Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are personal opinion and thoughts of the author, based on publicly available information and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author represents.
Maria is a customer-centric and entrepreneurial Product Manager with in-depth knowledge of interactive multi-platform B2C content-based products that improve users' daily life. She has successfully led high-value products to new markets, developed new concepts 0-1, and built digital ecosystems using modern technology across the wellness, gaming, and entertainment industries. She is driven by innovation, a creative environment, and curiosity. Currently, Sr Product Manager, leading the Core Product Experience Team in the Virtual Reality fitness application.
A Step into Metaverse with VR/AR Headsets
A piece of Tech
Virtual reality (VR) is an immersive experience that, once you put the headset on, transfers you into a virtual world. There are some documentation and articles explaining the ideation of something similar to what we know now, as virtual reality (VR), which existed as fictional stories even back in the 1830s. At the end of 1980 virtual reality was a high-end technology used exclusively as simulators for pilots, astronauts and researchers. In 2016 a company called Oculus (acquired by Facebook, now Meta) introduced a consumer version of a virtual reality headset, which triggered the development of one of the fastest-growing industries today.
There are currently mixed opinions around this topic, but I encourage you to look at it objectively, as a piece of tech that creates new opportunities. There is a lot of curiosity around VR. Right now it is hard to tell if its just another trend in tech, like 3D TV’s, or whatever happened to those. Or it is actually twill be mass-adopted and become part of our reality. However, unlike 3D TV’s, there is one giant company, which is Meta, that is driving all their chips onto Metaverse definitely being a part of our reality.
The driving force
In 2021 Facebook renames itself to Meta, which according to their CEO, Mark Zuckerberg “reflects the company's growing ambitions beyond social media and allows people to make meaningful connections”. According to the official source, there were 10 million Oculus Quest 2 headsets sold in the same year.
In October 2022, Meta launched their new high-end device, Meta Quest Pro, designed for work. Thanks to colour passthrough cameras, apart from VR it also allows us to experience Augmented Reality (AR) which is overlaying virtual objects on top of the real world. AR allows more engaging experiences to share, collaborate and have more like an “in-person” experience.
Now, towards the end of 2022, the headsets are not just a tool for gamers and tech-savvies but also an appealing gadget to new demographics such as women in their forties, as a tool to keep themselves active and elderly people to show them the place that they’ve never been. All this infrastructure needs a talent force and this is the topic I will explore in this article.
Stepping back from all the “shiny” consumer-centric products that Meta is presenting to us with this excitement, let’s take a look into what actually makes this all happen. I am talking about the tech stack of the Metaverse technology such as fundamentals like networks, 5G, electrical grids and cloud computing services. Without this, it simply would not be even possible. The second on the list is the hardware and the special computing. Metaverse hardware will be key to transporting people to these different worlds and making them as realistic as possible. VR/ AR headsets discussed earlier are falling into that group.
The third component would be the logic based on the principle of Blockchain and Web3, commonly known as Decentralisation. Smart contracts, open-source code, and what the community calls self-sovereign digital identity. The fourth component is the content creator economy. In other words, the tools and apps that developers and designers use to create digital assets or experiences that attract users. I will explore this further later in this article.
To finalise this ecosystem there are two more components that I want to outline separately. They are discovery platforms such as app stores, search engines, rating sites, or even display advertising, and the experience or the product itself. The trusting platform is an important step to explore new technology, protocols, and communities. To finalise with the king of kings, the Products themselves and the reason what will support all that infrastructure. Based on the industry trends, I’ve picked three categories, that I believe will be developing very fast in the next couple of years. As a side note, gaming is the number one category, however, I intentionally leave it out as the most obvious one.
With the most advanced hardware Meta Quest Pro, targeting working professionals as productivity devices and creators such as designers, architects and other creative individuals it is no surprise that these types of products will be in demand. Microsoft joins Meta to pioneer the Metaverse world with their Teams- a collaboration tool, allowing direct access via Horizon Rooms (Meta’s product*) allowing cross-device and cross-screen experience is a foundation of the virtual offices. Accenture is the large enterprise driving the Metaverse ideology with their project called Metaverse Continuum and an internal platform for their employees Nth Floor, where freshers can get complete onboarding, participate in large presentations or simply meet for coffee. A 3D design and modelling software called Gravity Sketch allows designers collaboratively to sketch and prototype, and then display on the screen in 2D for final preview. We can definitely expect a similar type of product to appear to solve other pain points for different audiences.
Education and training
I’ve already mentioned that the first use cases of Virtual Reality were invented for simulation training purposes. A few decades later, this technology can be available to broader audiences. Think of how it can help medical students re-create and experience some of the most difficult surgeries, firemen practice unique situations or young professionals practice some stressful/ uncomfortable situations within the work environment to better prepare for real-life scenarios. In fact, there are two products that I really like- Tale Spin is the app that helps you to train Soft skills with a virtual avatar in an office-like environment and Job Simulator- an app that allows players to relive the glory days of work by simulating the ins and outs of being a gourmet chef, an office worker and even a convenience store clerk. I wish I had this app before I faced that tough decision of choosing the career path.
Health and Wellbeing
This category is my bread and butter. This a topic I can go on about for many more chapters but I will keep it short this time. The amount of Health and well-being apps are so high that Oculus recently broke them down into a few more categories such as Kinetic Sports- for real environment sports activity like basketball or ping pong; music games for experiences that are beat-driven, with some physical action elements and health and fitness category with apps like meditation and actual fitness workouts.
The reason I believe in these particular categories is that they are helping and solving some meaningful problems for many people. Working for a truly meaningful product is a joy and incredibly motivating.
What shape and form the Metaverse world with VR/ AR headsets will take, only time will show. Chances are we can expect a mass-adopton when the technology will catch up on it and the “headsets” will turn into a light pair of glasses. Meantime, it is no doubt that the industry made a massive progress in the last few years and show no signs of slowing down. Which means many new job opportunities on the market and the barriers of entry are lower.
For someone who is at the beginning of their career this might be an amazing opportunity to get into it early, learn on innovations and become an expert. As technology developing so fast there are high chances of faster career growth than in the traditional tech companies, which might be a little saturated.
There are many products from, for example, bricks and mortom industry migrating into VR. I would suggest to research who are the rising players in the field that is already familiar to you. You might be surprised, how your skills might be applicable in there.