More Quest 3, less Sci-Fi AR: Meta shifts product focus - report
Meta's AR headset was a top priority, but it is still science fiction technology. After the recent delay, Meta is now said to put more emphasis on products that can be released in the near future.
To bring a powerful yet fashionable AR headset to the market: That is Meta's ultimate goal. Mark Zuckerberg even called corresponding devices the "holy grail". The hope is that Meta will usher in the iPhone era of augmented reality with a revolutionary device and free itself from the smartphone ecosystems dominated by Apple and Google.
Internally, the AR glasses project is called Nazare and has Zuckerberg's full attention. Employees are therefore said to refer to the Nazare project as "Sauron's Eye." All of this shows how important AR headset development is to Mark Zuckerberg and his company.
Meta postpones the AR revolution
Now, it's extremely difficult to build AR headsets that are both technically impressive but also light and fashionable, as Meta itself has repeatedly pointed out.
According to a roadmap leak, three generations of the device were planned for 2024, 2026 and 2028. In June, however, it was said that the first version (codenamed Orion) would no longer be sold commercially and would instead be distributed to developers for free. It would not be launched until the second version (codenamed Artemis) in 2026.
It was one of several postponements related to technical challenges and cost-cutting measures. The result is the same: Meta is once again putting off the augmented reality revolution for years. A smartwatch project has also been scrapped.
Increased focus on products that can be realized sooner than later
These cancellations were a major setback for the development teams, reports leaker Brad Lynch, citing sources close to the company.
Meta has so far focused more on developing Project Nazare and a cheaper and technically simpler pair of data glasses codenamed Hypernova than on the upcoming Meta Quest 3 VR headset, Lynch writes on his website.
But that's starting to change, he adds. With the technology for advanced AR headsets still years away, he says Meta is focusing on commercializing prototypes that can be brought to market soon, rather than long-term projects.
The upcoming Cambria headset has a strong AR component, and the Hypernova data glasses launching next year still play a big role in Meta's AR wearables plan, according to The Verge. Lynch expects the device to resemble Qualcomm's latest AR reference design. Findings in the latest Quest firmware point to that.