Meta Unveils New Mixed Reality Headset in Push for Traction on Metaverse
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Meta Unveils New Mixed Reality Headset in Push for Traction on Metaverse

Facebook-parent also showcases AI assistants for social apps, new Ray-Ban smart glasses

Thu, Sep 28, 2023 8:04amGrey Clock 3 min

Facebook parent Meta Platforms on Wednesday announced the release date of its coming Quest 3 mixed-reality headset and new Ray-Ban smart glasses along with a bevy of AI assistants for its social apps.

“The limits of your physical space are going to be able to expand,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said when announcing the new products. “You’re going to be able to be a part of much larger worlds.”

The company is hoping the devices will jump-start its push to bring users into the so-called metaverse, an effort on which it has spent billions of dollars and seen limited returns. Apple is set to release its Vision Pro headset in 2024, years after Zuckerberg renamed the company in an attempt to focus on what he’s said may be the next emerging computing platform.

The Quest 3 will place an emphasis on the ability for users to work or play in apps that overlay virtual objects within users’ physical spaces, Zuckerberg said. The headset will begin shipping to users on Oct. 10, with preorders for the $499 device starting on Wednesday. Zuckerberg said the device will place emphasis on the ability for users to work or play in apps that project virtual objects within users’ physical spaces.

Zuckerberg said the company designed the device to have the “world’s best immersive content library.” As part of the presentation, Zuckerberg showed a demonstration of a Lego game and announced that Meta has joined with Microsoft to bring Xbox Cloud Gaming to the device in December. Additionally, Microsoft 365 will come to the Quest by the end of the year, Zuckerberg said.

The Quest 3 “is going to be the best value spatial computing headset on the market for a long time to come,” said Meta Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth, adding that the device features no wires or a battery pack, a shot at Apple’s Vision Pro device. That headset will cost $3,499.

Meta will also release the second generation of its Ray-Ban smart glasses on Oct. 17 for $299. The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that the devices would arrive as soon as this fall.

The second generation Ray-Ban smart glasses will allow users to livestream their perspective to their followers. The new smart glasses will include a 36-hour battery life and will be available in more Ray-Ban models than its predecessor.

The device will also come equipped with Meta AI, an artificial-intelligence assistant announced by Zuckerberg on Wednesday. Users will also be able to point at objects or landmarks they are looking at and ask Meta AI for information about it.

“Smart glasses are the ideal form factor to let an AI assistant see what you’re seeing and hear what you’re hearing,” Zuckerberg said.

Meta AI is built on the company’s Llama 2 large-language model and is a general purpose AI assistant that can answer user questions within Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. Meta AI will be able to provide users with real-time information through a partnership with Microsoft Bing, Zuckerberg said.

Additionally, Meta announced that it will also release 28 AI chatbots that users will be able to interact with. Meta joined with a number of celebrities, including Tom Brady, Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg, whose faces provide facial expressions as users interact with the chatbots. The Journal had previously reported that Meta would release AI chatbots with personalities.

“This is our first effort at training a bunch of AIs that are a bit more fun,” Zuckerberg said, adding that they will have a number of limitations that will become apparent to users.

Zuckerberg said the AI chatbots will be released in a limited beta mode on Wednesday.

In addition to the chatbots, Zuckerberg announced EMU, an AI model capable of taking users’ text prompts and turning them into images within five seconds. EMU, which won’t be open sourced, will be integrated within Meta AI and will roll out to English-speaking users over the next month, starting on Wednesday. The image-generating model will allow users to create custom stickers they can send to friends, and it will also allow users to edit their images on Instagram next month, Zuckerberg said.

—Meghan Bobrowsky contributed to this article.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Car Dealers on Why Some Customers Hesitate With EVs

Concern about electric vehicles’ appeal is mounting as some customers show a reluctance to switch

Mon, Dec 11, 2023 4 min

Auto dealers across many parts of the country say electric vehicles are becoming too hard a sell for buyers worried about the range, reliability and price of these models.

When Paul LaRochelle heard Ford Motor was coming out with an electric pickup truck, the dealer was excited about the prospects for his business.

“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores, which sells vehicles from a dozen brands in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The reality has been less positive. On Sheehy’s car lots, LaRochelle says there is a six- to 12-month supply of EVs, compared with a month of gasoline-powered vehicles.

With automakers set to release a barrage of new electric models in the coming years, concerns are mounting among auto retailers about whether the technology will have broader appeal given that many customers are still reluctant to make the switch.

Battery-powered models have been piling up on car lotsdealers say, as EV sales growth has slowed in the U.S. this year. Car companies have been offering a combination of discounts and lower interest-rate deals in an effort to juice demand. But it hasn’t been enough, because buyer reticence extends beyond the price tag, dealers say.

“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” said Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”

Customers cite concerns about vehicles burning through a battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to travel as far as they expected on a single charge, dealers say. Potential buyers also worry that chargers aren’t as readily accessible as gas stations or might be broken.

Franchise dealerships fear that the push to roll out new models will inundate them with hard-to-sell vehicles. Research firm S&P Global Mobility said there are 56 EV models for sale in the U.S. this year, and the number is expected to nearly double to 100 next year.

“I start to think, you know maybe we should just all pump the brakes a little bit,” Rice said.

A group of dealers expressed their concerns about the government’s role in pushing electric vehicles in a letter last month to President Biden.

A Toyota Motor spokesman said the majority of dealers have become “increasingly more confident in their ability to sell Toyota EV products.”

At Ford, the company’s electric-vehicle sales are rising, including for its F-150 Lightning pickup, but demand isn’t evenly spread across the country, according to a spokesman.

Dealers say that after selling an EV, they sometimes hear complaints about charging and the vehicles not always meeting their advertised range. In some cases, customers seek to return them to the dealer shortly after buying them.

“We have a steady number of clients that have attempted to or flat out returned their car,” said Sheehy’s LaRochelle.

While EVs remain a small but rapidly expanding part of the new-car market, the pace of growth has slowed this year. Electric-vehicle sales increased 48% in the first 11 months, compared with a 69% jump during the same period in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence. Sales remain concentrated in a few states, with California accounting for the largest chunk, S&P Global Mobility data found.

The cooling growth has raised broader questions in the industry about whether car companies face a temporary hurdle or a longer-term demand challenge. Automakers have invested billions of dollars to bring more EV models to the market, and many analysts and car executives say they remain optimistic that sales will continue to expand.

“Although the rate of growth has slowed recently, EV demand is clearly moving in the right direction,” said General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra on a recent conference call with analysts. A combination of more affordable model options and better charging infrastructure would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, she said.

There are also varying views within the dealer community about how quickly buyers will adopt the technology.In hot spots for electric-vehicle demand, such as Los Angeles, dealers say their battery-powered models are some of their top sellers. Those popular EV markets also tend to have more mature public charging networks.

Selling an electric car or truck outside of those demand centres is proving more difficult.

Longtime EV owner Carmella Roehrig thought she was ready to go full-electric and sold her backup gasoline vehicle. But after the 62-year-old North Carolina resident found herself stranded last year in a rural area of South Carolina, she changed her mind. Roehrig’s Tesla Model S got a flat tire, but none of the stores in the area carried tires for a Tesla. She ended up paying a worker at a nearby shop to drive her home.

Roehrig still has her Tesla but bought a pickup truck for long road trips.

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“I have these conversations with people who say we’ll all be in EVs in 15 years. I say: ‘I’m not so sure. I’ve tried to do it,’” Roehrig said. “I think you need a gas backup.”

Customers who want to ditch their gas vehicle for environmental reasons are sometimes hesitant, said Mickey Anderson, president of Baxter Auto Group, which owns dealerships in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.

“We’re in the Colorado Springs market. If this is your sole mode of transportation, and you’re in a market in extremes of elevation and temperature, the actual range is very limited,” Anderson said. “It makes it extremely impractical.”

Dealers representing around 4,000 stores across the U.S. signed the letter in November addressed to Biden, saying the administration’s proposed auto-emissions regulations designed to promote electric-vehicle sales are unrealistic. The signatories ranged from stores owned by family businesses to publicly held giants such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors.

“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them. But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change,” the letter said.

Some carmakers are pushing back EV-rollout plans. GM said in mid-October that it would delay the opening of an electric pickup plant by a year to late 2025. In response to weaker-than-expected consumer demand, Ford said in late October that it would defer $12 billion of planned spending on electric-vehicle investment.

Since September, dealers on average took more than two months to sell an EV, compared with 40 days for all vehicles, according to car-shopping website Edmunds.

While discounts have helped boost sales of some electric vehicles, they also have led to repercussions for some current owners because it reduces the value of their vehicles, dealers say.

“Most people don’t have the confidence to buy an EV and know what it will be worth in 10-15 years,” said Rice from the Toyota dealership.

It may take some time for the industry to adjust because it is still in an early stage of switching to electric vehicles, Sheehy’s LaRochelle said.

“We’re asking for this market to grow organically,” he said.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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