Meta stops major VR AR project – report
Meta has disbanded the project team for a comprehensive, new XR operating system for its own VR and AR devices. This is officially confirmed by the company. The employees of the OS team are to contribute their knowledge directly to the product teams instead.
Back in early January, the website The Information reported that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was said to have stopped work on the XR operating system called “XROS” in November 2021. XROS was to be a Metaverse operating system rethought and developed from the ground up. The software is said to have been in development since 2017 and most recently employed more than 300 skilled workers.
XROS is on ice
Following The Information’s revelation in January, Meta initially denied claims that the OS project had been halted. Meta manager Gabriel Aul described “different directions” in which Meta was moving. He said a “highly specialized OS” for its own devices was still in the works. The team would grow, not shrink.
Now The Information is again reporting that the 300-person OS team has been disbanded. The site refers to information from three sources close to the company.
The site speculates that the maneuver is a cost-cutting measure and that Meta wants to move faster on product development. The 300 people from the OS team were assigned to other projects.
Meta spokeswoman Sheeva Slovan confirmed the internal reorganization efforts. She said the direct integration of the OS team into the various AR and VR teams will speed up the developments of specific “solutions” within the product lines. However, Meta wants to continue building “highly specialized systems,” as previously described by Aul in January.
Meta’s Metaverse OS: Android is faster and cheaper
These specialized systems could be further developments of the current Meta OS based on Android, which is also used for the Quest product line. This is faster and cheaper for Meta, at least in the short term, as VR developer Guy Godin (VR Desktop) explains on Twitter.
A new OS from scratch would have serious consequences for Meta’s content suppliers, according to Godin: Every app in the Quest Store would have to be “updated, recompiled and some parts would need to be re-implemented entirely in order to be compatible.” This enormous amount of work might not be worth a new operating system, Godin suspects.
For Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, however, it means that his company will have to continue using software from its biggest competitor Google for the time being, even in the Metaverse era.
Meta’s former OS team leader Mark Lucovsky now works in a similar position at Google parent Alphabet, which is said to be developing Project Iris AR glasses including an AR operating system. Code leaks suggest that Apple is also working on an XR operating system.
The fact that Meta wants to act faster in product development could be related to the increasingly concrete rumors about Apple’s XR glasses, which are supposed to appear at the end of 2022.
In addition, Meta’s stock price is coming under increasing pressure as investments in the Metaverse are massive, but the XR division is growing slowly while user and revenue growth in the core Social business is slowing. A strong Apple headset could also put pressure on Meta in its new business segment.