logoUPDATE

Meta’s next VR AR headset Cambria / Quest Pro: all you need to know

Meta’s next VR AR headset Cambria / Quest Pro: all you need to know

Meta is launching a premium headset in 2022. What do we know about Project Cambria aka Quest Pro?

Meta officially announced Project Cambria at Connect 2021 on October 28. Rumors and leaks preceded the official announcement.

Meta’s head of technology, Andrew Bosworth, and Mark Zuckerberg himself talked about working on a technically enhanced“Quest Pro” as early as that spring. By the autumn, this turned out to be Project Cambria.

The following excerpt from the Connect keynote shows the announcement:

What is the name of Meta’s new VR headset?

Project Cambria is the internal name for Meta’s project of a premium headset and not the product name. Meta will probably announce the latter only at the full unveiling. According to a Bloomberg report, the device will be called “Quest Pro,” the name already used by tech chief Andrew Bosworth and Mark Zuckerberg himself.

With this name, Meta could build on an already established brand. The fact that that brand is associated with what is essentially a game console speaks against this naming. A new name would suit the device better, especially since it is an entirely new product line aimed at professionals and companies.

Different codenames for Project Cambria appear in the Quest firmware, including Arcata, Seacliff, and Seabright. Seabright possibly stands for a more technically advanced, second Cambria model potentially coming in 2024.

Is Project Cambria the successor to Meta Quest 2?

No. With Project Cambria, Meta is building a new product line with premium features. The headset will be backward compatible with Meta Quest’s app ecosystem while offering new technology at a higher price. The Meta Quest 2 is expected to be replaced by the Meta Quest 3 (report) in late 2023.

Who and what does Meta want to achieve with Project Cambria?

With Project Cambria, Meta is testing new VR technologies from its own research labs on the market. As soon as these have matured on the software side and are cheaper to produce, they could find their way into future iterations of the Meta Quest line. The aggressively priced product line is aimed at the masses and serves to penetrate the market as quickly as possible.

For Project Cambria, the goal is different. The much more expensive high-end product line is aimed at VR enthusiasts and professional users and is an experimental field for new, particularly advanced VR technologies.

In April and May 2022, Zuckerberg specified target use cases. The focus is on work and productivity. Project Cambria is the first in a series of devices that Meta wants to sell to “enterprises and knowledge workers.” The headset is expected to one day replace Chromebooks and laptops, allowing users to take their office with them wherever they go. By the end of the decade, Meta’s long-term vision is for headsets of this type to become the primary work device.

With the Cambria product line, Meta is pursuing the project of a “work headset” that will sooner or later revolutionize the workplace. This is another reason why Meta is working hard on a virtual office and a new multitasking interface. According to VR leaker Brad Lynch, the device will be optimized for Meta’s conference app Horizon Workrooms.

To what extent Project Cambria will also appeal to gamers remains to be seen. Improved ergonomics and PC VR support, a sharper and higher-contrast display, and more precise hand tracking could convince gamers to spend more. Cambria-exclusive VR games are not expected.

What is new about Project Cambria?

At the announcement (see video above), Zuckerberg and Meta’s head of product for VR devices Angela Chang confirmed three new technical features and improvements.

Eye and face tracking

New sensors will enable natural eye contact between avatars and real-time transmission of facial expressions into VR. This is said to make emotions easier to read and social interactions more realistic.

Eine Frau aus Fleisch und Blut neben ihrem Avatar, der ihre Mimik widerspiegelt.

Amazement, surprise, fear: Project Cambria will allow avatars to reflect such emotions. | Image: Meta

High-quality augmented reality

Already with Meta Quest, the physical environment can be displayed in the VR headset via passthrough mode, and apps can add digital objects to it. The video image of the world is black and white and so grainy that fine details are difficult to make out.

Project Cambria supposedly takes passthrough technology to the next level. Thanks to high-resolution RGB cameras, the physical environment is rendered in color and sharp, so that you can take notes with a ballpoint pen or play sports with a virtual personal trainer in your living room (see video above).

Mixed-Reality-Arbeitsplatz mit Project Cambria

This is what an augmented reality office with Project Cambria could look like. | Image: Meta

“We’ve got way better cameras, so both RGB and black and white cameras working in conjunction to do color passthrough. We also use active rather than passive depth detection with infrared beams, so we’re using infrared beams to make sure that we have depth-sensing that allows us to have a better reconstruction of the image,” Meta’s chief technology officer Andrew Bosworth said in May 2022.

Improved displays and narrower form factor

Things are also happening with the display and optics. Project Cambria is Meta’s first VR headset to rely on pancake lenses.

These can be placed close to the display, allowing for a much narrower profile. Thanks to the new lenses, Project Cambria supposedly offers a high-quality and artifact-free display and the best optics of all Meta VR devices so far.

Schematische Darstellung der Funktionsweise von Pancake-Linsen in Project Cambria

Pancake lenses fold light rays instead of passing them directly through. This allows them to be positioned closer to the display. | Image: Meta

What kind of display does Project Cambria use?

Meta has not given any concrete details so far. According to supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Meta uses two 2.48-inch mini-LED displays from JDI and Sharp with a resolution of 2,160 by 2,160 pixels per eye.

Project Cambria would thus have a higher resolution than the Meta Quest 2, whose LC display can show 1,832 by 1,920 pixels per eye. That corresponds to about 33 percent more pixels. However, according to Lynch, the headset renders below the maximum resolution.

Project Cambria could excel in color reproduction and black value.

Mini-LEDs are a further developed form of LC displays, whose backlight consists of tiny LEDs. Groups of these LEDs can be switched off via software and thus enable local dimming, i.e. areas of more natural black. Mini-LED displays thus achieve better contrast than conventional LC displays.

Lynch also claims to have found out that Project Cambria uses QLED technology. In practice, this means that the headset can display an expanded color spectrum and thus more and nicer colors.

What are the specifications of Project Cambria?

Meta has not revealed the exact specifications yet.

In March 2022, Lynch, citing a “trusted source,” reported that Cambria’s specs had been finalized. In late July, he published an update on the technical features.

The speculated specs are below. Take them with a grain of salt until Meta confirms them:

  • SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 5G with 30 percent more performance potential.
  • Display: Dual Tianjin-3 QLED panels with
    • 2,160 by 2,160 pixels per eye (render resolution: 1,800 by 1,920 pixels per eye),
    • a Quantom Dot layer for an extended color spectrum and
    • a MiniLED backlight for local dimming.
  • Field of View: Panels rotated 21 degrees for a vertically higher field of view, horizontal field of view is similar to Meta Quest 2.
  • Optics: Custom pancake lenses.
  • IPD: Stepless hardware lens distance control
  • Memory: 12 GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • Storage: 256 GB
  • Network: WiFi 6E support
  • Audio: Improved surround sound, better microphones with echo cancellation
  • Battery: Li-Ion battery with 5,000 mAh capacity and charging cradle
  • Sensor technology: A total of 10 sensors and an IR depth projector.
    • 2 x “Canyon” – 640 by 480 pixels (for IOT, constellation tracking, hand tracking)
    • 2 x “Glacier” – 1,280 by 1,024 pixels (for stereoscopy, luma passthrough, constellation tracking, hand tracking)
    • 1 x “Teton” – 2,328 by 1,748 pixels (16MP, for RGB passthrough)
    • 5 x “Esker” – 400 by 400 pixels (for facetracking & eyetracking)

Meta uses a revision of the Snapdragon XR2, according to Lynch, which provides a performance gain of up to 30 percent over Quest 2. Cambria’s alleged dual fan could further increase the performance.

Lynch’s Datamining Network found concrete hints of Cambria’s new passthrough sensor technology in the Quest firmware. According to the firmware, the headset has three sensors for passthrough mode: two low-resolution Luma cameras that capture motion and depth of space and enable stereoscopy (“Glacier”) and a third, high-resolution RGB camera in the center of the housing (“Teton”) responsible for the color reproduction of the environment. The video image of the physical environment is thus created from a fusion of these three sensor data. Meta’s head of technology Andrew Bosworth confirmed this later.

According to an article on the Oculus blog, the pass-through RGB camera has four times the resolution of the Meta Quest 2’s sensors. The headset also has a dedicated depth sensor for active room recognition, which may work similarly to Apple’s LIDAR scanner and support both the pass-through mode and hand tracking.

Further possible details about the hardware exist in a supposed hands-on report of questionable authenticity, as well as in leaked blueprints. The hardware report of a Chinese hardware analyst goes into even more detail and names the individual components as well as their specifications.

What does Project Cambria look like?

The official render video shows a black device with a halo head mount and a ski goggle-like visor.

Leaked video tutorials and firmware snippets confirm the comparatively slim form factor. That potentially points to a significantly lower weight and better weight distribution with the battery housed in the back of the head mount.

In May 2022, Mark Zuckerberg published the first photo of Cambria, but only the outline and no details are visible.

Zuckerberg trägt Project Cambria und nutzt Handtracking mit geballter Faust.

The first photo of Project Cambria. | Image: Mark Zuckerberg

A day later, a video followed with Project Cambria subsequently made unrecognizable.

Lynch claimed to have seen an image of the final device in April. Together with an industrial designer, he reconstructed a 3D phantom rendering of the headset from memory.

3D-Phantomrendering von Cambria (finales Modell).

Lynch’s reconstruction of the Cambria headset. | Image: Marcus Kane / Brad Lynch

Lynch later leaked blueprints of the headset, showing the form factor and interior of the device.

Geleaktes Schema zeigt Project Cambria seitlich von oben.

One of the leaked blueprints. | Image: Brad Lynch

What VR controllers will Project Cambria use?

In the official announcement video (shown at the top), you can see that Cambria will appear with new VR controllers, codenamed Starlet according to firmware findings. Noticeably, they don’t have tracking rings.

Fotos von VR-Controllern mit integrierten Kameras

Are these the new VR controllers for Cambria? Integrated cameras on the front and back can be seen well. | Image: Reddit / tx_brandon

Meta has not yet commented on the VR controllers, but according to leaks, the devices use a new tracking system.

Project Cambria could use integrated laser projectors to cast an invisible infrared pattern into the environment, detected by infrared cameras in the VR controllers. This would allow the devices to locate themselves spatially even when they are behind the headset.

According to a video tutorial leak, the headset and controller will get their own charging station. That would also be a novelty for Meta.

In July, Lynch leaked blueprints of the new VR controllers. The input devices reportedly feature a permanently installed battery, high-quality haptics, and a pressure sensor at the tip of the grip. Firmware findings suggest that a stylus accessory ship with the controllers for Horizon Workrooms.

According to Lynch, Meta could also sell the VR controllers and charging station separately. The company is working to make the input devices compatible with Meta Quest 2, he said.

Will Project Cambria bring better hand tracking?

Meta Quest 2’s hand tracking is steadily improving thanks to software tricks, but still has a lot of room for improvement. One limiting factor is that the VR headset’s cameras are not designed for optical hand and finger tracking.

In an interview with Protocol, Mark Zuckerberg said that Project Cambria will feature a new sensor that could also benefit hand tracking. The Quest’s hand tracking using the cameras is a “hack,” while Project Cambria has a proper depth sensor, he said. The Meta Quest’s hand tracking has exceeded the company’s expectations, which is why Meta plans to step up in terms of hand tracking in future headsets, Zuckerberg said.

“With Cambria and the devices going forward, we now have this whole sensor architecture that is going to be more optimized towards hands. So you’ll just have much better hardware support for that,” Zuckerberg says.

Will Project Cambria support PC VR?

That’s a strong assumption. If only because professionals and businesses are likely to use the headset with a PC. Leaks and datamining finds point toward improved PC VR support compared to Meta Quest 2, including a possible DP Alt mode and better Air Link streaming thanks to Wi-Fi 6E. With Project Cambria, Meta could give PC-VR another boost.

Does Project Cambria support foveated rendering and variable focus?

Both technologies are important for virtual reality, but are only likely in future Cambria generations. With foveated rendering, the headset determines which area of the field of view the eye is focusing on and then calculates only that area in full detail. This saves a lot of computing power, which can be used for a higher resolution and better graphics.

If the system works fast enough and precisely enough, then foveated rendering is invisible to the eye. At least in theory.

In practice, rendering is a difficult technical problem to crack. It starts with capturing anatomical differences in pupils and ends with the graphics render pipeline, rewritten for foveated rendering. According to Bosworth, the rendering technology doesn’t add much yet, making the chance of Project Cambria supporting foveated rendering minimal.

The same is true for varifocal displays. Meta has been researching corresponding displays for many years, potentially solving a fundamental optical issue of VR headsets and providing a more realistic and pleasant viewing experience. However, based on current knowledge, there is still a lot of work to do in this area as well.

What is Project Cambria’s most important feature?

Probably the most significant feature of the headset is the improved passthrough mode. Traditional AR headsets with transparent optics (Hololens, Magic Leap, Nreal Light) have only evolved slightly in display technology over the past decade. A narrow field of view, low brightness, or poor image quality hold the technology back.

Passthrough-optimized headsets like Project Cambria don’t have many of these problems, or have them to a lesser degree, and could become the best way to experience augmented reality in the coming years. That’s probably why Apple’s first VR headset relies on advanced passthrough.

Video-based augmented reality: It could bridge the time until better AR displays allow for similarly good image quality in the form factor of thin, transparent everyday glasses. The following article describes how VR headsets will benefit from passthrough AR:

What apps are available for Project Cambria?

Project Cambria will run all VR apps that are also available for Meta Quest 2. No Cambria-exclusive apps have been announced yet. The most significant difference will be that the passthrough mode will display the environment in color and sharper.

Meta’s AR demo, The World Beyond, is meant to show off Project Cambria’s strengths. The short AR experience demonstrates the benefits of Meta’s Presence platform, a group of interfaces for Meta Quest and Project Cambria that enables more natural interactions and advanced augmented reality. Lynch says the headset will be optimized for Meta’s Horizon Workrooms conferencing app.

How much will Project Cambria cost?

Meta has not yet announced a price. A Chinese supply chain analyst claimed that the device’s components alone cost $780, and sources close to the company said in spring 2022 that Meta will call for $799.

Meta denied this and stated that the price will be significantly higher. A price beyond $1,000 is likely. Mark Zuckerberg’s assessment that the new product line is in the price segment of PCs supports this theory.

According to Lynch’s sources, the price will be $1,500, including controller, charging station, and cable.

In April 2021, John Carmack estimated that the device will only find a tenth of the Quest buyer base due to the higher price.

Oculus Quest 2 mit Controllern und der Verkaufsbox im Hintergrund

The Meta Quest 2 has an unbeatable price-performance ratio. Project Cambria will be “significantly” more expensive than Meta’s mainstream headset, according to Zuckerberg. | Image: Facebook.

When will Meta release Project Cambria?

Meta will launch Cambria / Quest Pro in October 2022. The announcement of the new device should happen at Meta Connect 2022, which is expected to take place at the end of September.

According to Lynch’s sources, pre-orders will start at the Meta conference. The headset is scheduled to go on sale on October 25, 2022.

What’s next after Project Cambria?

According to a leak, the next Cambria model, codenamed Funston, has a scheduled launch in 2024. Two new Meta Quest devices, codenamed Stinson and Cardiff, have scheduled launch dates in 2023 and 2024.

What do testers have to say about Project Cambria?

There are two independent reviews so far. The first is from Protocol editor Janko Roettgers, who was able to try out a pre-release version of the VR headset with the AR demo The World Beyond.

He calls the color passthrough a “massive improvement” over Quest, even if the video image of the environment is far from perfect.

“It’s still not a photorealistic image, but it’s starting to feel a lot less jarring. Think more decent-quality home video, less ‘Blair Witch Project’,” says Roettgers, referring to Quest 2’s grainy black-and-white image.

Podcaster Joe Rogan has tried out the face and eye tracking and calls it “very immersive.” Lynch says he spoke with a source who claims to have tried out a Cambria prototype.

Are there alternatives to Project Cambria?

Passthrough headsets will probably shape the VR market in the upcoming years. The following alternatives are already on the horizon:

  • TikTok parent Bytedance is set to launch a Cambria competitor called Pico 4 Pro this fall.
  • Paris-based startup Lynx has been working on a passthrough headset called Lynx-R1 for some time, which is expected to be released later this year.
  • Apple is persistently rumored to introduce a passthrough headset in early 2023 (see Rumors about Apple’s VR headset).
  • Google (Project Iris) and Microsoft (Project Bondi) are also reportedly developing such headsets, but they are not expected until 2024.