Mark Zuckerberg talks to CNET about the future of VR, fitness, Quest Pro and a Facebook metaverse
Virtual Reality Apps
It's been five years since the Oculus Rift came out, and over a year into the pandemic.
Facebook's plans for VR and AR are ongoing, and the Oculus quest two has sold more than previous VR headsets before.
At the same time, most people are not buying or wearing VR headsets.
Where does the future head after this?
What are Facebook's plans with social with fitness with kids.
And with the possibilities of a quest to successor, I sat down with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and connected over zoom for an audio only chat.
This is our conversation.
Mark I had a chance to meet you.
I guess it was it's not quite two years but about a year and a half ago.
in person at Oculus Connect, and we we looked at hand tracking we talked about VR and AR and then what months later, the entire world changed and it wasn't that long after.
I wanted to talk to you now as as as we look at VR and AR have you in five years since the Oculus Rift came out Where do you see VR and AR for you now versus what it was even in 2019 if things significantly changed, or are there things that you wish were here but still aren't?
Yeah, I mean, I think it's an incredibly exciting time for this.
It's pretty amazing to see how a lot of the aspects of the original vision and what we hoped would play out here.
Are starting to fall into place and it's still a long term journey, right?
And there's still a ton that needs to get done over the next five plus years to really deliver all the experiences that we want.
But there are a lot of awesome pieces that are coming into place and I'm excited to to get a chance to talk about those today.
At the same time, you're right that with the, pandemic and you, know more people shifting towards, you know, being more remote more of the time.
I think that that's just put even more importance on building technologies that give us a sense of presence and that help us You know, feel like we're together and, and really get to connect naturally, whether that's socially or professionally, or for entertainment and playing games.
And that's always been the promise of virtual and augmented reality is that, you know, unlike every other computing platform and type of screen that we've had to date.
These platforms give you a sense of presence, like you're right there with another person or in another place.
And that's pretty magical.
Every other communication tool that we built up to this point is trying to approximate that.
But virtual and augmented reality are the first ones that really deliver that sense of presence.
And I know that is going to be increasingly important as the world I imagine we'll stay more remote as we come out of the the pandemic, but a lot of the pieces that that I guess you and I talked about before are just kind of coming into place.
Well, and you mentioned presence and I think a lot about social which you mentioned more of a groundswell for VR at the same time.
It's not something I talked to some people and they don't have any VR headset.
Other people I know are starting to actually buy them.
And I have a little group that has them.
I was curious where you see that right now, recently you've mentioned sales number either you don't specifically mentioned sales numbers, but you've mentioned it coming along, not necessarily being as big as Nintendo Switch But do you think it's it's kind of achieved that social level you want it?>> Well, we're the second generation of quest now.
And what I can say is that quest two is doing quite well.
It's it's meaningfully outperforming even what we'd hoped for it.
So that's That's great.
And as the the second generation quest, I feel like there was no quest was where we really cracked the form factor and got it to be a wireless device that can do high quality experiences.
I think that when you're talking about virtual reality In the sense of presence, there really is something that's incredibly important about it being wireless.
Just because if you if you get a wire that's wrapped around your neck or draped over your shoulder and it's touching you, it really just breaks the whole illusion and sense of presence and I think it's a big step function forward in terms of the quality of the experience.
Requires a lot of innovation to achieve that.
So I think what we've seen is that a lot of the other folks in the space haven't been able to deliver that wireless experience yet and I think that, that will likely continue to hold back some of those products.
But we had the first generation quest, we improved on it with quest two That's going quite well.
So what I look at is the trajectory of how these things are going, how is the next version of that after that kinda go, and the next version after that.
We've really exciting products in the roadmap that for dominant line that I just think are gonna be really awesome.
But it's You know, quest two has been an inflection point, I think for the adoption around this.
You mentioned some of the roadmap and recently I heard in a chat mentioning of the existence of a quest Pro.
I think it was Andrew Bosworth who brought it up.
And is there any idea of like, what that?
Is that something that would be for business or do you imagine there being possibly, you know, different levels of interest?
At different tiers for what Oculus quest could be.
So this is certainly something that we're working on is basically having a higher end, virtual reality experience.
And, again, I think a lot of this is, is traditionally if you wanted to get a virtual reality device that had more power.
The thing that you did was you you wired it to a PC or some other computer and you know that's so that's one way to do it.
But I think the trade off on requiring the wire is is too great in terms of the experience around what you trade off on an immersion and being able to walk around and even if you're sitting at a desk and doing productivity work, I don't think you want You know that that wire basically breaking the sense of presence.
So even for quest two, we focused a lot on, you know, airlink we just released which is, you know the ability to now stream games from your PC so you can take advantage of the power of the PC and still have a wireless experience which I think is really important.
But there are other aspects that make virtual reality higher end experience as well, including putting more power in it in terms of different types of sensors and capabilities on the device.
And we do want to be able to support a wider range of Have use cases.
I mean, I think one of the things that's been quite exciting with quest two is, is seeing it broaden out, right.
It's still, you know, primarily gaming is a lot of what people do on it.
But you know, we're starting to see you know, the the top few apps are social apps where where people hang out together.
We're starting to see an increase in Apps for creative production or productivity are people getting together to work.
One of the things that I've been pretty excited to to see is, is this growth of fitness apps right you see apps like fit xR, and supernatural Which are basically subscription services where you can, you know, take different classes doing boxing or dancing or you know different things.
It's almost like peloton where it's just kinda as easy to jump into and you pay a subscription.
And now you're you can you can do your workouts that way.
And from my perspective, this is sort of, it's filling out the initial vision and hope that we had for VR about how There are gonna be all these different use cases, right?
It's amazing for gaming, but it's not only for gaming.
And I think part of the question is, if you were if you were focused on building a higher end device, that could really max out further on, you know, some of those other use cases in addition to doing the gaming pieces, Now here's some interesting questions about how you design that now.
It's not coming out anytime soon.
It's but it's but that's certainly something that we're excited about and having different products that basically can serve different use cases really well Yeah.
When you mentioned fitness, it was an area I definitely wanted to talk to you about because I'd been using my more for that.
I see that it's being positioned for that.
It's up an ad in the New York times talking about as a fitness device and I see like a, I believe Facebook is allowing.
Inexpensive it as a health and wellness device.
Do you use it to fitness yourself?
I was curious about if you have a fitness workout or things you use or have you work that into your life?
Yeah, I mean, I use all these different apps.
So I love Beat Sabre.
I mean that's one of my favorite things on on quest.
You know, I've certainly enjoyed fidex as well.
And you know I'm a big runner right?
So that's that we don't quite have that in VR yet.
And, and I am also a surfer and foiler.
So I really want us to get a good experience where you can.
Where you can basically do the pumping part in VR, but we don't quite have that yet.
But no i think in all these things, doing a beat Sabre, FedEx are supernatural.
I mean, they're real workouts and i mean if i'm in beat Sabre it especially if i'm competing with one of my friends, You know, for half an hour.And you definitely work up a sweat and you get tired by the end of that.
So it's pretty active and I I think it's pretty clear why people really like it.
Do you set up any space in your home?
That's like a dedicated VR zone or where you do these things or any time of day where you might do workouts with this?
I mean one of the things about quest and it being wireless and standalone is It is really portable to be able to do with anywhere.
So, I have a in our living room and our basement sometimes I'll kinda go down there and there's sort of bigger open spaces but, I mean I'll, even just do it in our bedroom right where I probably have a more traditional Not particularly huge space to do it, but but definitely enough.
But again, I think that this gets down to the form factor question, right and at the time where, getting into the experience you had to be tethered to a desk or tethered to, or even in the same room is where your, your gaming PC was, I think was just a bit more limiting for people than getting it to be more free flowing.
I think it's a very big advance in terms of letting people try it on in different places, making it easier to jump in.
And I think that's why that's a big part of what we're seeing here, and why we're so dedicated to wireless is the form factor and all the things that we're going to focus on including the.
The future quest pro work that we're that we're thinking about, you know, I think that that's, that's just gonna be a killer part of it but I don't know I guess you also asked about about kinda routines.
I mean I have this one group of, you know a bunch of my friends on on a messenger group thread and We it's like our metaverse thread and, you know, we basically every weekend or so someone pings.
The thread is like, hey, do you want to play onward or do you want to play population one or do you want to play you know, Arizona sunshine.
I mean, those are those are a bunch of my favorite multiplayer games.
And I think that that's probably the closest thing that I have to to like a real ritual around this is kind of getting together with friends and going to do this which, over the last year, especially during the pandemic, when I couldn't see a lot of these people in person was just really a neat thing to be able to do and really.
Drove home for me the value of being able to have those kind of social and gaming experiences together.
Yeah, I've been finding I'm sort of getting into the same.
When you mentioned fitness and you mentioned sensors at one point.
It raises the question for me, do you think that there's a chance of these fitness apps working more with Watches and trackers I know you're working on RISC tech for neural inputs and AR and does that open doorways for VR and in looking at even more of a wellness and wellness studies direction for what fourth is can do Yeah, I think that these are all really interesting questions and and we are certainly working on the the neural interfaces part and the wrist interface around that.
And our hope is that eventually that works across virtual and augmented reality and will be valuable across all these things.
Yeah, I mean getting back to your question around on quest Pro, there's just there are a lot of sensors that would add different senses to basically to the overall experience, right?
So we've talked a bit about things like eye tracking and face tracking and you're talking about things like different health sensors, whether that's heart rate monitoring, or The different other kinds of fitness sensors that they might have on a fitness watch.
And I think the the basic thing that these all have in common is that each of them takes additional compute power to power the thing.
In the whole device needs to be tuned for that.
So if you wanna basically have a device over time that is just capable of all of these more things and is running an increasing number of sensors, you need to get to kinda higher and higher end devices.
And then the question for us is gonna be, well, how do we innovate on on kinda what that's gonna look like?
And be able to deliver something.
That's a high-end product, and then also how do we get it to be something that is really affordable for a very wide number of people, right?
Because our mission as a company is really to help connect everyone, right?
In our approach to VR is that rather than building a device and trying to sell it at a premium, and make a bunch of money on the device, What we want to do is build a great experience and make it so that as many people as possible can experience this and can be part of this metaverse.
And in that at the end of the day, we build experiences that are part of that and that'll be the long term business that we do.
So I think the innovation on the sensor side the- The compute side to make sure that we can that we can build devices that power these both at the high end and devices that can that can be broadly available to everyone.
That's that's kind of a big part of what we're focused on over the next five years.
And it sounds like affordability is a big part of that too.
When you mentioned, you know, not Not climbing too high in price.
I mean already the quest to is reduced price and gotten to a point where it's game console level, which is not something that other companies have been able to hit yet.
Yeah, that's right.
I mean, getting to 299 on quest two I think was a really big deal and I think that, that's something that we wanted to we want to get to the team worked really hard on that I'm really proud of them.
They did a lot of really hard work to be able to achieve that.
And we wanted to see how that would affect Accessibility for it.
And I think that's been pretty good in terms of the results that we've seen there.
But as you mentioned, at this point, even game consoles are more expensive than that.
So, I think that there's some ability for it to be a little more expensive.
But, but we want to make it, you know, but our bottom line on this is like we're not approaching this from the perspective of how do we charge people as much money as possible and make profit on the devices.
We wanna get as many people as possible to be able to experience virtual reality and be able to jump into the metaverse and then be able to have these social experiences within that Then that's really kind of where we're our bread and butter is as a company is in terms of building those experiences and that's also what our businesses.
So it's been speaking of social because I think about that a lot too.
You just launched it a revamped version of social avatars horizon, which is Kind of seems like Facebook's metaverse is it keeps approaching?
Have you been spending time inside?
I've had two demos in horizon over the past couple of years but I was curious if you're spending time in there and what you might be doing in it and whether that might be heading towards a launch Yeah, this is a big project for us.
Cuz there needs to be a social fabric that goes across all of the different layers of virtual reality.
And that's what we hope to do with Verizon.
So part of it is we're building in this environment where individual creators can create worlds and you can hang out with your friends.
Part of it is we're building out this avatar system that is gonna get increasingly expressive on the one hand and then if you want also increasingly realistic, although I think not everyone wants to be exactly realistic over the time, so you wanna kind of offer both expressive and realistic and there are all these different services of this.
But, basically that's a big part of what we want to do around horizon, it also spans.
You're not just it's not just social use cases.
It's not just gaming.
I think it's also going to be work and collaboration and productivity.
And that's a big thing that we focused on.
And there's some interesting experiences in virtual reality now.
I have to say, I mean one of the things that I've been excited about as we start thinking about what the policies are going to be around how, employees start returning to the offices.
And after the pandemic clears up.
One of the things that I hope is that they're going forward at Facebook In addition to doing video conferences and stuff like that, i wanna basically have our culture be that, a lot of our employees are holding meetings in VR, in something like horizon so that way We're every employee of the company is kind of contributing to giving feedback helping to tune and make those experiences better and better so that we they can serve all these different use cases.
It was you know, from the beginning when we got interested in or got really got started working on virtual reality, a lot of the the theory and what we saw was is What virtual reality is really about the sense of presence and therefore it's about social connection more than it's about just whatever the technology is.
And I would expect that as these things get built out more than whether it's just use cases for hanging out and chatting or, playing different things together or working together and collaborating.
I would bet that those will be a lot of the biggest uses of this over the long term.
And we're very focused on just giving creators and developers the tools to build that with horizon.
So it's a very big priority for us.
We're not building it as just and just kind of a single app or experience.
We're building it out as more of a platform that will enable people to build a lot of these different things over time.
And that's why it's in we're building it methodically and step by step and maybe it's it's taken a little longer than we would have thought to, to kind of have its first Major completely open release, but it's a very important part of what we're doing in the whole vision here.
And I think it will play a big role towards helping to build out this broader metaverse that that will go across all virtual and augmented reality.
Do you see horizon is a chance to kind of
Rethink the the idea of what social media is for Facebook or do you also see there are more Facebook elements coming into VR?
Do you see that continuing and which one ,which one do you think is the closest to
What that is as far as your vision?
Yeah, it's an interesting question.
I certainly think that, this is going to rethink how we what, kind of our perception of social experiences are.
You asked about social media specifically, but I think social media is one category of social experiences, right?
I don't know if you'd consider.
For example, Whatsapp to be social media in the same sense that you would that you would say that if Facebook or Twitter or YouTube are.
And so similarly I think that what you're going to see with the metaverse and people interacting in virtual and augmented reality is it's probably at least as different if not more.
From all these 2 d type interfaces, even though there will be some similarities, so I think that that it is sort of an environment and an opportunity to kind of imagine what these social experiences can be in a completely different environment.
And this is a lot of what gets me really excited about this is it I literally remember when I was As a kid in middle school sitting in my math class, I think it was like basically sketching in my notebook every day.
I just kind of dream while the teacher was, was going on in lecturing about something, about what I wanted to go home and build and code that night.
And then I didn't know the tools didn't exist yet to do this, but like the ultimate thing that I really hoped to do one day was build out this kind of 3D immersive world where people can build different things.
And now I feel like now that's starting to become possible with all this technology.
And then I think that's super exciting.
So now we're literally able to start building an imagining some of these experiences that are like the holy grail of social experiences because you can actually, like you're going to be able to with AR glasses in the future when we're having this conversation.
You'll just be able to be you'll be a hologram sitting on my couch next to me.
You know rather than than doing this over video or doing this over audio or you know in virtual reality we can go into the same space and a lot and a lot of ways meetings in VR today or kind of hanging out already feel, you know, more present and realistic than being On Videoconference with someone because of the spatial audio, quote, If someone's to your right, you hear it coming from the right you have a shared sense of the space, which, which you don't when you're on, you know, say a zoom call, for example, where you know, everyone's grid is a little bit different and all your meetings kind of look the same.
So, I do think the social experiences here are gonna be different, but pretty awesome.
And, and I think getting a chance to build that from the ground up.
Not within sort of a box or platform that's defined by by other companies who have their own sense of what a computer or a phone or something are, but really getting to design that whole experience from first principles around how people should be able to be present and connected with each other.
I just think it's it's a long the most exciting work that we're doing
Well and I think about that excitement you bring up having dreaming this as a kid.
We talked about using VR and the here and now and what it's becoming for people.
I see a lot of people I wanted to bring this up because my my nephew wanted me to ask this to you I know a lot of people who are getting Oculus quest.
And and and their kids are playing games in it.
And and it's interesting because I know there's no Facebook account set up for under 13 but kids are really excited about it.
Kids are learning a lot with it.
Parents are doing stuff with them with it.
But also, I wonder how you feel about that.
And if you see more of a role for it with kids or a kid mode, my 13 year old nephew was asking me to ask you about, if you're gonna be adding more things like that or a kid's version of the headset At some point,>> yeah, it's it's a good question and I imagine that is part of the full vision over time, we'll have to address that more.
But as you know, in order to use this, you know, you sign in with your Facebook account.
That way you can have all your friends there and have the kind of social experience that we're trying to build.
But you can't have a Facebook account if you're under 13.
So I think it's probably quite a ways off that we'd really build something like this.
And there were also some, I think, pretty fundamental physical challenges with it right in that the devices designed for people who have a certain IPD or inter pupillary distance range, so how far apart your eyes and there are different things like the weighting of the device.
were designed for people who have a certain amount of neck strength for example, right so not not Small kids, but you know, but at least people in their teens and adults.
And those are things that I think will have to be overcome before you design.
Even just hardware that I think really makes sense for younger kids to be wearing for an extended period of time.
But it is certainly interesting I think over the long term.
Education is certainly going to be one of the really promising verticals here.
And we already see and I hear these stories all the time about in kind of higher ed examples.
No, I heard about this program where.
You know, some heart surgeons were being trained to do this.
And I think that there was actually some, like an experiment that was run, comparing heart surgeons were trained doing basically with the training in 3d so that they can see the heart and see some of the things that they were doing compared to people who've just been in lectures and experienced it.
In a more theoretical way, and my understanding is that the people who had the VR training generally performed better which is, that intuitively makes a lot of sense.
So, giving people the ability to do things hands on, into experience them i think is going to beat being lectured to or just reading a book A lot of times in the future and that I feel there are opportunities to build those kinds of educational experiences.
You know, not just for the youngest kids, but you know, even today, teens can use this and, you know, people who are doing higher education can do this.
And they're even opportunities to do this in ways that are not.
Traditionally what you'd think about as education one view on communication technology is that they're basically technologies around sharing a perspective, right?
It's like some people describe books that way.
It's basically books are a technology for For kind of sharing a perspective and and kind of try to internalize someone else's perspective and certainly film and other things try to do that well, but in a lot of ways, I think virtual reality is the ultimate than that because it literally lets you embody someone in walk in their shoes and experience some of what they're actually seeing and feeling around them.
So I think that's going to be pretty powerful for not just kind of at a school type learning, but culture and, and just sharing each other's experiences and getting more empathy for what other people are experiencing around the world as well.
Yeah, I should say my kids are 12 and eight and your kids are much younger.
I don't use VR that much with them at all.
But I was curious if you ever thought of a moment when you might use VR with your kids or have you thought about is that something that you would use it them at some point?.
Yeah, no, I haven't done that yet.
Max is five now and she I mean she sees me doing it and thinks that looks like I'm having a lot of fun so and so she is certainly asked if she can jump in I told her when she's older but but it's an interesting question and on all this stuff and the only other thing that I'd add on top of all the challenges that we've talked about so far Is that your port the work that we do with younger kids and going to work on messenger kids, for example, you're making it an experience that parents can really control.
We do a lot to consult with experts and To make sure that we're doing this in a good way so I don't think this is ever gonna be something that we here at Facebook, just decide here's how it should be for younger kids and therefore we're gonna go do it.
This will be something that, this is not the The top priority or near priority anytime soon, there's a lot of other challenges that I think we need to solve to help expand virtual reality and help where people experience this.
But I do think you're highlighting what I think in kind of a 10 to 20 year future is I think people are gonna want to use this in this way and I think we'll approach that by being more open with the community of educators and experts and really taking their lead on what the right way is to approach this.
Yes, I think about it mainly right now because I I have friends literally reaching out to me all the time and asking me for advice, and then I'll say to them, it's not technically recommended for that, but then they're still using it anyhow like a game console and I'm thinking of the best way to help them despite them pushing on so it seems like it's been pushed into the forefront it's It's an interesting question.
So I also want to ask when you mentioned work in VR and aiming to get Facebook to work in VR.
Is there a certain is that happening right now?
Or do you find that you're doing certain types of work in VR or are you setting up a sort of a routine for that with people right now?
Well, I think that over the next several months Some more back into the offices, especially as vaccines ramp up and trying to figure out what the new rhythm is going to be so.
Yeah, I think that that can be, that's part of what I'm trying to figure out exactly how that how that's gonna all fit together.
But for example You can conceivably have a meeting that's hosted in virtual reality where some people who aren't in virtual reality can can video conference in and be a part of the meeting.
Just like if you were in a physical meeting, you could have a screen and people could be on that screen.
So I think being able to make it so that.
Is many people who are not together, can feel like they're present.
And I think virtual reality can be a big part of that.
That to me seems to be a good direction for us to go.
And then given that this is such a big focus for our company, I really believe in dogfooding your own products.
Dogfooding is, I guess, a technical term for eating you own dog food, which is by itself a technical term.
Which is basically saying if you're if you're in the middle of building out a product, what are the best practices to to use your product all the time and if we want to get this to be better and better than that i do think it will be we will be well served by having a lot of people inside the company and outside Use it.
But yeah, I mean, some of the meetings that I've had in virtual reality so far are it's pretty good.
It's it's interesting and it's different from video chat calls and I'd say, just to start off and be fair on some of the places where it's not as good Right now, are obviously if you're on a video call.
You can get a little higher resolution on the person's face so you know we don't quite have perfectly realistic avatars yet in VR, in the way that that we do if you're on a zoom call for example But there's technology that that we're working on that will hopefully get there over the coming years.
But then I think that there are all these things that are actually quite a lot better about meeting or being present in VR than even zoom calls today.
I mean, I mentioned this before, but a lot of how we as people process.
And even remember things is through a shared sense of space.
So if you're sitting in a room with someone, if you're on my right and we're sitting on a couch.
We have this shared memory where it's like, alright, I remember that you were sitting next to me.
You're on my right on the couch, and if you're on my right then that means I'm on your left, so.
We kind of have a shared sense of what's going on in the space and all of our different memories my visual memories of thinking of, I'm turning to my right and seeing you.
My audio memory is I'm hearing the audio come from the right.
It's that stuff I think all ends up being pretty important in terms of imprinting memories, and feeling like this is a real experience where you're present in a space together.
And you don't get that on video calls today.
And I think it's actually pretty interesting.
I find that when I'm on a bunch of video calls, I actually they all kinda blend together and I have a hard time remembering exactly which call, you know, something was set on, or it's just kind of harder to place it because there's no real sense of space and There's certainly no shared sense of space.
And you know that if you're saying something, it's not coming from my right or my left.
And if you're kind of in my upper right hand corner on my zoom screen, that doesn't mean that that I'm in any particular place on yours.
There's no shared sense of that at all.
So I actually think that even though the avatars aren't quite fully defined, yet Although we did just roll out the new avatar system, which is pretty good and is certainly a big step in this direction, even without that piece kind of fully being in its final state yet, I still think that there are a lot of advantages to kind of the presence that you get in virtual reality compared to the other modes of communication that we have.
And I think that if we're already there with the fidelity of experiences that are possible today, To me that just says, wow in five years this is gonna be clearly better on almost all these fronts for a lot of the things that we do.
I just wanna say thanks a lot for the time to talk to you about this.
I feel like I have so many more questions to ask but I'm excited to see requests evolves to and and very curious about horizon And thank you for the time.
Happy to do it and and I'm looking forward to showing you some the new stuff we have coming out soon too.
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