EDITORIAL: Two Recent YouTube Videos Take Aim at Mark Zuckerberg, Meta, and Meta’s Virtual Reality Hardware and Software Development

Horizon Workrooms get savaged in a highly critical review video by The Verge, a sign of the growing antipathy toward’s Meta virtual reality hardware and software strategy

This is worth negative ten billion dollars. I would pay ten billion dollars to never use this again. I wanted to have hope that we could do this, and it would be fun, but I mean, you guys agree that this one of the most buggy software experiences, ever.

—Alex Heath, The Verge (transcribed audio excerpt from the video below)

I’m still percolating, alas, but I did want to share with my readers a couple of YouTube videos which caught my attention.

The first, a 15-minute editorial video by The Verge‘s Adi Robertson, discusses Meta’s new Quest Pro VR headset and its Horizon Worlds and Horizon Workrooms social VR experiences. She and her colleagues did not hold back in their criticisms of both, particularly the Horizon platforms (the quote at the top of this blogpost comes from another writer for The Verge, as a group was kicking the tires on Horizon Workrooms).

The Verge staff make it very clear that they are less than impressed with what is on offer from Meta, and that they do not believe that remote workteams will be using either the Quest Pro or Horizon Workrooms, over a Zoom call.

The popular virtual reality YouTuber ThrillSeeker goes even further in the following 15-minute video, which has already racked up over 400,000 views:

In it, he takes Mark Zuckerberg and his team at Meta to task for dropping the ball with their virtual reality hardware and software strategy to date:

How in the hell did it go so wrong that Meta and Horizon have become the laughingstock of hundreds of videos and publications, and that Quests, for the most part, are just sitting on shelves collecting dust?

Meta, I understand that you are a massive corporation…and that running a business like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus is probably incredibly difficult.

But you have somehow managed to turn one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life, into one of the lamest jokes in tech.


Among many other criticisms, he accuses Meta (rightfully) of focusing on wireless VR headsets to the exclusion of high-end PCVR (that is, headsets like his and my beloved Valve Index, which require a good desktop computer with a powerful graphics card, and can run a lot of applications which wireless headsets would struggle with.

What I find so fascinating about both these videos is that they are emblematic of a rising tide of antipathy against Meta, as it tries to repivot to become a metaverse company, sinking tens of billions of dollars a year into a VR/AR strategy that might take a decade or longer before it goes truly mainstream (that is, beyond the early adopters and the hardcore gamers). Both videos mention the recent massive layoffs at Meta, a further sign that all is not well with the company as it struggles to find the next big thing after social networking.

Mark Zuckerberg is placing a very expensive bet on virtual and augmented reality and the metaverse, but will that big bet pay off, and when? Stay tuned.

UPDATED! Stupid Second Life Tricks: How to Make Your Avatar Come Alive from a Single Profile Picture!

Jo Yardley, the irrepressible Second Life 1920s Berlin landlady, really got my attention on Twitter when she posted the following video of her Second Life avatar, looking around and smiling at times, in a very realistic way that no facial animation override could yet match (check it out for yourself):

When I asked Jo how she accomplished this miracle, she referred me to the MyHeritage Deep Nostalgia website, which allows you to input a still photo, and generate a video from it, where the head, face, eyes, and mouth move!

Now, there is a catch: you do need to sign up for a 14-day free trial period on your credit card in order to use this tool. But once you have done that, you can submit as many pictures and photos as you like, play around with it a bit, and get comfortable with the video output (which can be saved to your hard drive as a MP4-format video file).

Here’ a sample starting picture, a profile of my main male avatar, Heath Homewood:

And here’s the resulting video:

Another starting picture:

And the resulting video:

Starting picture:

Resulting video:

Starting picture:

Resulting video:

So, as you can see, you can have a lot of fun with this! Please note that portraits which are facing straight-on into the camera tend to work the best; several I tested where the avatar was looking to one side or the other, or who had their head at a slight tilt, did not turn out as well, and a few turned out be Uncanny Valley material! So, your mileage may vary. But, if you’ve ever wondered how your avatar would look if she or he were alive, this is a cool way to find out.

It would appear that you can submit as many pictures of avatars as you wish (and download as many short videos as you wish) during your free trial period. Once you are done, simply cancel your free trial before your credit card is charged, and then to be doubly sure, delete your account completely (unless you actually want to use MyHeritage website to embark on the study of your family’s genealogy!).

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your stupid Second Life trick of the day! You can red more about MyHeritage’s new tool in this report from TheNextWeb.

UPDATE March 2nd: The BBC has weighed in on the new MyHeritage AI tool:

Genealogy site MyHeritage has introduced a tool which uses deepfake technology to animate the faces in photographs of dead relatives. Called DeepNostalgia, the firm acknowledged that some people might find the feature “creepy” while others would consider it “magical”.

It said it did not include speech to avoid the creation of “deepfake people”. It comes as the UK government considers legislation on deepfake technology…

“This feature is intended for nostalgic use, that is, to bring beloved ancestors back to life,” it wrote in its FAQs about the new technology.

But it also acknowledged that “some people love the Deep Nostalgia feature and consider it magical, while others find it creepy and dislike it”.

“The results can be controversial, and it’s hard to stay indifferent to this technology.”

Here’s a promotional video for MyHeritage featuring a reanimated Abraham Lincoln, You can judge for yourself how successful this is (I personally don’t find it very convincing, something about the face looks off, somehow):

I think a service such as this would work better with social VR and virtual world avatars, where there is an expectation that what you see is not meant to be “real”.