Meta unveils high-end Quest Pro VR headset
Facebook's parent company on Tuesday launched the Meta Quest Pro, a $1,499 headset designed to be both more powerful and comfortable than past virtual reality devices.
Why it matters: Quest Pro is the first major product launch of Mark Zuckerberg's campaign to "build the metaverse," announced a year ago, and Meta is looking to the new device to prove that VR is the future of computing, not just a niche technology for gamers.
Details: The new headset uses so-called pancake optics to offer lenses that are thinner and lighter than those found in earlier headsets. It's also much more capable of blending the real and virtual worlds.
- The new optics also allow for more pixels, making text easier to read. That's critical for Meta's pitch that VR can be an environment for getting real work done.
- The Quest Pro also packs a new Qualcomm processor along with new sensors designed to, among other things, capture facial expressions to help make avatars more realistic.
- Meta has also improved the controllers, making them more versatile and the batteries rechargeable.
Reality check: While the Quest 2 is capable of showing the real world, it does so only in black-and-white and mainly for safety purposes.
- The Quest Pro can show one's surroundings in full color. That's important for games with advanced mixed-reality features but also so that one can do work in VR and still take notes on paper or take a sip of coffee.
Meta previewed the device in meetings with reporters, including a session with Zuckerberg and other executives held at the company's Reality Labs offices in Redmond, Washington.
Our thought bubble: The headset definitely looks and feels less bulky and also seems like it will be far easier to use in the real world.
The big picture: Even those who are bullish on the notion of the metaverse acknowledge it will take a decade for VR devices to offer a combination of price, comfort and battery life to appeal to the masses.
- With Quest Pro, Meta says it is establishing what will be two enduring product lines. The Pro line will allow the company to get more of its latest technology out of the labs and into products, while the entry-level Quest aims to be attractive enough in price and features to offer a broad market for software developers to sell in.
- In a slide shown to reporters, Meta listed at least three Quest and Quest Pro models on its roadmap, though no dates were included.
Between the lines: The challenge for Meta is continuing to advance and promote the technology without leaving customers disappointed.
To help bridge some of the gap between current devices and future possibilities, Meta showed reporters demos from its labs as part of the preview.
- Several of those focused on audio rather than visuals. As we've written, spatial audio is key to providing a convincing VR experience.
- In one powerful demo, a Meta researcher placed microphones in each reporter's ears and used them to record a scene. When played back, in a spooky effect, the sound appeared to be coming from exactly the points where it had been recorded — even though what our eyes were seeing there had completely changed.
Other demos aimed to show the future of capturing real-world people and objects to bring them into a virtual experience.
- Those demos ranged from modest improvements using widely available technology to highly realistic avatars only possible using state-of-the-art motion-capture facilities, such as one that Meta operates in Pittsburgh.
Practical matters: The Quest Pro is available for pre-order now and will start shipping Oct. 25.