What Pico 4 (hopefully) means for Meta Quest 3
Pico 4 outperforms Meta Quest 2 in terms of hardware specifications. This gives hope that the same improvements will also find their way into Meta Quest 3.
The most important difference is the so-called pancake lenses, which lead to a slimmer design and lower weight, which in turn has a positive effect on comfort. Factors that are crucial for the mainstream success of VR headsets.
The fact that Pico is bringing these and other hardware improvements to market at a competitive price that undercuts even the Meta Quest 2 gives hope that Meta's next consumer VR headset will feature similar specs. The Pico 4 (info) will set new technical standards - and Meta will have to counter.
Meta Quest 3 with focus on eye and face tracking
According to a leaked roadmap, Meta plans two new Quest devices codenamed Stinson and Cardiff for 2023 and 2024. It is unclear which of these headsets will be a direct successor to the Meta Quest 2. If the company sticks to this schedule, Meta Quest 3 could be released as early as next year.
Mark Zuckerberg hinted in the spring at the direction in which the next Quest should develop: Eye and face recognition are top priorities, he said, even if it comes at the expense of form factor or weight. Meta wants to build devices that put people into VR as authentically as possible, he said.
"You could totally see another company taking the approach of let’s just make the lightest and thinnest thing possible. But I want us to design the most human thing possible that creates the richest sense of presence, because so much of human emotion and expression comes from these micromovements," Zuckerberg said on Lex Fridman's podcast.
Fresnel lenses might disappear
VR headsets are developed along technical compromises, especially when they are meant to be as cheap as possible to manufacture. Zuckerberg's statement could be interpreted as Meta wanting to forgo pancake lenses to accommodate eye and face tracking in Meta Quest 3.
Pico prioritized the other way around: Pico 4 has pancake lenses, but no eye and face tracking. This is reserved for the more expensive Pico 4 Pro.
It would still be strange if the Meta Quest 3, which will be released one or two years later, continues to use Fresnel lenses and still looks as bulky as the predecessor headset.
The Pico 4 gives me hope that pancake optics will slowly become the standard from 2023 and manufacturing costs will drop, so the Meta Quest Pro (info) won't be the only Meta headset with a more compact form factor in the near future.