Like many companies, Meta isn’t throwing the “metaverse” word around with quite the same enthusiasm as a few years back, but the company’s recent Connect presentation shows that it’s still very much in the game.
During his presentation last week, company chief Mark Zuckerberg enthused about a ream of new launches and technologies ranging from augmented reality to AI trinkets, to camera-enabled Ray Ban glasses. He repeatedly referred back to connecting human activity to online social and play spaces.
For gamers, the most interesting product is the company’s newest entry into the virtual reality market, in the form of Meta Quest 3, which will be launched in August next year with a retail price of $500 for the 128 GB version, with a pricier 512 GB option also available.
The device features two displays with 2064×2208 pixel resolution per eye and a faster refresh rate running at 90Hz. The headset hardware is based on the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2, delivering “double the GPU processing power for faster load times and more seamless gameplay compared to Meta Quest 2,” according to the company.
With 18 Pixels Per Degree resolution in Pass-through mode (AR), it has ten times the resolution of Quest 2 and double the resolution of Quest Pro, which currently retails at three times the price, and was only introduced a year ago. Integrated 3D spatial stereo speakers deliver a 40 percent louder audio and bass range. Weighing in at 515 grams, it has 40 percent slimmer optics, compared with Quest 2.
Calling it “the first mainstream mixed reality headset,” Zuckeberg showed how Quest 3 delivers high-fidelity views of your surroundings – such as your living space – mixed with virtual objects, including games. “It understands your space, so you can play with the world around you,” he said, while demonstrating a variety of AR tabletop games, such as Lego Bricktales, Bam, and Les Mills Bodycombat.
“You can solve Lego puzzles or build your own creations on any flat surface in your room. You can play games like Bam with your friends sitting around a table, whether you’re physically right there together, or even if they’re far away,” he added. “If you’re doing a body combat workout, the targets are gonna come at you in your physical room.”
He said that the AR system’s RGB cameras mean that Quest 3 “automatically maps the space that you’re in … which makes it so that if you pick up a digital ball and throw it at the physical wall, it’ll bounce off it, or if someone’s shooting at you [in a game] and you want to duck the fire – just get behind your physical couch.”
Of course, there have been plenty of tilts at the AR market including technologically impressive entries like Magic Leap and the incoming Apple Vision Pro. But Quest 3 is clearly a consumer-oriented device, with an attractive price. It also offers backwards compatibility with the three-year old Quest 2, for those of us who are upgrading.
Common to all these AR devices is the ability to consume two-dimensional content through a large, virtual screen dropped into your living space. Meta has teamed up with various entertainment providers to bring Xbox Cloud Gaming, NBA games, and professional ring fighting tournaments to Quest.
Users will also be able to decorate their physical spaces with “augments” such as digital works of art or weather alerts which are always in the same place, and always on while you wear the device. These can be self-created works, as well as images taken from social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Chief technology officer Andrew Bosworth took over from Zuckerberg to speak in more detail about Quest 3. “No more manually setting up your [play area] boundary,” he said. “Quest 3 does that automatically – it maps your space and understands elements like walls, furniture and objects [so] games can bring your surroundings into their gameplay.”
Quest 3 also comes with redesigned controllers. “You can say goodbye to the tracking ring,” said Bosworth. “This allows for a much slicker, more ergonomic design that feels like a natural extension of your hand. With hand tracking and a new direct touch system, you can put down your controllers and interact with Quest in the same way that you would a touchscreen.”
Head of developer relations Melissa Brown said that more than 100 “new and upgraded” titles are coming to Quest 3 in the next year, more than half of which featuring mixed reality. Incoming games include Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord, Stranger Things VR, Samba de Amigo, and Roblox. The company is also launching a subscription service offering two games a month to those who buy-in, as well as a free six month subscription for buyers of the higher specced version of the device.
Brown showed off Quest 3’s avatar system which she said “can represent a much wider range of people,” with “more options for body types, makeup and face paint, hair color and more.”
Meta has spent an eye-watering amount of money on its Reality Labs division, which is tasked with exploring VR and the metaverse. Losses last year ran to more than $13 billion. But while VR has yet to make the mass market breakthrough promised by early boosters, the Quest 3 has found a positive reception among critics who have played with the device (albeit, in a carefully curated environment, and only for an hour or so).
The Verge’s hands-on demo reported that Quest 3 seems “notably improved” in mixed reality mode. “Its passthrough seems noticeably less grainy than the Quest Pro’s and vastly better than the fuzzy black-and-white feed on the Quest 2,” wrote Adi Robertson, though she wondered if there is going to be enough variety in terms of games on offer.
Engadget’s Sam Rutherford enthused: “Right away, everything just looks sharper, hand movements feel more precise and even audio sounds more immersive. You can also feel that increased performance, most noticeably when switching between VR and the pass-through cameras.”
For Mashable, Alex Perry wrote that “the new passthrough features on Quest 3 allow for really neat experiences that the Quest 2 just couldn’t do”.
You can find out more about Quest 3 here.