Meta continues to field criticism over how it handles younger consumers using its platforms, but the company is also planning new products that will cater to them. On Monday, the company announced that later this year it will be launching a new education product for Quest to position its VR headset as a go-to device for teaching in classrooms.

The product is yet to be named, but in a blog post describing it, Nick Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs — the ex-politician who has become’s Meta’s executive most likely to be delivering messaging around more controversial and divisive topics — said that it will include a hub for education-specific apps and features, as well as the ability to manage multiple headsets at once without having to update each device individually.

Business models for hardware and services also have yet to be spelled out. With nothing on the table, the company is framing it as a long-term bet.

“We accept that it’s going to take a long time, and we’re not going to be making any money on this anytime soon,” Clegg said in an interview with Axios.

On the plus side, a push into education could mean more diversified content for Quest users, along with a wider ecosystem of developers building for the platform — not the killer app critics say is still missing from VR, but at least more action.

On more problematic ground, the news is coming on the heels of a few other developments at the company that are less positive. Meta’s instant messaging service WhatsApp has been getting a lot of heat over the fact that it is lowering the minimum age for users to 13 in the UK and EU (it had previously been 16).

Monday’s announcement arrives on the heels of Meta prompting Quest users to confirm their age so it can provide teens and preteens with appropriate experiences.

The new initiative will roll out later this year and will only be available to institutions with students 13 years old and up. Meta said it will launch it first in the 20 markets where it already supports Quest for Business, Meta’s workplace-focused $14.99/month subscription. That list includes the U.S. Canada, the United Kingdom and several other English-speaking markets, along with Japan and much of western Europe.

There are a number of companies already in the market exploring the idea of VR in the classroom, with names like ImmersionVR, ClassVR and ArborVR, not to mention the likes of Microsoft, which has been pushing its HoloLens as an educational tool for a while now.

It’s not clear how ubiquitous VR use is in schools: one provider, ClassVR, claims that 40,000 classrooms worldwide are using its products.

But all the same, there remain hurdles to mass market usage. It’s not clear, for example, whether strapping a headset to someone’s face is necessarily a help in a live, educational environment, considering some of the research around young people already getting too much screen time as it is.

And another big question mark will relate to the cost of buying headsets — Quest 3’s, the latest headsets, start at around $500 apiece for basic models — buying apps and then subsequently supporting all of that infrastructure. Meta said that it has already donated Quest headsets to 15 universities in the U.S., but it’s not clear how far it will go to subsidise growth longer-term. 

 

Lauren Forristal

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