OPINION

Project Cambria: Sorry, but this won’t be for you!

Project Cambria: Sorry, but this won’t be for you!

I’m excited for Cambria like no other VR headset before. But I still won’t buy it.

A lightweight and quite slim headset that I can comfortably wear for hours? Check.

A passthrough mode that lets me see the environments effortlessly and completely? Check.

High-quality augmented reality not experienced in any other headset? Check.

Face and eye tracking for more believable social interaction and interesting new use cases? Check.

Better hand tracking? Check.

I am excited for Cambria like no other VR headset before. And for good reason: After the Oculus Go, the Oculus Rift S, and the two Quest headsets, Meta is finally launching another device that pushes the envelope. Cambria incorporates technologies from Meta’s research labs that have been in development for at least six years.

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In that sense, Cambria is more than just a VR headset. It’s a glimpse into the future of virtual and augmented reality.

New technology has its price

Meta has yet to name a price, but confirmed in early May that the device will be significantly more expensive than the assumed $800. We can therefore assume that Project Cambria will cost well over $1,000 euros. Possibly 1,499 or even 1,999 US-Dollar?

New technologies have their price, and Meta will want to set the price as high as possible, especially in the premium segment, also considering future devices. Getting cheaper is easier than getting more expensive.

Sources close to the company claimed that the device would cost 800 US dollars. But they could have meant something else: the manufacturing costs. Another source from supplier circles also said earlier that the components together would cost that much.

If the estimate is correct, it means that Meta wants to make money with the headset. That is not a given: Meta will still make losses per device sold with the Quest 2. The company’s goal is to get as many people into the ecosystem as quickly as possible and keep them, since the competition is still weak.

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To accelerate growth, Meta could also aggressively subsidize Cambria. Apparently, however, the company has decided against this.

Not intended for gamers

Possible reasons are obvious: Meta is currently under severe pressure and needs to reduce the high disparity between expenses and revenues of Reality Labs. Some projects are being postponed or scrapped due to cost-cutting measures. An expensive Cambria could boost Reality Labs’ bottom line.

Mark Zuckerberg has pointed out that the headset will be aimed at businesses and professionals. With Cambria, Meta is pursuing the vision of a work device rather than a mobile gaming console like Quest 2.

However, a high price has implications for the headset’s future: If only one-tenth of Quest buyers purchase the device, as former Oculus CTO John Carmack estimates, the install base will remain relatively small and insignificant.

This, in turn, will discourage developers from building software for the headset that takes advantage of its features, so there will be little reason to buy Cambria. A vicious circle.

Waiting for Quest 3

Meta’s grand vision of an office headset makes sense and promises great riches, but it lags behind reality. Meta’s virtual office is still in its infancy, and it will likely be years before software and hardware are mature enough to make Cambria a viable laptop replacement. Virtual Reality remains an experimental technology searching for the killer application.

800 US dollars would have been the pain threshold for me as a private person, but well over 1,000 US dollars? That is too much for a piece of technology that will be obsolete and replaced in two years at the latest.

And anyway, what good are new features if they are not used by VR apps? I’d rather wait for Quest 3, which will come in two new variants in 2023 and 2024 according to a roadmap leak. Mature Cambria technology should also flow into these.

Yes, quantum leaps sometimes take longer. The outlook for the next generation of virtual reality will be expensive. Let’s hope it doesn’t take too long for it to bear fruit and reach the mainstream.