Hands-on preview of Meta Quest 3 reveals big mixed reality upgrades

Hands-on preview of Meta Quest 3 reveals big mixed reality upgrades

A hands-on preview of the Meta Quest 3 highlights improved mixed reality, an automatic guardian, and refined color passthrough.

Mark Gurman of Bloomberg is recognized as one of the best sources of information about Apple products. He got a rare opportunity to experience a prototype of Meta's Quest 3 before its official launch later this year.

This early access was no doubt provided by Meta as a way to remind Apple fans that it's the established XR headset leader. Meta has a considerable lead on Apple with a massive library of games and apps for owners of the Quest 2, Quest Pro, and the upcoming Quest 3 to choose from.

Quest 3 mixed reality upgrades

Gurman highlighted mixed reality as the Quest 3 feature with the most significant upgrades. The new VR headset will reportedly feature 3 "pill-shaped sensors," two color passthrough cameras on the left and right, plus a depth sensor in the middle.

The Quest 2 has monochrome tracking cameras repurposed to offer a grayscale mixed reality view. While that was a clever use of existing technology in 2020, expectations have climbed for this year.

The Quest Pro features an upgraded hybrid passthrough that merges the stereo grayscale view with a single color camera. The result is okay, with an occasional glimpse of monochrome edges on hands and nearby objects.

Apple's XR headset is expected to have a very realistic mixed reality mode. Gurman was impressed by Meta's upgrades but not blown away, stating, "While I don't believe the Quest 3's video pass-through performance will come close to that of the Apple device (which will have about a dozen cameras), it is a night-and-day improvement over the Quest 2."

He went on to describe the mixed reality view in more detail, stating, "Due to the dual RGB color cameras, video pass-through on the Quest 3 presented colors more accurately and offered an almost lifelike rendering of the real world. I was even able to use my phone while wearing the headset, something that often feels impossible on a Quest 2."

That sounds like a major upgrade, even over the Quest Pro's color passthrough.


Quest 3 depth sensor

Gurman says the Quest 3 includes a depth sensor. Project Cambria (the Quest Pro) was designed to use a depth sensor, but that part was canceled before production began.

A depth sensor allows the VR headset to calculate the distance to objects to create a 3D map of the play area. This should eliminate the need to draw a guardian, making setup quick and easy even if you move to different locations.

CAD blueprint shows the front of Meta Quest 3 with passthrough sensor technology.

Leaked CAD file render shows the inner workings of the Quest 3. | Image: SadlyitsBradley

When your room is mapped, there's great potential for mixed reality games and apps that let you interact with your environment. Bouncing balls off your wall or table, placing virtual furniture and decorations in your physical space, or ducking behind a cabinet for cover in an XR shootout.

More Quest 3 details

So far, Gurman is describing a Quest 3 very much like the CAD renders that Brad Lynch leaked in 2022, along with incredibly accurate details of the Quest Pro. Meta found the source of those leaks in February, greatly slowing the flow of unauthorized information about Meta's future plans.

Gurman detailed several more upgrades. The Quest 3's controllers could look the same as the Quest Pro's controllers, but in gray.

The Quest 3 will reportedly be slimmer and lighter. The price is still unknown, but will be a fraction of the cost of Apple's headset, somewhere between $400 and $600. Gurman expects the Quest 3 to launch in October 2023.

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Sources: Bloomberg