Horizon Worlds: Meta plans to launch social app even without VR
According to Meta, the Metaverse is not limited to VR: in the long term, the Horizon Worlds social app will also be usable without VR glasses.
Meta's social app Horizon Worlds (formerly Facebook Horizon) is only available in the US and Canada, even after its long beta phase. Since December 9, owners of a Meta Quest 2 or Oculus Rift S have been able to meet in virtual worlds to get creative or craft games. Previous reviews of Horizon Worlds have been mixed. Nevertheless, the app is Meta's most comprehensive attempt to date to realize the vision of the legendary "Metaverse".
At first glance, the concept seems tailor-made for virtual reality. So, it might surprise some to hear Horizon vice president Vivek Sharma talk about support for those without VR goggles. Back in December 2021, the head of the development team revealed to The Verge magazine that Horizon Worlds will be able to be used without VR: At some point in the future, he said, it will be possible to program on a desktop computer instead of just in VR. A corresponding update should bring better interactions and game mechanics.
In an interview with media magazine Digiday.com on Monday, Sharma underscored those plans. For now, he said, Horizon apps are still available exclusively to meta-glasses. Eventually, however, the platform will become available to users without headsets, Sharma said. He did not reveal a more specific timeline.
Horizon Worlds: a metaverse for all
"The reason VR is critical is because of the premise that the Metaverse ties so strongly into this idea of real-time synchronous immersion," Sharma said, referring to the initial VR-only support for Horizon Worlds. To live up to its claim of being a true platform, it's meant to be "virtually everywhere for everyone," though the exact implementation is still up in the air, he said.
A similar social construction world proves that such a move can pay off. Launched in 2016 for PC glasses, social app Rec Room is more successful than ever after opening up to systems like iOS, Android, and Playstation 4. In April last year, Rec Room said that around 15 million users had logged into the game since launch, while sales rose by over 500 percent in 2020 alone. VR users still made up a quarter of the active user base in April 2021.
Sharma didn't come up in the interview about the possible archetype Rec Room, which Horizon Worlds resembles in its comic book style, among other things. He did, however, have some positive words for the even older creative app Roblox (2006): "We're standing on the shoulders of giants who have taken really big risks to build Metaverse-like experiences with a lot of 'trial and error,' and I think Roblox is definitely one of those companies."
Horizon Worlds: not a copy of Rec Room, Roblox & Co.
Horizon Worlds isn't a cheap knockoff. However, he said, as it offers a unique, social creator mode. In it, you can actually craft together directly in the world. Sharma doesn't mention though that this is also possible in Rec Room.
Horizon Worlds isn't the only social world for Meta Quest from Meta, by the way. In the same lineup, the company also offers Horizon Home, a virtual living room; Horizon Workrooms, a coworking app; and Horizon Venues, for virtual events. The apps are currently still in beta.