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Meta’s high-end enterprise VR headset, formerly Project Cambria, will debut on October 25 as the Meta Quest Pro for $1,500.
The technical specs make it one of the most powerful VR devices to date, given the price that comes in far less than the Magic Leap 2 augmented reality headset that debuted for enterprises at $3,300. I got to try the device hands-on at Meta’s headquarters and it’s pretty slick on a lot of fronts.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has bet his company on getting to the metaverse first, has targeted the Meta Quest Pro at enterprise users, who don’t mind paying higher prices for devices that can deliver higher productivity for business workers. But gaming aficionados may buy it as well.
“This is an important moment,” Zuckerberg said. “What if you could collaborate with colleagues as if you were right there at work?”
The wireless headset is aimed at workers who need to collaborate more productively or create in a device that comes with a lot of features that push VR forward. It has high-res sensors for a colorful passthrough camera experience (mixed reality), crisp LCD displays for sharp visuals that make it easier to read text in VR, a completely new and sleeker design, plus eye tracking and natural facial expressions so your avatar can mimic you more naturally in VR.
The idea is to enable you to do work you can’t do on a laptop or phone, Zuckerberg said. It’s made for work in the metaverse, he said.
With the natural facial movement capture, you can now have spontaneous moments while collaborating with other people in VR. When you smile, other people in VR with the same headset will see your avatar smile. This allows for richer and deeper and more meaningful experiences, Rao said. You can enjoy a movie with a loved one and make eye contact or nod your head. You can express yourself with nonverbal cues when you interact with someone wearing a Quest Pro.
The resolution is 1920 x 1800 per eye, and the battery life ranges from one hours to two hours. It has a refresh rate of 90, and it also supports a lower refresh rate of 72. That tells you that it’s still hard to make headway on high-end specs when trying to balance battery life and performance. While it is a substantial improvement over the Quest 2 platform, it also costs more and it isn’t defying Moore’s Law.
The WiFi6 device comes with the improved Meta Quest Touch Pro controllers, stylus tips, partial light blockers, and a charging dock. The dock can charge both the headset and the controllers at the same time.
You can pre-order Quest Pro from the Meta Store starting today in any country where Quest products are supported, and from select retail partners, including: Best Buy in the U.S. and Canada, Argos and Currys in the United Kingdom, and FNAC and Boulanger in France. You can also pre-order from Amazon in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and France.
Meta will continue to target its $400-plus gaming-focused Meta Quest 2 VR headset at gamers and consumers. Zuckerberg said that there are more than 400 titles, including 33 that has generated more than $10 million in revenue.
While costly, the enterprise version will let the company test new components for its computing platform at the high end and then bring the improvements to the Quest line over time as they come down in cost.
The new device will enable better augmented-reality experiences, and it has an open side so that you won’t feel like you can’t see the real world while wearing the headset. If you want to be fully immersed, you can add some accessories to darken the view.
During his introduction, Zuckerberg said, “This one is for the believers.”
It’s part of his metaverse strategy, and why he renamed Facebook as Meta. He thinks VR and augmented reality are the ways to get into the metaverse because they deliver a sense of presence, the feeling you are transported somewhere else, and you are inside a virtual experience.
“A lot of technologies that are powering the metaverse are starting to take off,” he said. “More companies getting into the metaverse. The future isn’t so far away.”
Zuckerberg also reiterated that he believes the metaverse should be open, and that the metaverse should be accessible by a wide variety of devices.
The Quest Pro is the first device powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ platform, which is optimized for VR to run at 50% more power than Quest 2 with better thermal dissipation, resulting in significantly better performance. Each Quest Pro comes with 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and 10 high-res sensors (five inside the headset and five outside) that help enhance a variety of immersive experiences.
The device has a pancake lens with a lot of layers. It is slimmer in terms of a comparison to the Quest 2’s optical modules. You can see 37% more pixels per inch versus the Quest 2. This helps you read text in VR with 75% more contrast. And quantum dot tech gives the device a wider color gamut.
The additional sensors make it possible to detect four times the number of pixels with the outward-facing sensors in passthrough mode. That means it can enabling the headset to re-create the environment around you in VR with greater fidelity. That enables the user to see the camera view beyond the headset in higher-resolution color, rather than a fuzzy black-and-white view with the Quest 2, said Rupa Rao, product management lead for VR devices at Meta, in a press briefing.
Meta Quest Pro features full color stereoscopic mixed reality passthrough, which combines multiple sensor views to create a natural view of the world in 3D. Compared to monoscopic passthrough solutions, this results in a higher quality and more comfortable customer experience with better depth perception and fewer visual distortions for both close-up and room scale mixed reality scenarios.
“Connecting live with one another, especially in the last few years, has been the cornerstone of how people want to be in the metaverse,” Rao said. “That feeling like someone’s actually in the room with you, that very feeling of three-dimensional presence, is actually a critical element of being able to experience the metaverse.”
The passthrough imagery is not a video feed. It works with adv reconstruction algorithms to re-create reality inside your headset. That is important for being able to unlock scene understanding or object interaction applications, Rao said. This means the device can detect a table and then allow you to virtually write on a piece of virtual paper on top of that table. This unlocks applications such as writing text or home design or painting on an easel. I saw six of those apps last week and they were pretty amazing.
“It pushes the boundaries of VR,” Rao said.
There was plenty of space inside the headset so that I could comfortably putting it on over my glasses without smashing them into my face. It is much easier to get a good fit because it has a dial in the back to tighten the headset band around your head, and there is a dial for inter-pupillary distance control. You can also slide the lenses closer together or farther apart. It is important to put the headset on high enough on your forehead so you can focus your eyes properly. But there is a lot less fussing to get it right.
The headset has a curved battery pack around the band that holds it onto your head. The band creates a counterweight so that the headset doesn’t feel as heavy on your head. It felt comfortable on my head at first, but I could feel it weighing on me after I did a bunch of demos over the course of an hour.
The device has eye-tracked Foveated rendering to enable you to focus on spots in the center of your gaze. It doesn’t render the things you can’t see, or blurs out things on the side, to dramatically save on processing power and battery consumption.
At our press briefing, Meta anticipated we would have questions about privacy, given Meta’s poor record on that subject. But Rao said that the headset was “designed with privacy in mind” from the start.
Rao said that the eye-tracking and natural facial expressions are turned off by default. When you choose to enable these features, the raw images that are captured by the sensors on your eyes and face stay on the headset. They are processed locally, she said. It only collects data that the device needs.
That can be scary to some. It will know if you are smiling or frowning while looking at something. If you make eye contact with something, the device will know. That can lead to amazing app experiences, like seeing somebody smile at you in VR over a long-distance collaboration network.
“These images are deleted immediately after processing. These raw images are never sent to Meta or any third parties,” Rao said. “When the Meta Quest Pro analyzes these images, it creates a set of numbers that estimate eye and facial movements. That set of numbers is shared to developers for creating their content.
Rao said Meta will offer very clear controls to users. The tracking features are disabled by default. Users can turn them on and off at any time, either in the quick settings bar or at the app level.
“We’re going to continue innovating on behalf of our customers and continue looking at building new features,” Rao said. “We’re going to do that with privacy as the center of our focus.”
If you use the passthrough sensors to detect what is going on in your field of view outside the headset, it will show a blue light to tell people nearby that the cameras may be recording them.
I know that there are a lot of people who won’t believe this. But Meta is putting itself on the record when it comes to saying it will do better on privacy than it has in the past.
Meta Quest Touch Pro controllers
The Meta Quest Touch Pro controllers are Meta’s first self-tracking controllers. They’re more balanced to hold and provide improved haptic feedback, making it feel more like the controllers are extensions of your hands in VR, Meta said. I’d agree with that. The self-tracked design allows for a full 360-degreerange of motion, while TruTouch Haptics include new localized and VCM haptics upgrades.
The Meta Quest Touch Pro controllers for your hands have been redesigned to make you feel more immersed in VR. They don’t have the sensor rings that the previous headsets have had. They have their own sensors in them so that the VR headset always knows where your hands are, even if they are hidden from the headset view or are behind your back. If you pull an arrow from your virtual quiver on your back, the headset won’t lose track of your hands.
“There are no dead spots,” Rao said.
It also has improved haptics so you can feel touch feedback better, like smashing drums. You can use the controller or your fingers to pinch an object and pick it up. There are still options for controller-less finger control. This worked very well when I used it for a virtual paintbrush in an art app.
There is also a little physical stylus. You can plug this into the bottom of a controller and convert it into a writing instrument. You can pull the stylus across a surface and you will see in VR that you’re painting on a wall or signing a document on your desk. You can write lines of variable thickness and you can feel feedback.
Fine motor controls include precision pinch motion and joystick for increased control of a gesture, plus a stylus tip for sketching and whiteboarding. I was able to play Jenga with my fingers. The controllers each have one Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 mobile processor. And there are three sensors per controller.
The controllers can be placed on a dock and can charge, as they now have rechargeable batteries. For the $1,500, you get the VR headset, two controllers and a charger.
I asked if this technology, based on Project Cambria, was one of many different directions that future headsets could take. Rao said there is work being done on a variety of projects, but the goal is to make each headset compatible with the prior generation. Quest 2 apps will run on the Meta Quest Pro. But if you want to take full advantage of the Pro, you may need a redesigned app.
“We’re definitely investing a lot. And we have been trying to see how we can push the boundaries of physics, how we can enable the tech and what types of experiences can those enable,” Rao said.
Meta also announced it has added to its Presence Platform, a set of developer tools that it unveiled for the Quest 2 platform. Now it has added new tools for the Meta Quest Pro. It includes a suite of machine perception and AI capabilities that empower developers to build more compelling mixed-reality experiences.
Meta has new additions to the stack dubbed Social Presence and the Movement SDK. The Movement SDK lets developers unlock the new eye, face, and three-point body tracking capabilities—all of which help unlock a new dimension of presence in VR.
The Eye and Face Tracking Capabilities Movement SDK includes eye and face tracking capabilities opened up by new technology in Meta Quest Pro. Inside the headset, there are five IR sensors directed towards the face: three sensors pointed towards the eyes and upper face and two pointed towards the lower face.
Face tracking is driven by a machine learning model that lets Meta Quest Pro detect a wide range of facial movements. While people want their avatars to appear expressive, it’s also important that they feel natural. There area bunch of other tools described in the Presence Platform in the link above.
The headset will be available for purchase from the Meta Store in 22 countries. Meta recommends the product for people 13 and older. You can buy lightblockers separately, or buy earphones for $50.
Roomscale VR requires a minimum of 6.5 feet x 6.5 feet of obstruction-free floor space. Both require an additional buffer aroundthe selected space. Link and Air Link are supported. The field of view is106º horizontal and 96º vertical. It weighs 1.59 pounds.
Meta Quest Pro’s WiFi6 in the 6GHz spectrum can deliver up to 1.6Gbps throughput, doubling the bandwidth over Quest 2 Wi-Fi capabilities.