough.

  • Bosworth said it was less clear when the company would release a successor to this year's high-end Meta Quest Pro, noting that the company has many ongoing hardware projects but that not all of them will get the green light, especially in a tougher economy.
  • The sagging economy will also delay other needed breakthroughs in VR, he said, as other companies also slow their development work.

Artificial intelligence is also part of Meta's long-term investments, and Bosworth pointed to Meta's work in areas such as creating images or video from a text prompt.

  • AI already helps power Meta's language translation, and Bosworth said it will show up in more areas.
  • But because the technology can still be wrong, sometimes disastrously so, Bosworth said the key is using it in areas where the consequences of its errors are limited.

The other side: Bosworth's comments contrast with the harsh words delivered by former Oculus CTO John Carmack in a post Friday announcing his exit as an adviser to Meta.

  • "We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort," Carmack wrote. "There is no way to sugar coat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy. "
  • Bosworth thanked Carmack and praised his contributions in a Twitter post on Friday. He declined through a spokesperson to comment further on Carmack's critique, which took place after he spoke to Axios.

Between the lines: Asked about the discontinued Portal smart display, Bosworth said that Meta will continue supporting the devices, which sold in the millions and earned high customer approval.

  • "They say it's not prioritization unless it hurts," he said of killing the Portal. "This one hurts."
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