Virtual or augmented reality, the next battle of the metaverse

It has been heralded as the next big battle after mobile. Connected glasses and virtual reality masks must give life to the metaverse, as much as smartphones did to social networks and, before them, PCs to web portals. Until now, the doors to these immersive worlds have mostly been revealed on computer screens, and they’ve been disappointing. But the tech giants are working hard to deliver on the promises of SF.

In this new invasion, the Gafams are playing big. In Meta’s case, the old Facebook is on its way out. It is the first to take the lead in the industry by acquiring the virtual reality (VR) segment. Oculus, in 2014, for 3 billion dollars.

Zuckerberg’s winning bet

Eight years later, the metaverse and VR have yet to break through, but Mark Zuckerberg’s group is in a better position. At the software level, he is credited with starting this sector renaming himself Meta in October 2021. “We had never seen an industry leader operate such a strategic reorientation, with concrete actions beyond rebranding: 10,000 recruitments and 10 billion dollars of investment,” notes digital transformation consultant Frédéric Cavazza.

Metaverse, how it works: video

In terms of hardware, the Menlo Park firm has set a precedent with it Meta Quest 2 in 2020. “It is the only reliable virtual reality headset, because it is one of the cheapest (350 euros), it is one of the most efficient, but also, it is easily configurable”, continues the expert. HTC , historical competitor, does not sell anything under 500 euros. of Valve index , another serious rival that costs twice as much, is limited to the gamers market… and nowhere to be found. At the entry level, Sony’s PSVR bound for the PlayStation, it suffers from poor graphics quality while it waits for version 2 for Christmas 2022.

As a result, Meta has steadily increased its lead over time, going so far as to control 80% of the VR market by the end of 2021, according to Counterpoint, thanks to a doubling of sales in one year, to 11 million units. The American is ahead of the Chinese DPVR and Pico (a subsidiary of ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok). A good progress yes, but who consumes a lot of money : $13 billion in just thirteen months, and shareholders convince you that the metaverse is worth it.

The best of both worlds?

In the opposite camp, the arlesian of the apple mask gained steam in May with the presentation of a prototype mixed reality headset (combining virtual and augmented reality) to its board of directors, according to Bloomberg. Rumors have it in the premium segment, with over $2000; enough to check if the Apple magic is still working. This helmet would feature fifteen cameras, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, to copy the external environment and simulate a false augmented reality.

The transition, with the same pair of glasses, between total virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) is one of the challenges of the moment. Meta gave it a glimpse with its next — this time high-end — Cambria helmet. Microsoft, with it HoloLens he has been working there for five years, but the plugs for his “industrial metaverse” remain limited to B2B.

Technological ceiling

Google prefers to bet only on augmented reality, as its CEO Sundar Pichai recently explained to “Echos”: “Our efforts are more focused on the real world and how to augment it when people need it. Since failure of Google Glass ten years ago, the firm has been cautious A speech similar to that of Evan Spiegel, the head of Snap, which is in its fourth version. augmented reality glasses . A niche that Meta has tried since 2021 with Ray-Ban Stories limited to video capture.

There is a common denominator for all these metaverse aspirants, be it in VR or AR. All are faced with a technological glass ceiling, excessively heavy helmets that make you sweat and cause headaches or unstylish glasses. “They remain dependent on advances in flexible displays,” emphasizes Frédéric Cavazza. Connected lenses, as explored by start-up Mojo, are still a long way off. To make matters worse, the sector is experiencing lack of components .

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