An innocuous screenshot of Meta’s social VR platform shared by CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week saw widespread criticism in the tech sector. Prompted by the reaction, Zuckerberg shared a glimpse of purported visual upgrades headed to the platform.

Last week Meta announced it had expanded its Horizon Worlds social VR platform to new territories (France & Spain). Along with the announcement, CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted an innocuous photo that made rounds in the tech sector as a purported example of the company’s failed attempt to create an appealing virtual world.

Image courtesy Mark Zuckerberg

👋🇫🇷🇪🇦 We’re launching Horizon Worlds in France and Spain today! Looking forward to seeing people explore and build immersive worlds, and to bringing this to more countries soon.

With coverage from The Verge to Forbes, some mocked the photo as evidence that Meta’s vast investment into metaverse and XR technologies has been squandered; others focused on the aesthetic of Horizon Worlds, deriding it as visually unappealing.

The reaction was so widely negative that it prompted Zuckerberg to tease purported forthcoming visual updates to Horizon Worlds.

Major updates to Horizon and avatar graphics coming soon. I’ll share more at Connect. Also, I know the photo I posted earlier this week was pretty basic—it was taken very quickly to celebrate a launch. The graphics in Horizon are capable of much more—even on headsets—and Horizon is improving very quickly.

Considering the performance constraint on the company’s Quest 2 headset, the teased screenshots would be quite impressive for the headset. It isn’t clear if this level of avatar fidelity and lighting would be feasible on a standalone headset, especially with many users in one space.

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Zuckerberg promised to share more on graphics updates to Horizon Worlds at Meta Connect, the company’s annual XR conference which usually happens in late Q3 or early Q4.

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Horizon Worlds is Meta’s social VR platform upon which it has foisted many of its metaverse ambitions. The company hopes users of the platform will build games & worlds and hang out together. The app has had a long and winding path to market and is only just beginning to open in more regions, while slowly testing selling tools to give creators a way to earn real money from the platform—feats which have been pioneered far earlier by competing social VR platforms.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Lhorkan

    > Considering the performance constraint on the company’s Quest 2 headset, the teased screenshots would be quite impressive for the headset. It isn’t clear if this level of avatar fidelity and lighting would be feasible on a standalone headset, especially with many users in one space.

    The avatar is most definitely a render, not an in-engine capture. High resolution soft shadows, sub surface scattering, multiple light sources. Will be interesting to see them in action, in-game.

  • This seems like it will just lead to another PR headache in the opposite direction. The first pic looks like Zuck literally took it himself in five minutes and just fired it off without running it past anyone else in the company. These new pics fall into the other trap of clearly leveraging rendering techniques that at best will not look the same on their current hardware, and thus pitching vaporware that will disappoint people when they do get access to the platform.

    The best approach would have been to, you know, work with the design team within Horizon Worlds to actually stage an in-game screenshot that was put together by environment designers using their in-game tools that looks impressive.

    • “PR headache” is right!! lol
      If the in-HMD finished product doesn’t even come close to what’s
      in this picure, people will NEVER trust Meta’s tech claims again.
      And correctly so: hype is one thing, but outrightly bullshitting consumers …?
      That’s another kettle of fish entirely, and one that Meta would do right to avoid.

    • sfmike

      You are so right but can you trust the PR design team to not overstate what is actually available in Horizon. One of the things that has hurt the platform were the glossy adds for the app that had people flying around in planes and graphics that are still not there yet leaving users disappointed at the reality. People have shown a real amazing amount of creativity in using the tools that are available and I understand the idea of wanting to have the worlds have an artistic cohesiveness, but the results are still underwhelming and the social aspects are tense as just like on Facebook everyone has to be continually worried about always being in good taste and walking on eggshells so as not to have some fragile woman getting you banned for some imagined feeling of discomfort caused by the wrong word, image or opinion. Bottom line is it’s just not that much fun.

      • Hats off to you sfmike, you consistently find a way to wrap your casual misogyny into totally unrelated points that I otherwise agree with.

  • As big an advocate as I am about Quest 2 [Q2] in particular and AIOs in general,
    even I’m having trouble believing Q2 can produce the kind of visuals in that pic …. lol
    In a game, yeah absolutely! But in a MP online sense? I dunno ….
    Color me skeptical: I’ll believe it when we see it. Which should be when,
    late September-early October is when Connects are usually held, right?

    • Arno van Wingerde

      I was sceptical too… but to have the “background”, but then in 3D available plus the avatars seems decidedly possible for the Q2… but we’ll see how good it really is!

  • I want someone to toss boiling hot soup on my eyes.

    • Tommy

      Chicken Noodle or Broccoli and Cheddar?

    • bluetoothbday

      i got a creamy hot soup like liquid if you wish

  • Tommy

    Looks like Zuck’s before and after pics for puberty.

  • Ad

    This is misinformation. The first is concept art, the second is photogrametry.. He is lying. Don’t dance around it. It’s so annoying how journalists probably know or should know when facebook lies, but they humor them and help them trick the public.

    • ApocalypseShadow

      I was thinking along those lines. But also trying to figure out if it was photogrammetry, an AI produced space or an UE5 produced space. And how many can interact in a given space.

      We know PG can look realistic. Because it’s a real location being scanned. And we’ve seen AI draw some amazing pictures and 3D spaces. And we’ve seen UE5 produce some interesting results across platforms. Matrix being one example.

      If they can pull it off, more power to them. If they can’t, they’ll catch all hell. We’ll find out either way pretty soon.

    • ViRGiN

      lmao imagine being so misinformed

  • Trekkie

    Sub surface scattering on the Quest2??? Soft shadows??? AO??? Seriously???

    • After “Red Matter 2”, I’ll believe anything …. lol
      Makes me hold out hope RAD is devving a “Lone Echo”-type title for Quest 2.

      • Trekkie

        Red matter lighting was baked and the level geometry is quite static IMHO. The metaverse is a dynamic editable place and if you need that kind of lighting you need to raytrace.

        • ViRGiN

          or you click “apply level”, and meta bakes it in the cloud, and everyone uses that.

  • Burt Reynolds

    Why aren’t overweight people represented in this virtual environment? 33% of Americans are clinically obese, and this lack of representation is offensive. If I’m going to be a shut-in and rely on VR for stimulation, I’d like it to be inclusive. #phatfeelings

    • Hey man, I just saw “The Longest Yard” the other day for the first time.
      You’re really great in it!
      A really misunderstood & unfairly overlooked movie, if you ask me.
      But to trade twenty plus years in a Deep South prison in exchange
      for winning a football game …?? That part strains credulity a tad. lol

      • Burt Reynolds

        Thanks! It’s always great to hear from a fan. I agree you do need to suspend disbelief a tad, but at the end of the day it turned out to be my 2nd favorite project, second only to Hooper.

    • ViRGiN

      They are over-represented in vrchat. Guess why vrchatians hate anything meta-metaverse? Cause they can’t pretend to be cute 12 year old female child.

    • I have no idea if where you’re coming from with this comment is in good faith or just being weird and trolling, but it’s funny you should say that because that is actually one of the places where I give the work that FB have put out to the public some credit. There’s a much greater range of body types available than you’d normally see in the most recent version of their avatar creator that they’ve been using on Rift and Quest. I don’t know that they go as far as having literally obese sizes, but in general the system they’re using to generate the body shapes is much “rounder” and kinda blobbier than a fixed set of 5-6 types ranging from “ectomorphic stick figure” to “maybe kinda a little pudgy but average still”. I don’t think it’s quite dialed in yet and it results in something that looks kind of androgynous in an unflattering way, but it’s a heck of a lot more range than what you’d normally see.

  • Valhallen

    I went to horizon world for the 1st time and laughed my ass off, it look like it was designed just for kids

  • Ad

    I hadn’t gotten a close enough look. So yes, still unlikely, but not PG (or nearly as good looking as that obviously).

  • peter vasseur

    Yeah I’ll take my wire. Moss2 looks far superior on psvr over q2.