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Meta plans to make VR headset business-friendly

Meta will eventually let companies create and manage accounts for its virtual reality headsets. The move is part of a push to make the hardware more appealing to business.

Meta's decision to no longer require a Facebook login for its virtual reality headsets is an early step toward allowing companies to create work accounts for the devices.

Starting in August, the company will no longer require a Facebook account to use its VR hardware. Instead, people will create a new profile, called a Meta account, that's not connected to their social media.

Next year, Meta plans to allow companies to create business Meta accounts for workers, manage VR headsets and provide single sign-on for employees. Meta did not provide further details about these capabilities.

The Facebook login requirement had sparked complaints and privacy worries, leading some organizations to seek a workaround. Stanford University uses Meta's headsets in its courses on VR, said Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of the institution's Virtual Human Interaction Lab. To ensure student privacy, the lab had to seek Meta's help in creating anonymized accounts for classroom use.

"[I] am thrilled to see the separation of hardware from social media," Bailenson said.

Meta's vision for the metaverse
Meta will let companies create work accounts for its VR headsets, a key step toward readying the devices for business.

Even when Facebook logins didn't create more work for organizations, they sometimes caused confusion.

Training firm Osso VR offers simulated operations to teach surgical techniques to doctors. Many medical schools and healthcare companies use the Meta Quest 2 headset to access Osso's training program because of the device's $299 price tag and high degree of immersion, CEO Justin Barad said.

However, trainees must log in with their social media accounts before signing onto Osso's platform, a requirement that seemed unnecessary.

"[It] was definitely seen as a suboptimal system," Barad said. "It felt disconnected from the use case at hand."

The recent change should increase the likelihood of healthcare companies using the Quest 2 for training, Barad said.

Next month, people who use Meta headsets will have to create Meta accounts and customize their avatar appearance and profile name.

Meta has an early lead in the VR headset market. The company's Quest 2 accounted for 90% of headset sales in the first quarter of this year, according to IDC. The device's sales far exceeded the second place ByteDance Pico headset, which held 4.5% of the market.

However, Meta faces stiff competition for augmented reality (AR) and VR customers. Microsoft's $3,500 HoloLens 2 AR headset has a foothold in the enterprise market because of features like managing access to data through Microsoft's Azure Active Directory. Microsoft also plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, bringing that company's expertise in building virtual worlds for gaming to Microsoft's future AR and VR products.

Rival Apple plans to release a VR or AR headset next year, according to Bloomberg. The company has not publicly announced a device.

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily NewsWalpole TimesSharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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