Meta to Dissolve 'Reality Labs' Division as Layoffs Loom

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Meta has announced that it will be restructuring its Reality Labs division as it hones in on Meta AI and other Metaverse and wearables initiatives.

Reality Labs was the unit responsible for all things virtual and augmented reality. It was best known for creating the VR headset series ‘Oculus Quest’, spearheading the design, development, and marketing with the aim to make VR technology more accessible and user-friendly for a broader range of consumers.

But Meta’s Reality Labs will now be divided into two divisions named ‘Metaverse’ and ‘Wearables’. This change reflects Meta's evolving strategy with a sharper focus on both Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and the Metaverse concept.

The Metaverse division will encompass the development of the core Metaverse platform, including software experiences and likely continuing the development of VR headsets like Meta Quest. 

The “Metaverse” is a virtual space usually accessed through a virtual reality or augmented reality headset where users can game, shop and socialize using avatars. 

The Metaverse was initially expected to change the way we access the internet and, by extension, the world. By early 2024, the metaverse bubble seemed to have burst, but this restructuring may indicate that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is not yet ready to let go of his virtual reality world.

Read more: What Happened to the Metaverse? How Zuck's VR Dream Died

The Wearables Division

The Wearables division will concentrate on the hardware side, crafting new wearable devices that could include not just VR headsets but potentially AR glasses as well.

Wearables will play a crucial role in bringing Meta's vision for the future to life. By developing innovative and user-friendly wearable devices, this division could shape how we interact with technology and the world around us.

Whether it's AR glasses revolutionizing the way we see information or smart glasses seamlessly integrating with our daily lives, the Wearables division has the potential to usher in a new era of wearable computing.

What does this mean for Meta?

The restructuring of Reality Labs wasn't without  workforce reductions. Meta has acknowledged that there has been a ‘small number’ of layoffs, including some leadership positions.

On the positive side, by separating the two divisions Meta aims to streamline development processes. Each division can now work with a clearer vision and potentially avoid internal roadblocks or inefficiencies that might have existed within a single, larger unit. This could lead to faster innovation and development of both Metaverse experiences and wearable technologies.

meta reality labs layoffs

The split allows Meta to focus more strategically on each area. The Metaverse division can concentrate on building the core Metaverse platform and experiences, while Wearables can refine next-generation wearable devices like AR glasses.

While the restructuring shows a strategic shift, there are still uncertainties. The success of the Metaverse concept itself is debatable. Overpromised immersive virtual worlds failed to meet expectations and have soured potential customers on future iterations.

Users found the worlds to be uninspiring and lacking in variety. The graphics were considered to be particularly poor with blocky, legless avatars giving the feeling of a rushed and unfinished product. 

The Wearables division faces challenges in developing user-friendly and appealing AR glasses that will actually positively impact people's lives.

People are unlikely to wear bulky or unattractive glasses all day. The Wearables division will need to strike a balance between function and aesthetics, making them sleek and comfortable. 

AR glasses also require significant processing power to overlay digital information onto the real world. This creates a challenge: cramming powerful processors into a small device while ensuring long battery life. Users won't be happy with glasses that need constant recharging.

There is also real competition in the space, with Apple’s Vision Pro renewing excitement in VR after Meta broadly flopped. The Vision Pro VR headset boasts high-resolution displays, powerful processors, and advanced features like eye tracking and hand tracking. This positions it as a more premium and potentially immersive VR experience compared to Meta's current offerings.

Meta's restructuring of Reality Labs is a gamble. While streamlining development and focusing on distinct areas like the Metaverse and AR wearables offer exciting possibilities for innovation, the challenges are significant. The success of the Metaverse hinges on overcoming past failures to deliver immersive and engaging experiences. 

This uphill battle translates across the company. The Wearables division will inherit hurdles in design, processing power, and battery life to create user-friendly AR glasses that people will want to wear every day.

Only time will tell if Meta's strategic shift will pay off and usher in a new era of virtual and augmented reality experiences or if the technology will remain unadopted and become completely defunct.

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