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  • Writer's pictureKatie Richman

7 Ways Meta is Quietly Shaping Our Future with Tech

man looking at the moon
The future of tech is all about people.

Quick question for those of you who follow the AI news cycle: How much are you hearing about Meta's Reality Labs product development? If the answer is 'not much,' then I don't blame you. While the media has daily breathless coverage of generative AI breakthroughs across OpenAI, Google, NVIDIA, and Microsoft, Meta has been largely overlooked by reporters. I'm sure that Meta's Reality Labs leadership has been grateful for some time out of the media spotlight, letting Sam Altman's ChatGPT drama distract the press, while leadership quietly defines a very different path forward for their AI, AR/VR, and metaverse technologies.

Yup. From my point of view, I see all of the big tech players approaching AR/VR and generative AI similarly: With a focus on the single user 'session' and optimization of that user's session experience with the platforms.

Meta, on the other hand, seems to be leaning into what they do best: Enhancing and optimizing actual human connections in the real world. Rather than focus on a unique user's session with the technology, Meta is building emerging tech that enhance our relationships and experiences with each other. AI, AR, the metaverse become extensions of our real-world, messy, spatial, organic relationships we have with each other and the world. I always liked this about working at Meta. Life is not a series of sterile, single user sessions like a single Google search or Alexa chat session. Tech, rather, should enhance our organic IRL lives, giving us the means to look up from our devices and connect with each other.

So it's been refreshing to watch how Meta is looking at the suite of Reality Labs products differently than the pack. Rather than focusing on single user-to-tech sessions, they are baking AI, augmented reality, virtual reality and the metaverse into Meta's existing suite of products, used globally by nearly half of the world's population to connect on a daily basis (3.98 of the 8.1 billion people globally, as of February 2024). By keeping human relationships at the center of product goals, Meta keeps human-to-human connection at the center of it all...and this is what Meta does best.

This focus on person-to-person rather than person-to-tech becomes what differentiates Meta's Reality Labs AI and AR/VR products from that of Microsoft, Google, or OpenAI.

Not convinced? Here are 7 more reasons why Meta will continue to beat industry forecasts and remain a leader of our future with technology.

1. Meta's Ray-Ban AR Glasses Are Truly the Best.

Meta first launched the Ray-Ban AR Glasses before I left in 2020 or so. Back then, they were little more than video-enabled spy glasses with amazing audio technology. I just got the latest iteration....and Reality Labs has taken these to a whole new place. These glasses now offer a cute look, amazing camera, insanely-good audio, seamless social media integration...and the killer app...Meta AI.

The feature finally rolled out to my glasses. You simply enable the AI tech, put them on and ask: "Hey Meta, what am I looking at?" The multi-modal AI tech then examines your field of view, identifies objects, people, buildings, animals, brands, and businesses, and can repeat it all back to you within seconds.

Just imagine where this tech stack could go when it comes to heads-up, real world spatial computing.

2. Meta is Leading Open-Source AI with LLaMA.

While AI developments are booming across the board, Meta's LLaMA stands out. It's not just about processing power; it's about making AI accessible and beneficial for a broader audience, thanks to their open-source strategy. Mark and leadership have always had a core commitment to the open-source tech community. And in a world where most LLM training and AI product development is happening behind closed doors, Meta's commitment to open-source AI is refreshing.

By making their AI research and tools publicly accessible, Meta isn't just sharing their technology; they're inviting the global tech community to collaborate, innovate, and build on their foundation. This approach democratizes AI development, accelerating innovation at a pace no single entity could achieve alone.

By open-sourcing their LLaMA AI model, Meta enables developers, researchers, and companies worldwide to experiment, modify, and improve upon it. This not only enhances the model's capabilities but also fosters a diverse ecosystem of AI applications tailored to different needs and industries.

3. Reality Labs is Focused on Enterprise Use Cases.

Meta's Reality Labs tech, especially when integrated with enterprise applications, is transforming business operations. From enhanced remote collaboration to immersive training programs, they're setting new standards for workplace efficiency and engagement.

Think about surgeons across borders, getting detailed overlays and advice for complex surgeries. Or enterprise shipping giants manning their floor with AR glasses that can 'x-ray' a package to see what's inside. The sky's the limit.

4. Meta Enhances Remote Collaboration with Horizon Workrooms

Meta is reinventing remote collaboration through Horizon Workrooms, a virtual reality meeting space powered by Oculus Quest headsets (yes, technically, this is the metaverse). Meta is using Workrooms to bridge the gap between physical distance and digital interaction in the workplace, with participants joining a virtual meeting space as if they were sitting together in the same room. This goes way beyond Zoom meetings.

Imagine an automotive design team spread across different continents, working together in a Horizon Workroom. They can share and review 3D models of new car designs in real-time, manipulate these models as if they were physical objects, and discuss changes in an interactive, collaborative environment. This not only speeds up the design process but also enhances creativity and teamwork, overcoming the limitations of physical distance.

5. Meta's Quest 3 VR Headset & Spark AR Platform are Tailored for Education.

In 2024, Meta's Reality Labs is revolutionizing the educational sector with the integration of Quest VR headsets and the Spark AR platform. This powerful combination is being used to create immersive learning experiences that transport students beyond the confines of traditional classrooms.

A real-world application of this innovation can be seen in medical education, where students use Quest headsets to perform virtual surgeries. This hands-on approach allows for a deeper understanding of human anatomy and surgical techniques, without the risks associated with practicing on real patients. The Spark AR platform enhances this experience by overlaying additional information and 3D models, making complex concepts easier to grasp and engaging students in a way textbooks never could.

6. Meta's Spent 10+ Years Studying Human Psychology & Our Behavior Online.

To me, this is at the heart of my Meta Reality Labs optimism. Sure, Reality Labs has built some of the most technically-advanced hardware and platforms. But that's a lead easily lost in Silicon Valley amid the fierce AI and AR competition.

No - what truly sets Meta apart is their 20+ years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent understanding people. Meta has the largest trove of research on people, human psychology, reward systems and tech. They understand, click-by-click, what we do online and why. Google has an edge here, too, but then Google has never been able to get the social networking part down. Meta products are designed not just for function but to enhance human connection, widen our personal worlds, and yes--take advantage of human reward systems and psychology, making technology feel like a natural part of our social fabric rather than an intrusive addition.

When you stack that understanding of human behavior with sleek hardware and open-source AI, it adds up to a massive headstart in our AI and AR-centered future.

7. Meta Reality Labs Understands That the Future of Tech is Integrated.

Meta's unique position with Reality Labs, combining AR glasses with sophisticated AI, offers an integrated vision of the future. It's not just about individual products but how these technologies converge to create a more connected, intuitive, and human-centered tech ecosystem. To top it all off, Meta owns real-time behavioral data, one of the 2 largest ad networks, and the server capacity for it all.

I'm not saying Meta Reality Labs has done everything right...we got the timing wrong on things sometimes (hey Horizon Worlds metaverse!), and Zuck's vision is often ahead of it's time. I also think that the news industry took such glee in dumping on Meta for the world's ills, poking fun at Zuck's metaverse, and prepping to dance on Facebook's grave. It was (and is) cool to dump on Meta after decades of dominance and billions of users worldwide. So while the media is now enamored with OpenAI and ChatGPT, they've turned their back on Meta's emerging technologies and AI development.

My advice? Keep your eyes on Meta, your ears to their announcements, and hold on to that stock. The future isn't AI. Or AR glasses. Or the metaverse. It's about the convergence of all of these platforms and products, resulting in a totally new phase in our technological evolution. The future is all about the integration of all of these, enabling us to look up from our devices, and finally integrating all of this technology into our IRL, organic lives. The future is organic, integrated, and human. And no tech company knows humanity like Meta.

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