Meta's CTO and the head of its Reality Labs division, Andrew Bosworth, has defended the company's controversial pivot to the metaverse.
In a lengthy blog post, the executive said that the company's strategy was misunderstood and that the Facebook owner was committed to investing in the VR and AR tools necessary to build its version of the metaverse.
"We never thought it would be easy or straightforward, but this year was even harder than we expected," Bosworth admitted. "Economic challenges across the world, combined with pressures on Meta’s core business, created a perfect storm of skepticism about the investments we’re making."
Indeed, the company's share price has fallen by nearly 65 percent, year to date (during the same time frame the S&P 500 fell 16.5 percent).
Investors remain concerned about the tens of billions being poured into Reality Labs. In October, Altimeter Capital said that the CEO had lost his way, calling on the company to cut back on metaverse and VR spending.
Bosworth said that Meta has made some cost savings (including mass layoffs), "but I can say with confidence that after one of the hardest years in the history of the company, Meta remains as committed to our vision for the future as we were on the day we announced it."
He pointed to the company's continued success with its core social media product - although it faces increasing competition from TikTok, BeReal, and other platforms, as well as threats to its advertising business model due to Apple privacy changes.
He also cited the launch of the company's flagship high-end mixed reality headset, the Meta Quest Pro. But it launched to mixed reviews, and complaints about prolific bugs.
Earlier this week, the one-time CTO of Oculus (the VR company Meta acquired that morphed into Reality Labs) quit the company. VR and video game veteran John Carmack said in an internal memo that the company was "ill prepared for the inevitable competition and/or belt tightening."
He added: "When you work hard at optimization for most of your life, seeing something that is grossly inefficient hurts your soul."
In his piece, Bosworth also defended the company's avatar system for the metaverse, and said that the company was investing in improving them.
Users long ridiculed the company for the avatars' lack of legs, causing CEO Mark Zuckerberg to announce in a virtual video that legs were coming, while he jumped around. But it was later revealed that the demo was staged with motion capture.
Meta is believed to be working on several generations of augmented reality glasses, with Bosworth revealing about half of the division's budget goes to AR.
"Building true AR glasses will require a massive set of breakthroughs and inventions across all sorts of areas, from lenses and miniature displays to lightweight materials and AI-powered interfaces," he admitted, but said Meta was working on "one of the most ambitious R&D operations in the world today, focused on building a truly revolutionary new kind of computing platform."
After an interesting year for the company, "we think it’s only going to get better in 2023," he continued. "The machine learning revolution that has been playing out over the last decade reached a boiling point this year, and it’s still accelerating. At Meta, our biggest priorities as a company are currently benefiting from more than a decade of investment in AI."
Meta appears to be making a huge bet on AI, this month suddenly deciding to pause or cancel a number of data centers around the world to redesign them as AI facilities.
But, as DCD previously reported, the company has not finalized those designs. The suddenness of the shift has also left contractors and suppliers in the lurch, as large data center projects suddenly disappeared from roadmaps.
It is not clear how this change in direction plays into the company's metaverse plans.
Meta's Bosworth made no mention of the data center change in his post, but noted that metaverse tech will "depend heavily on advanced AI to function."