Almost 10,000 Facebook Employees Working on AR and VR
Over the past few years, Facebook spelled out an aggressive strategy for developing its consumer hardware to lessen its dependence on Apple and Google which currently build the two dominant mobile operating systems. Internal organizational data seen by The Information shows that about one-fifth of Facebook’s total global workforce or close to some 10,000 employees are currently working in the development of its AR and VR devices.
According to Facebook‘s own information, the company employed 58,000 full-time specialists at the end of 2020 and about 17% of these employees are working on its XR technologies. This represents close to a fifth of its workforce working on the computing platforms of the future.
It is unclear how much Facebook has invested in its XR research and development efforts. However, revenues from these projects are likely disproportionate to the scale of investments it has committed into its AR/VR efforts. In the fourth quarter of 2020, virtual reality sales accounted for roughly 3% of Facebook’s total sales with the remaining 97% coming from its advertising business.
Mark Zuckerberg has termed Facebook’s VR and AR investments as high priority and has repeatedly defended them at the company’s earnings calls every quarter. The Facebook boss sees XR as the computing platform of the future and wants Facebook to be in the driving seat in ushering in this new computing era. The goal, ultimately, is for Facebook to break out of the currently dominant and conventional smartphone ecosystem that is dominated by Google and Apple.
To realize these goals, Facebook Reality Labs is working on a number of XR projects that include both hardware and software development. Some of Facebook’s projects such as the development of ultra-slim and powerful Augmented Reality glasses are a long-term goal and will be ready in 5 to 10 years.
Some of Facebook’s known XR products and research projects include the following: –
- Oculus Quest VR Headsets: A next-generation product is already under development.
- VR game development by the first-party studios Beat Games, Ready at Dawn, and Sanzaru Games all of which have been acquired by Facebook in the past year or so.
- The Facebook metaverse Horizon
- Research on next-generation VR technology such as the Half-Dome
- The smartphone AR platform SparkAR
- The AR-compatible video chat device Portal
- The AR research project Project Aria
- New smart Facebook data glasses in collaboration with Ray-Ban set to appear in 2021
- Advanced augmented reality glasses which have been codenamed, Orion
- A smartwatch set to be released in 2022 combined with a neural interface and haptic simulation
- Haptic gloves for AR and VR
- A Facebook Assistant that is similar to the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
- An operating system specifically for VR and AR devices
- A chip specially developed for AR glasses
- Live Maps, a 3D mapping service for the Augmented Reality cloud infrastructure.
As part of its long-term XR investment plans, Facebook is building an office complex that includes a campus for the exclusive use of its Facebook Reality Labs employees. The construction of the campus costs $500 million and it provides space for about 4,000 employees on more than 70,000 square meters of space. The complex is situated close to Facebook headquarters.