Meta Quest 3 probably goes full mixed reality - and rightly so
Meta Quest 3 could do without eye tracking and focus on mixed reality instead. Is this a good decision on Meta's part?
This week, blueprints of the Meta Quest 3 were leaked. VR leaker Brad Lynch published the images in a YouTube video along with further information from sources close to the company. Lynch had already leaked the build plans of the Meta Quest Pro, which later turned out to be authentic.
Nevertheless, caution is advised: The new pictures could be one of several prototypes of the Meta Quest 3, which is not necessarily the device that will probably be launched next year. Meta itself has not yet announced a successor for the Meta Quest 2.
Meta Quest 3: A necessary compromise
If it is indeed Meta Quest 3, this indicates a surprising turn in Meta's VR strategy. While Zuckerberg still said in the spring that eye and face tracking would have top priority for the "next Quest", the construction plans speak a different language.
The device does away with the sensors on the inside of the headset and instead relies on four outdoor cameras and a depth sensor. Meta thus prioritizes mixed reality and hand tracking at the expense of eye tracking and more believable social interactions, at least for Meta Quest 3.
Meta Quest Pro does not have to make such technical compromises, as it may cost several times more than Meta Quest 3. Pancake lenses, five new sensors, and a next-gen SoC - there's probably no room for eye and face tracking in the cheaper headset.
What is the point of eye and face tracking?
It's a painful compromise, but one that the Meta Quest 3's target audience will get over. What exactly will they lose, the large mass of VR users?
On the one hand, gaze-controlled interactions, and on the other hand, more realistic avatars that can make eye contact and reflect the facial expressions of their users.
The former is not a killer feature, the latter only comes into play in social VR apps. However, social experiences and multiplayer games now account for more than half of usage time, as Meta recently revealed. A trend that eye and face tracking could further accelerate.
Of course, there is foveated rendering, which could be removed by the lack of eye tracking. At the moment, however, it is still unclear whether the rendering technology really brings advantages for standalone headsets. Hope is raised by a firmware find that suggests Meta Quest Pro supports foveated rendering or a related rendering technology.
Mixed Reality takes precedence
The advantages of mixed reality and hand tracking are now obvious: Both technologies lower the barriers to entry and make virtual reality accessible to the masses. And that's exactly what Meta Quest 3 is all about.
Mixed reality makes it easier to switch between digital and physical reality and blurs the boundaries, while hand tracking encourages short sessions and daily headset use.
Both mixed reality and hand tracking will open up new application scenarios for VR and AR. The former happens through the integration of the environment, and the latter through new types of interaction.
Mixed Reality in particular will gain importance over time and in many ways form the basis for upcoming AR headsets. And these are Meta's holy grail.
"Meta Quest Plus": eye and face tracking at an extra charge?
So there is more strategy behind Meta's presumed Quest 3 design than one would assume at first glance, and that lends the leak even more credibility. Eye and face recognition is not written off just yet.
On the one hand, the Meta Quest Pro will support this technology. On the other hand, Meta could launch a Meta Quest Plus in 2023 or 2024 that additionally offers eye and face tracking and is priced between Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro. According to a leaked roadmap, Meta is planning two new Quest headsets in the next two years, so a Meta Quest Plus would make perfect sense.
For fans of social VR experiences, there would then be an upgrade option that wouldn't hit the wallet as hard as Meta's premium headset. That would make all target groups happy.