Meta unveiled its next-generation VR headset, the Quest Pro, at the company's annual Connect conference yesterday.
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Meta unveiled its next-generation VR headset, the Quest Pro, at the company's annual Connect conference yesterday. The new technology is a game-changer, with a price tag to match, but the layered future of VR, AR, holograms and the metaverse – presented by Mark Zuckerberg and partners – has evolved. It now looks more Minority Report than Ready Player One.
The metaverse won't be a one-size-fits-all experience any time soon, but the future of mixed reality is clearer than before. Below we unpick the key details from the big announcement last night.
What was announced? Next-gen headset: the Meta Quest Pro
Meta's new VR headset is the black Meta Quest Pro, coming from the Oculus line of VR headset gear. What's most impressive about the new model is a move from virtual to mixed reality (XR), where the metaverse is layered on to the real world. It brings a host of user experience improvements, from better graphics to more realistic avatars, and importantly, a lighter headset. The Pro is not a product for the masses, instead being positioned as a product carving a path to the future of communication, collaboration and how we interact with the world.
The Pro costs just shy of £1,500 (gulp) and is available to order in select countries, including US and UK. It will be shipping to buyers on 25th October, so will be in users' hands in about two weeks. The headset is Oculus technology, regarded as the industry leader in VR, since it was acquired for $2bn by Facebook in 2014. What made the launch event compelling from the start was the picture of a mixed reality metaverse experience.
The killer app: mixed reality metaverse for VR
We're heavy users of metaverse experiences at Battenhall, and I consider a wide variety of platforms as being 'in the metaverse', as well as existing in other categories of media and digital, from social media to entertainment to gaming.
The killer app for the Quest Pro is Meta's creation of mixed reality, where virtual reality and the real world co-exist in VR. This was brought to life at Meta's launch through examples of working in the metaverse, through Horizon Workrooms and Immersed, and guest appearances from some major brands reinforced Meta's vision that this headset could be a game-changer for certain types of specialist work, such as healthcare, design, R&D, and even general office work.
C-suite cameos from Microsoft, Accenture, Ray-Ban
Partnerships with high-profile brands such as Microsoft punctuated the Quest Pro launch. Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella spoke alongside Mark Zuckerberg, espousing his excitement for the metaverse and how it will have a major impact on work and gaming.
Accenture's CEO Julie Sweet also spoke, describing how she saw the metaverse reshaping the world of work. There were examples of the impact VR could have on a variety of work applications – from 3D design to science R&D, and even to making Teams meetings and Zoom calls more 'compelling'.
Then Ray-Ban parent company Luxxotica's 'Chief Wearables Officer' spoke on evolving the smart glasses concept. All knitted together, the picture painted of the metaverse was broad and nuanced, with a user experiencing it at the low cost end through AR on a phone screen, the high end being via a Pro headset, and in the middle there will be smart glasses. In essence, the metaverse is emerging as a mixed digital virtual reality.
Far future: true virtual reality, aka holograms
Meta's launch event concluded with a focus on more advanced technologies that are not yet available. These included neural interfaces (sensors on your wrist and glasses that will control your gaming or working experience) and hyper-real avatars (scan your face with your phone to create a real, moving version of yourself, much like a hologram).
The word 'hologram' was used repeatedly at the event, which you can watch here, and in Mark Zuckerberg's interviews, such as this one with The Verge. Below you can see how a person might look, with a talking and moving avatar from one of the guests of the Quest Pro launch event having scanned herself with her phone to create her 'Instant Avatar'.
The Meta Quest Pro will make its way into the hands of users, and their experiences will begin to take shape. From our experience of Oculus headsets, the Quest Pro, with its mixed reality metaverse, will compliment, rather than replace, other ways of working, gaming, entertainment and social media.
Headsets are best used in short bursts, as they get heavy and cut you off from surroundings even in XR. As such, this metaverse tech trailblazer will likely help light the path to the future of everything, as opposed to to being the future itself.