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FTC case testimony shows Zuckerberg’s obsession with fitness VR

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — One day in February 2021, Michael Verdu wrote to some of his colleagues that their boss, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, had asked him to look into acquiring a virtual reality-powered fitness app. It’s a “pretty strong signal that he cares about the category,” Verdu wrote.

Verdu, Meta’s former vice president of augmented reality and virtual reality who left the company in 2021, recently testified in federal court that the conversation was one of several he had with other Meta executives over the last couple of years to figure out how to expand into the virtual reality-powered fitness market.

“My recollection is we were pretty aligned in looking at it as a way to broaden the audience for VR,” Verdu said.

Lawyers for the FTC have been using Verdu’s and other Meta employees’ testimony to make the argument that Facebook’s parent company is squashing competition in the niche market of virtual reality-powered fitness apps by buying the maker of the popular workout game “Supernatural.”

The FTC’s case hinges on the idea that Meta’s decision to acquire Within rather than create its own VR fitness app deprives consumers of vibrant choices in the market sometime in the future. Meta’s lawyers have countered that the company was never serious about building its own fitness app because it would have been too complicated a process. Zuckerberg is expected to testify soon about Meta’s acquisition in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Testimony this past week and a half about Meta’s years-long effort to expand into the virtual reality-powered fitness market has revealed just how difficult the company’s larger goal of building the metaverse has become. Meta has staked its future on the idea that people one day will want to work with their colleagues, shop with their friends and spend time with their loved ones in immersive digital realms that are accessed through augmented and virtual reality services.

Meta has funneled billions of dollars into trying to make its metaverse vision a reality. Even as the company suffered…


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