Despite what Zuckerberg thinks, the metaverse doesn’t need VR

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Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse dream is giving investors nightmares. His $10 billion annual bet on an “embodied internet” preceded a plunge in Meta’s value, a first-ever quarterly revenue decline, and grim forecasts for growth. Horizon Worlds, his initial foray in the space, has only added to concerns. The social platform is regularly derided for slow uptake, persistent bugs, and risible avatars.

Despite the mounting criticisms, Zuckerberg remains bullish about making Facebook a “metaverse company.” But for Herman Narula, the CEO of UK unicorn Improbable, Meta’s vision overlooks a fundamental issue.

“The problem is VR,” Narula said last week at Stanford University. “The bet on the hardware is just so costly, so tangential to the main value proposition of the metaverse, and [it’s] so difficult to see how they claim that investment back.”

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Narula has his own metaverse plans. His company has spent a decade building immersive virtual worlds, from wargaming simulations for the US Army to an interactive party for 1,450 K-pop fans. He’s also written a book, Virtual Society, which outlines a theoretical framework for the metaverse. In Narula’s mind, this comprises a network of digital experiences that people can traverse — without donning a headset. Instead, they can be entered with just a phone or PC.

Improbable develops virtual world infrastructure for games and simulations, such as an experimental version of Midwinter's Scavengers using Morpheus, which can accommodate 10,000 players simultaneously and The Otherside, a gamified metaverse in which users can turn their NFTs. Credit: Improbable