The smart guardian will make or break Meta Quest 3
Meta Quest 3 will be a mixed reality headset, and its most critical requirement is a smarter Guardian system.
If I have moved furniture, I may need to redraw the boundaries. If I move from the chair to the sofa, I must confirm my new stationary boundary. If I play standing up and sit on the chair, I have to switch to stationary mode or redraw the boundary, or I will touch it. The list of annoyances goes on and on.
Besides, there is no such thing as one unitary Guardian system. Instead, there are several Guardian systems at work: one for stationary use, one for room-scale VR, one for work that recognizes my desk and computer, and one that warns me of intruding objects. The very latest Guardian system is one that lets me draw walls and entire rooms, along with objects inside them.
Most of these systems also don't work automatically and sometimes get in each other's way.
A smart Guardian is needed
You can see: Meta Quest's Guardian system has become an impractical and unnecessarily bloated mess over the years, discouraging rather than encouraging to jump into VR, especially for short periods of time.
Meta needs to unify and automate the system, in a word, make it smarter. Especially with Meta Quest 3, which is set to be a mixed reality headset.
The mainstream success of the device will depend on how smart its Guardian system is. Because it will reduce the friction of using the headset and differentiate it from other products like the Playstation VR 2. No one will bother to draw their own walls and furniture manually before playing a mixed reality game, as is currently the case.
A mixed reality headset must be able to recognize the environment on its own, without constant human assistance. A good guardian system would be one that is invisible and only intervenes when necessary. Whether that's done with a depth sensor or AI doesn't matter, as long as the system works.
Meta Quest 3 gets better room understanding
The good news is that a more intelligent Guardian system is in development. In late 2022, Meta confirmed working on an automated version of room detection, and in early March, Meta's vision of a "Smart Guardian" was leaked.
“The main north star for the team was from the moment you put on this headset, the mixed reality has to make it feel better, easier, more natural,” said Mark Rabkin, Meta's VR president, at an internal presentation. “You can walk effortlessly through your house knowing you can see perfectly well. You can put anchors and things on your desktop. You can take your coffee. You can stay in there much longer.”
For Meta Quest, such a mixed reality would be a huge step forward. The headset could become a device that is aware of its (human) environment and includes it where necessary, rather than excluding it.
There is still a long way to go before this vision becomes a reality, but Meta Quest 3 must take the first step in this direction if it is to expand its potential user base.