In an ambitious move to extend the reach of its metaverse, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has announced the expansion of its Horizon Worlds from a purely virtual reality domain to a wider audience of smartphone and desktop users. This step, reflecting Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s expansive vision for a more inclusive metaverse, comes at a time when tech enthusiasts and analysts closely watch the race to establish a dominant space in the virtual realm.
Extending the horizon
Meta’s recent blog post, dated September 15th, heralded the early access rollout of Horizon Worlds to both mobile and web platforms. This foray introduces the experience, previously limited to those with VR headsets, to a broader audience, potentially changing the game for the platform.
The first available experience for these newly supported platforms is ‘Super Rumble,’ a free-for-all shooter game. Launched in late July, Super Rumble offers quick, adrenaline-charged five-minute matches where two to six players can engage in virtual combat. This is merely the tip of the iceberg, as Meta has promised more interactive worlds and experiences in the forthcoming months.
The company has chosen a phased approach for this rollout, giving only a select few immediate access via the web and the Meta Quest app for Android. However, Apple users won’t be left out for long, with an iOS release looming in the upcoming weeks. According to Meta, the goal is to “roll out [early access] to more people gradually as we gather feedback and evolve the experience.” Their mission statement resonates with the tech community: “The metaverse should be available to everyone — no matter what device they’re on.”
Comparative journeys and user expansion
While Meta’s trajectory has taken Horizon Worlds from VR to web and mobile, other competitors in the space, notably blockchain-backed metaverse platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox, initiated their journeys differently. Both started as experiences tailored for PC and web, with Decentraland unveiling its browser-based 3D virtual world back in February 2020, followed by The Sandbox’s Alpha version in November 2021. Notably, neither has yet ventured into an official VR space.
Stepping forward with legs
An amusing yet vital update also graced the recent Horizon Worlds’ improvements. The avatars in the virtual space have now been bestowed with virtual legs, a feature long clamored for by users and critics alike. Observers had previously criticized Zuckerberg and Meta for the oversight, humorously pointing out that despite hefty investments, their avatars seemed ‘incomplete.’
During the Connect 2022 event, Meta addressed these concerns, assuring users that an update in 2023 would rectify this. True to their word, reports have emerged that this ‘leggy’ functionality was introduced as a test in the Quest Home space a few weeks ago. Now, with growing excitement, users have reported the long-awaited legs’ appearance in the Horizon Worlds app.
As the boundaries between reality and the virtual world continue to blur, Meta’s steps to broaden access to its Horizon Worlds offer a compelling glimpse into a future where digital spaces are as integral to our experiences as the physical world. As this transition unfolds, it remains to be seen how such platforms will evolve, interact, and reshape our digital lives.