On Tuesday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the Meta Quest Pro, the company’s newest virtual reality headset, would retail for $1,500 and begin selling on October 25.
At Meta’s Connect conference, Zuckerberg unveiled the gadget to the virtual and augmented reality development community.
The new headgear is $1,100 more expensive than Meta’s Quest 2 headset, but it features cutting-edge technologies like an upgraded mobile Snapdragon computer chip co-developed with Qualcomm that allows for more complex visuals.
New lenses and updated touch controllers make reading on the Quest Pro a more pleasurable experience.
The new headset has mixed-reality capabilities, allowing users to combine virtual and real-world environments. Zuckerberg has hailed this as a key component in the development of the metaverse, a term for the digital worlds that users of VR and AR devices can visit.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, made an appearance at the online event and spoke about his company’s plans to join Meta in order to bring some of Microsoft’s work-collaboration software to Quest VR devices.
Users of Quest devices will have access to a number of Microsoft services, including the Team chat app, the Microsoft 365 suite of work tools, and the Xbox cloud gaming service.
Nadella has announced that Xbox controllers would be compatible with the Quest’s huge projection screen, allowing passengers to play 2D games using their Xbox Ones. As they say, “It’s early days, but we’re thrilled for what’s to come.”
In noon trading, Meta shares dropped 4.5% to $127.85, revealing investors’ lukewarm reaction to the new VR headgear.
The latest VR headset from Meta is impressive. Here’s why you’re unlikely to buy it.
The newest VR headset from Meta is the sleek and powerful Meta Quest Pro. Because it renders text and tiny details in VR, it makes it possible to read even small types with ease. It has the ability to monitor your eyes and facial characteristics, creating a more immersive experience by allowing you to interact with other users in virtual worlds by mimicking their movements and expressions. It’s also a mixed-reality headset, so you can see the physical world in full colour while interacting with virtual ones, whether you’re using it to paint on a virtual easel or play mini-golf on a virtual course.
Meta debuted a new black headset on Tuesday during a live-streamed event, but it’s likely out of your price range. Almost four times as expensive as the company’s entry-level Quest 2 headset, it retails for $1,500 (1,499.99 to be exact). Because of its high cost, relatively low power, and limited potential, this headset is mostly marketed to companies (like those employing architects and designers) with large pockets.
The Quest Pro is available for pre-order as of Tuesday, with a 25 October delivery date promised to satisfied customers. It is sold by Meta itself and may be ordered from their website, as well as at Best Buy, Best Buy Online, and Amazon in the United States.
For Meta (and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg), the Quest Pro’s capabilities represent a watershed moment in a multi-year, multi-billion dollar effort to prepare for a future in which people spend more and more time in virtual places and blend digital and real-world aspects. Reality Labs, the company’s virtual reality division, is still small and expensive in comparison to its core business, which is selling ads on Facebook and Instagram. According to Meta, Reality Labs was responsible for a $2.8 billion loss in the company’s second fiscal quarter of 2018.
Additionally, this represents a significant shift in corporate strategy, as it demonstrates that the company is now actively marketing its most cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) technology to corporate clients in the hopes that these clients will embrace the use of VR and mixed-reality applications in the workplace. Although this strategy has potential financial rewards, it runs the risk of turning off its consumer virtual reality business (the company plans, from here on out, to have two Quest product lines and to use the higher-end one to decide which features to add to the less expensive one).
Companies like Microsoft and Magic Leap have spent years trying to convince business customers that their more expensive mixed-reality headsets are the future of the workplace, so this move could be unsettling for them. (Microsoft, the creator of the mixed-reality HoloLens device, is hedging its bets by adding its software to the Quest Pro and Quest 2 in cooperation announced on Tuesday at Meta’s Connect event, which focuses on its newest breakthroughs in virtual reality and associated technologies.)
It’s also unclear if and how this potent tool will aid in Meta’s efforts to promote the so-called metaverse, in which Zuckerberg so fervently believes that he rebranded Facebook as Meta in 2021. While Meta’s Quest 2 headgear for consumers has been a runaway success, the market for virtual reality headsets is still in its infancy when compared to other entertainment mediums like console gaming.
Last week, I visited a Meta office outside San Francisco and spent several hours using the Quest Pro, coming away equally impressed and befuddled. It became immediately apparent that this is not a headset designed for the public, a move that may disappoint those Quest 2 owners who have been hoping for an update to their current headset for two years. Still, it’s an intriguing preview of what future virtual reality (VR) and mixed-reality (MR) experiences might look like in terms of visual quality, entertainment value, and ease of use.
Facial and eye tracking
Meta removed the battery from the Quest Pro’s primary body, curled it, and relocated it behind the wearer’s head, creating a very different aesthetic from the Quest 2. Its design is reminiscent of the HoloLens 2 in that it has a dial on the back of the head strap for fine adjustment (which makes it much easier for those of us who wear glasses to keep them on while using VR). If you have long hair, the dial can also help you put on and take off the headset with ease.
This new design may not be as comfortable for certain people to wear, especially for long periods of time. I had to continually adjust the strap around my head because of the extra load and because there was only one adjustment knob. Over the course of almost two hours, I wore many of the same headsets for demonstrations ranging from digital painting to DJing, and I ended up with a severe headache.
The Quest Pro’s ability to follow a user’s eyes and face is a particularly impressive addition, and it could lead to a more immersive experience when engaging with virtual characters. The five infrared sensors in the headgear record your facial expressions in great detail, including where you are looking and whether you are smirking, smiling, frowning, or raising an eyebrow. This tracking is disabled by default, and Meta has stated that it processes eye and face images on the headset before erasing them, a policy that will remain in effect even if app developers choose to enable it.
In order to get a sense of the new tracking system, I experimented with a demo of a green-faced extraterrestrial character dubbed Aura that Meta is making available to developers. With the Quest Pro on my head, I could mimic Aura’s facial expressions in real-time. This included smiling, sneering, winking, scrunching up my eyes, wriggling my nose, etc (unfortunately, there is no tongue tracking). At this early stage, Aura’s face imitation already showed amazing responsiveness and specificity.
After Zuckerberg received widespread online criticism in August for a Facebook post showcasing a photograph of his blocky, cartoon-like avatar in Horizon Worlds, the major social programme developed by Meta, this type of surveillance feels like a move in the direction of what Zuckerberg promised was coming. Quest Pro customers will be able to utilise it in Horizon Workrooms and other third-party apps like Painting VR and Tribe XR, Meta stated.
Modernized control devices
The headset is also not meant to completely block out external light, making it more of a mixed-reality headset than a virtual-reality headset. This is a radical shift from Meta’s prior emphasis on immersive VR, in which your real-world surroundings were more of a hindrance than an advantage. Magnetic light-blocking plates that attach to the sides help block even more light, and beginning in late November, Meta will sell a $50 accessory designed to completely shut out the surrounding environment.
The company is trying to get its customers to feel more connected to its surroundings by allowing some ambient light in. The Quest Pro expands on this by utilising colour imagery captured by the headset’s exterior cameras (as opposed to the Quest 2’s monochrome imagery) and continues Meta’s recent push toward enabling programmes to interact with the physical world.
This was on show as I painted a virtual canvas in Painting VR while moving around a real-world setup that included a shelf of real-life paints and a stand for virtual brushes and tools. I was able to observe my surroundings and receive guidance from the app’s developer while I mixed paints, grabbed brushes, and displayed my completed (though terrible) painting on the actual wall behind me.
The Quest Pro’s hand controllers are a significant upgrade over the Quest 2’s and will play a pivotal role in virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) applications. Each controller now has three sensors built right in so that you don’t need your headset to assist you to figure out where you are in space. This implies they are capable of monitoring movement in all directions, which should improve hand and arm tracking in software. (Unfortunately, they won’t be able to monitor your legs in VR, but Zuckerberg revealed on Tuesday that Meta will use AI to bring full-body avatars into Horizon Worlds).
Wearing a Meta Oculus Quest 2 VR headset at the media preview of the Meta Store on May 4, 2022, in Burlingame, California, United States. Meta Platforms Inc., the company that owns Facebook, has opened its first retail store in California with the goal of introducing customers to virtual reality through hands-on experiences.
Each controller includes a pressure sensor that allows for finer control over movement than is possible with the standard Quest 2 controllers. In a demonstration, I attempted picking up and tossing around a number of different little objects, including a teacup, some bricks, and a garden gnome. Teacups are fragile, but I found that if I picked them up carefully, especially by the handle, I wouldn’t break them (I mostly crushed them).
When Facebook acquired VR headset maker Oculus in 2014, the possibilities for devices like the Quest Pro and these controllers looked far-fetched. They do not require a powerful computer or the installation of a plethora of external sensors. Eight years and many billions of dollars later, we know and expect more from VR than we did back when it was still considered a niche technology. The headgear may deliver in terms of technology, but whether or not it’s worth the price to consumers is up in the air.
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