In 2022, Meta lost a whopping 13.7 billion dollars on its virtual reality (VR) incubator company, Reality Labs. This staggering loss has led many to question the potential of VR and whether it’s just a passing fad or a technology that will fundamentally change the way we live and work.
Initial Uncertainty Is Common With Emerging Tech
Let’s put this loss into perspective. In the early days of Tesla, the electric car company was haemorrhaging money, with Elon Musk pouring millions of dollars into the venture with little return on investment. Fast forward to today, and Tesla is worth over $1 trillion and is considered a leading player in the automotive industry. The point being, like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, many tech innovators have had to fail a lot before they succeeded.
The fact that Meta lost money on its VR incubator company is missing the bigger picture. The point is that many companies are investing heavily in immersive tech for a reason. It will fundamentally change the way we work, learn, do business, and communicate in the coming decades. Lenovo, Apple, and Meta are all investing heavily into VR hardware with little returns to show for it yet. These tech behemoths wouldn’t be spending truckloads of cash if they didn’t sense a major opportunity. While not all ground breaking technology ventures succeed (think Segway or Google Glass), following the money is usually a good indication of which way big tech decision makers think the winds are blowing.
VR Creates Unique Advantages
One of the most significant advantages of VR is its ability to create immersive and interactive environments that are difficult or impossible to replicate in the real world. For example, businesses can use VR to create virtual showrooms, allowing customers anywhere in the world to explore products in a lifelike environment without the need for physical inventory. This not only saves on costs but also creates a more engaging and memorable customer experience.
There has been consistent scepticism about what will be the most significant use-case for virtual reality. With experiential learning in VR being shown to increase knowledge retention to 75%, education and training is that use-case. Lenovo’s recent ThinkReality VRX headset is specifically designed for use in enterprise for training and real-time learning.
In many ways Meta is following the same trajectory, VR is a technology that’s here to stay, there are already enough entertainment, education, medical and other use cases to prove that. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when we see the final tipping point and start to see VR used on a daily basis in our personal and working lives.
The potential for VR in the world of learning is also significant. It is truly immersive, which will ultimately lead to better retention and understanding of the material. By this token, recently VR is being adopted in soft skills training. Getting employees into a headset to practice challenging or confrontation scenarios (with both clients and co-workers) is improving workplace confidence and morale.
Where To From Here For VR?
New technologies are often dismissed as passing fads. In the 1970s, people doubted the practically of email. It was argued that nothing was better than face-to-face communication, and phone calls were the next best option. Imagine your life without email!
More recently, social media, streaming services, and even smartphones have all at one point been scoffed at as flashy gimmicks. Innovative tech sometimes takes a while to catch-on. But catch-on they do.
The failure of Meta’s Reality Labs shouldn’t be seen as a nail in the coffin for VR. Instead, it should be viewed as a reminder that innovation requires risk-taking, experimentation, and persistence. As VR technology continues to develop and mature, it will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in how we work, learn, and communicate. The question is, will you be ready when it does?