• Headset hardware, especially size and weight, is the greatest inhibitor of metaverse plans coming to large scale fruition
• The speed and commitment of headset hardware vendors is an indicator of metaverse acceleration
Hype over the metaverse may be subsiding slightly as world events overtake everyone’s available attention, but one of the biggest inhibitors to the fruition of the metaverse is headset hardware. AR or VR glasses are available, but it is reasonable to look at the large, clunky, and tethered-box offerings that dominate the market as the current equivalent of acoustic modem adapters or six-pound “mobile” phones.
We are seeing a lot of action in the AR/VR hardware space. Multiple sites have reported that cloud behemoth Google is going to purchase microLED startup Raxium to help jumpstart its own hardware efforts. Neither company has verified the claims at the time of this writing, but a deal like that would not be any surprise. Snap, Meta, and Apple have all made similar acquisitions in years past. Nearly every manufacturer of AR/VR hardware has been at it for years (remember GoogleGlass?), and today’s iterations are the result of years and years of engineering. Creating AR/VR headsets that hit all of the marks for weight, battery life, self-contained/wireless, plus don’t make the wearer look like an extra in the Star Trek franchise is not a trivial task.
Plans for the metaverse, large or small, rely on the hardware. There will be a lot of new hardware over the next few years, but there does not seem to be a hardware contender that would instantly make the metaverse relevant, à la iPhone. The importance of headsets cannot be understated, and as a result we have an unfortunate dearth of reliable information from major players. For instance, there are plenty of rumors out there about notoriously secretive Apple coming out with a headset in 2022 or 2023, but nothing that is verified. Other manufacturers are also holding their cards close to the chest as well.
Enterprises who do not have a specific vertical use case for AR/VR should keep an eye on the headset market. It is an excellent predictor of not only vendor commitment to AR/VR/metaverse but also a great way to gauge the speed of adoption on a broad scale. The first headset to gain broad acceptance in the enterprise metaverse (EMV) will signal the beginning of acceleration to actual real-world applications. It should be noted that wide acceptance in the consumer metaverse (CMV) is a much weaker indicator of the metaverse beginning to mature. The CMV, particularly for gaming, has a different set of requirements for the headset hardware than the EMV does.