Meta Connect 2023: From AI to VR and what it means for the industry

“Finally some smart glasses that are acceptable to wear in public”

Last month, Meta Connect 2023 saw the tech giant announce its latest suite of products.

The jewel in the crown of the showcase was the Quest 3 Mixed Reality Headset. On Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg described the tech as “the first mainstream headset with high-res colour mixed reality” and told consumers it will be 40% thinner with better displays and resolution. 

“Next gen Qualcomm chipset with 2x the graphics performance. Our most powerful headset yet. Coming this fall,” Zuckerberg added.

Meta Quest 3

It’s not just full headsets coming up from Meta, with Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses also announced. The smart glasses offer live streaming, image processing, voice commands, and enhanced audio quality that can understand the environment around the person wearing them, and answer questions about what they see.

Other announcements included AI advancements such as the introduction of Emu, AI software that generates high-quality images for free. Meta has also collaborated with celebrities to create 28 AI bots with unique interests and personalities. These AI personalities are part of a beta release.

A new AI assistant, developed with technology from Llama 2, will be available on WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and integrated with Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses and Quest 3. This AI can also respond to text prompts, answer questions, and generate images.

Off the back of the announcements, Mediaweek caught up with those in the know to find out the industry’s response to Meta Connect 2023.

Nathan Elliott  – Senior 3D Visualiser, The Company We Keep

“At The CWK, we often need to produce fully immersive environments. This is so we can demo the spaces and give very clear, precise detailed overviews of how the brand will appear in any space to ensure it fits within the client’s  scope and guidelines.

“We start this process by using a VR headset as this helps virtually introduce the client into the space so they can start their journey completely under their own guidance. This can be as simple as the freedom to move a small sign, or a much larger task of re-rigging and rotating large LED screens and seating to accommodate changes.

“The VR headset we’re currently using for this is Meta Quest 2. There have been a few limitations with it, due to its rather cumbersome weight, and its low quality graphics whilst running off Unreal Engine 5. There’s clearly a bigger play here to try and tie AI into the everyday use of VR and Mixed Reality. New developments with brands like Ray-Ban Meta Smart glasses will make this possible in a much more seamless way.

“We’re keen to see if the new and improved Meta Quest 3 will be more lightweight than Meta Quest 2, as well as having increased functionality. We will look forward to seeing how it performs against Apple’s rather expensive Vision Pro.”

Nathan Elliott  – Senior 3D Visualiser, The Company We Keep

Nathan Elliott 

Matt Werth – Creative Technologist, Five by Five Global

“Finally some smart glasses that are acceptable to wear in public.

“You may remember Google Glass’s short-lived attempt at offering the world of tomorrow about nine years ago. Seeing someone dare to wear Google Glass in public was like sighting a leprechaun. The glasses looked like something from a sci-fi movie, but the clunky tech of an 80’s sci-fi movie.

“When we saw the release of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip late last year, we knew high-powered wearables were going to have another crack. Sure there have been others: Vuzix, North Focal, and even another attempt from Google Glass, but nothing quite hit the mark. Usually let down by having lacklustre functionality, awkward UX, or being at an unreasonable price point. They all seemed to share the common pitfall of the seemingly insurmountable fashion issue.

“Meta has learned a valuable lesson from these monstrosities: don’t get a tech company to make fashion. By partnering with Ray-Ban, Meta’s glasses benefit from the eyewear pros. Each are doing what they do best – Meta with the tech and Ray-ban with the aesthetics, but that’s not all. Ray-Ban aren’t just making a new style for the glasses, they’re also incorporating the tech into a style that has been synonymous with cool since the 1950’s: the Wayfarer.

“Having groaned over the past year at Meta’s push towards VR and its Quest goggles, it is a breath of fresh air to see them focus on something that delivers functionality in such an empathetic way. The Quest 3’s AR/VR switching capability won’t resolve its struggle with adoption and the Metaverse won’t be taking over our lives any time soon, but these glasses feel ready.

“The formidable contender, Apple, is hot on the trail with their glasses due to be released in 2025. Just as Google made missteps which showed Meta what not to do, Meta appears to be helping out Apple by throwing every feature they can at the device and seeing what sticks (including wedging AI into everything). Apple is in a great position to learn from Meta’s attempt. However, by adopting Ray-Ban’s classic, time-tested design, Meta still has the advantage.

“It seems that smart glasses are finally ripe for acceptance. 2024 will show us just how far they can take it this time. 2025 will show us who will lead the market.”

Matt Werth – Creative Technologist, Five by Five Global

Matt Werth

Tegan Knight – Senior Business Director, Hopeful Monsters

“With a large user base, deep pockets, and the ability to hire the best talent, any moves Meta makes is certainly worth taking notice of. However, these latest announcements feel like small steps, rather than a quantum leap towards achieving Meta’s vision for the merging of the physical and digital worlds into its Metaverse experience.

“Competitors are further ahead with generative AI integration with their platforms, whilst smart glasses and VR headsets are still a long way off mass adoption due to a lack of utility, scarcity of high-quality entertainment, and high price points. 

“Coinciding with this announcement, Zuckerberg showcased Meta’s photorealistic avatars in a virtual interview with podcast host Lex Fridman, which offers a small glimpse into the potential advancements these latest announcements are a step towards.”

Tegan Knight – Senior Business Director, Hopeful Monsters

Tegan Knight

See Also: Meta begins rollout for AI-powered features in ads manager

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