- The metaverse has a loneliness problem.
- Mark Zuckerberg says Apple’s new headset will make everyone lonelier.
- But even Meta’s headset is, in the end, someone sitting alone on a couch too.
Mark Zuckerberg’s verdict on Apple’s new mixed-reality headset is in: It’s lonesome.
“Every demo that they showed was a person sitting on a couch by themself,” Zuckerberg said during an all-hands meeting at Meta’s Menlo Park HQ, which was watched by Alex Heath at The Verge. “I mean, that could be the vision of the future of computing, but like, it’s not the one that I want.”
Mark Zuckerberg is one of the chief and earliest evangelists of the metaverse, which he bills as an immersive version of the internet involving virtual and augmented-reality technologies. As he pushes Meta’s efforts to build out this alternative internet, naturally he’s been keeping an eye on Apple’s $3,500 Vision Pro goggles.
That the Vision Pro is an isolating device isn’t wrong. But where he’s misguided is thinking Meta’s vision is any better.
Why the metaverse will make us lonely
Apple’s take on a mixed-reality future does feel pretty lonely from what we’ve seen so far. The Vision Pro’s singular screen gives users access to FaceTime, entertainment, work tools, and even a mindfulness experience — but all for one person.
By contrast, Zuckerberg reckons Meta’s Quest headsets, which are meant to warp users into an avatar universe, are all about “people interacting in new ways and feeling closer,” per comments he made during this week’s company-wide meeting.
“I think that their announcement really showcases the difference in the values and the vision that our companies bring to this in a way that I think is really important,” Zuckerberg said.
Are the visions so different? In Zuck’s future, you’ll still need to wear a big, silly headset that cuts you off from anyone directly around you.
And while Meta’s devices may be plenty cheaper than Apple’s ones — a new Quest headset launching later this year will cost $499 – they still depend on people choosing to escape their real-life family, friends, and colleagues.
Apple seems to be quietly conscious of the loneliness issue, which is why its headset introduces a feature that allows users to switch modes, making their eyes more visible through their goggles when they want to talk to someone in real life.
Both companies have the same issue to solve right now: there isn’t any incentive to put on a headset to solve problems or have experiences that are better done physically.
In a research note this week, analysts at investment bank Jefferies singled out “loneliness” as one of two key issues facing VR technology.
“Apple tried to make the case it can solve this with its spatial awareness. Yet in every demo there is little to no sharing,” analysts wrote.
It’s true for Meta too. In the metaverse, we’re all alone.