As we enter a new year, it’s time for our annual ritual of synthesizing the lessons from the past twelve months and formulating the outlook for the next twelve. 2022 was an incremental year for AR & VR, which both continue to gradually push forward in gaining mainstream traction.

Highlights include mobile AR engagement & monetization, continued R&D in AR glasses, and the gradual march of VR. Amidst all this, the last year was also defined by the continued and irrational rise of metaverse mania. The hype machine is still in high gear, generating lots of vapor.

So where is spatial computing now, and where is it headed? Aligned with the annual predictions of our research arm, ARtillery Intelligence, we’ve devised 5 predictions for 2023. We’ll break them down each week in AR Insider articles, starting with prediction 1: Metaverse Mania Fades.

Prediction 1: Metaverse Mania Fades
Prediction 2: Apple Enters AR… Kind Of
Prediction 3: Mixed Results in a Downturn
Prediction 4: The Creator Economy Collides with AR
Prediction 5: VR Installed Base Hits 46M

XR Talks: Metaverse 101

For Real This Time…

If there’s one term that’s reverberated throughout AR and VR circles more than any other in 2022, it’s the m-word. We’re talking of course about the metaverse. Though it represents legitimate principles, the term has become co-opted and conflated through overuse.

In last year’s predictions, we asserted that “metaverse mania” would die in 2022. The hype that surrounded the term – including the m-word being wedged into every press release and headline imaginable – would wane. But we were dead wrong… it actually gained momentum.

But we see enough evidence now to double down on that prediction. The thinking was that because the metaverse is so many years from materializing, a low-attention-span media and culture would get bored with the hype and unfulfilled promises and move on to other shiny objects.

If the metaverse were a near-term reality, this may not be the case. But because there won’t be much immediate gratification, interest will inevitably die down. And when that demand dies, so will the supply… which translates to all that metaverse punditry and news coverage.

Those factors still exist but are now joined by another one: The economy. Downturns tend to lessen tolerance for future gazing, putting pressure instead on tangible business outcomes. This will further jolt the tech sector (exception: Meta) and press corps out of the metaverse trance.

Follow the Money: Meta Doesn’t Want to Own the Metaverse

Hyperbolic & Self-Serving

Backing up, what do we mean by “metaverse mania?” It’s the feeling of imminence around a fully-fleshed metaverse that’s actually years from materializing. It’s verbose headlines by generalist reporters; or generic Op/Eds from tech executives that are hyperbolic, and self-serving.

That’s not to say that the metaverse isn’t a legitimate principle that deserves our attention. In fact, there’s relatively scarce but thoughtful analysis that helps contextualize the concept. These help map out our connected future so that innovators can develop its building blocks.

Also in defense of the metaverse, the concept itself won’t die… just the hype machine that’s gotten ahead of itself. In fact, innovation and investment will continue to fuel progress toward the metaverse. It will just happen in quieter ways and outside of USA Today headlines.

This includes work being done at Meta Reality Labs. Despite investor unease, it’s pushing forward on its metaverse commitments. Others like Niantic, Qualcomm, and innovators up and down the XR stack will develop building blocks. The byproduct will be an accelerated AR & VR lifecycle.

We’ll pause there and circle back in our next installment with another 2023 prediction…

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