An apple in the metaverse (AI generated image)
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Apple is expected to unveil its AR/VR headset at the WWDC event in June 2023, putting it in direct competition with Meta’s metaverse ambitions. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, envisions the device enhancing communication and connection, aligning with Meta’s goals for a virtual world overlaying the physical one. Despite Meta’s current lead with 22 million Quest headsets in use, Apple has a history of entering established markets and becoming a dominant force. Meanwhile, Meta, Microsoft, and Disney are reportedly reversing their bets on the metaverse.

Meta, Microsoft, and Disney: a shift in focus

Meta, Microsoft, and Disney are reportedly reversing their metaverse bets, as companies like Meta shift their focus to cost-cutting, streamlining projects, and generative AI. As a result, Meta has experienced job cuts reaching 21,000, and Disney has discontinued its metaverse division, laying off 7,000 employees. Meanwhile, Microsoft is closing its metaverse plans to focus on generative AI with GPT incorporation into Bing.

One reason for the waning interest in the metaverse is the high cost and limited mass adoption. Emerging tech expert Egline Samoei has stated, “The metaverse hype is over…not inclusive, software and gadgets too expensive”. For the metaverse to gain mass adoption, changes are needed, such as lighter, more affordable gadgets with safety measures.

Apple’s AR/VR headset: a new contender

Apple’s upcoming AR/VR headset is rumoured to launch on June 5 at WWDC 2023. This device is expected to focus on short VR trips, communication, content viewing, and gaming, rather than the metaverse concept that Meta is pushing. The headset is also a precursor to Apple Glass, which is focused on AR and delayed due to technical challenges.

With a rumoured price range of $2,000-$3,000, the Apple AR/VR headset is believed to target developers, preparing them for the eventual Apple Glass launch. This first-generation headset would be expensive and primarily for developer use, with Apple’s M1 Pro chip, extended development time, and increased markup contributing to the high price.

Metaverse losing traction, generative AI gaining ground

Companies such as Meta are pivoting from the metaverse to generative AI, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg shifting the company’s focus to language models for AI. Meta has introduced the large language model LLaMA (Large Language Model Meta AI) on February 24, 2023, focusing on building creative and expressive tools and developing AI personas.

While Meta’s metaverse projects have underperformed, the company’s investment in generative AI aims to create expressive tools and AI personas for a broader audience. This shift marks a “year of efficiency” for Meta, with job cuts, a reduced metaverse focus, and increased generative AI investment.

Apple’s AR strategy targets a broader audience, offering enhanced data of physical surroundings and integrating with existing hardware, software, and ecosystem. As usual, Apple is being secretive about all the details, but it is clear the company is determined to become a major player in the AR/VR space.