Facebook and its founder have made augmented reality a priority. Facebook Reality Labs focuses on developing augmented and virtual reality ideas and technology; the Labs are busy researching wearable technology and working on Project Aria, plus many other projects, too.
Recently, though, Facebook has hit headlines not for augmented or virtual reality developments, but something bigger. Facebook as a company has changed its name, and will now be known as Meta. As in “metaverse.” Does this mean that consumers need to say” goodbye, Facebook augmented reality” and hello, Meta?
Not really. Facebook Reality Labs hasn’t—as of yet—changed its name. And the social media platform arm of the company will still be known as Facebook. Meta, though, does seem to indicate the future of the company and its focus on the larger metaverse. Meta as a name leans into the company’s commitment to the future of technology.
What is the Metaverse?
Axios delved into the Apple versus Facebook fight for the metaverse. So what exactly is the metaverse?
Think of the metaverse as a separate world from the physical reality. The metaverse is accessible via mixed reality experiences—headsets, goggles and maybe even phones. Competing for the metaverse means the launch of new devices that allow this world—this new universe—to be accessed by consumers.
While, yes, many can enter the world of augmented reality via apps on their phone, the future of this technology likely lies in consumer augmented reality glasses. And these glasses have been hyped, discussed and rumored probably for years.
Apple seemed to be the big favorite to launch these glasses first, and many tech experts and writers had been ready for these new glasses to launch. But, so far, no announcement has been made by Apple.
The site Apple Rumors posted a story that explained that Apple has a whole team that’s dedicated to augmented and virtual reality. However, the same is true for Meta via its Facebook Reality Labs. The article posits that Apple augmented reality could drop sometime in 2022.
Facebook Extended Reality
Meta—as the company is now known—also is serious about augmented and virtual reality. And, obviously, allowing consumers to access the metaverse.
Facebook Reality Labs also makes it simple for consumers to peek into some of the work that this arm of the company is currently engaged in. The labs publish articles on projects and research, and this data can give consumers some possible insight about the possibilities of the metaverse.
However, it should be noted that research or projects don’t necessarily mean that the company is going to launch a product for this particular usage. In fact, some of the ideas could take years to flush out into products. The research of Facebook Reality Labs, though, can be of interest to consumers who want to learn more about augmented reality, virtual reality and extended reality and how these platforms could be useful in the future.
Some of the more recent articles published by Facebook Reality Labs include an in-depth vision related to the metaverse and an update on Project Aria. Consumers can explore a vast library of articles for news on some current research as well as other stories.
While Facebook Reality Labs are constantly working on new projects and research, Facebook—or, rather, Meta—already offers many augmented and virtual reality experiences for consumers.
The Oculus headsets are Meta virtual reality products. These headsets let users enter the virtual reality universe and can be used with gaming or even for other augmented reality experiences. Businesses can use these headsets for training or other enterprise use.
While Instagram as a social media site isn’t based in the metaverse, users can access augmented reality filters to enhance content. An article from The Atlantic also noted that during the pandemic, augmented reality creators were the big hits for the ‘Gram.
Smart Glasses: Ray Ban x Facebook
While consumers await the official launch of new augmented reality smart glasses, Facebook partnered with Ray Ban to create new smart glasses that are chic and a bit of tech fun, too. However, these glasses do not connect to the metaverse and they are not augmented reality glasses.
The glasses are called ‘Ray Ban Stories,’ and they include cameras and also allow users to answer a call, place an order and, of course, take videos or photos. They also can stream music! Stories come in three different frame designs: Round, Wayfarers (the Ray Ban classic) and Meteor.
Entering the Metaverse
While Stories don’t let users enter into the metaverse, other Facebook (or Meta) experiences do expand into the tech reality. While Spark AR, Instagram and Oculus deliver a portal into the metaverse, a user’s phone also is a convenient passport.
Facebook doesn’t hold the only doorway into the metaverse, as this world is quite expansive. Exploring augmented reality is really as simple as downloading an app. However, virtual reality may be more of an investment.
So what’s the difference between augmented and virtual reality? Both of these technologies are part of extended reality, but only virtual reality takes users into another realm. Augmented reality overlays graphic elements on top of the real world environment.
Augmented reality doesn’t require goggles, glasses or a special headset…although goggles can be used to depict augmented reality elements (usually for enterprise use). Virtual reality—true virtual reality—requires a headset of some sort to immerse the user into a different realm.
Virtual Reality and the Metaverse
While some people use the term ‘virtual’ to depict an experience that doesn’t take place in person—like virtual tours or virtual learning—the term virtual reality refers to a separate tech-based reality. The user enters a world that is graphically created. This could be a game, a training activity (for work) or maybe even a therapy session.
Virtual reality can be used for entertainment (in the case of gaming), but it’s also used by mental health professionals to help individuals safely face fears to, hopefully, lessen or overcome anxiety or trauma. So a user can perhaps enter a virtual world where they seemingly stand on a high rise building (if they are afraid of heights) or a similar type of experience.
Businesses also use virtual reality to help train employees. Virtual reality sessions may allow employees to navigate different customer service situations. Or maybe they even learn how to deal with a robbery or other safety issue.
With virtual reality, the situation can be controlled. And, if necessary, the user can re-enter the experience to navigate it differently and learn how to properly de-escalate a situation. Of course, virtual reality also could be used to determine if an employee would even be a good fit.
Gamers can use virtual reality headsets to enter into the game. With these headsets, they become part of the action. They are literally immersed in the metaverse that is the game’s universe!
Augmented Reality and the Metaverse
Augmented reality allows users to enter the metaverse in a unique way. Augmented reality combines reality with technology, and the metaverse for augmented reality is part of the real world.
Yet, in augmented reality things aren’t always what they seem. And in this way, the metaverse unfolds. For example, Pokémon GO is one of the most popular augmented reality games; users access their camera to show the real environment. And within the real world, graphic cute Pokémon appear.
The Pokémon aren’t real, of course. They are an extended reality. A way for the metaverse to collide with the user’s known sense of reality. And this is how augmented reality provides a portal into the metaverse.
Augmented reality allows businesses to provide different try-on experiences for consumers. With augmented reality graphics, paint colors can appear on walls, makeup products can be applied to the face, and hairstyles can be previewed, too.
These graphic elements are all a depiction of another reality. The graphics really are an exact replica of a lipstick hue. The paint colors are true to their normal colors as they would be swiped on a wall.
Technology is providing the data to expand the world. The metaverse allows for an extended view of reality. And this new reality can help guide buying decisions and even keep us entertained (in the case of games).
There is a full library of augmented reality apps that can be accessed by Apple and Android devices. Users can explore science, the universe, play games, and even preview cars!
While consumers may be able to purchase a pair of augmented reality glasses sometime in the future (hopefully!), they can currently explore augmented reality via their phones.
And, of course, Meta provides more ways to explore this technology, too. Use Spark AR to learn how to create augmented reality experiences. Or just use Instagram AR filters.
The metaverse awaits. It’s time for users to explore reality beyond their reality. Because the future of reality might be augmented in ways we could only imagine.