Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, released its long-awaited new virtual reality headset on Tuesday during Meta Connect, its annual developer conference.
The new headset, called the Quest Pro, is a high-tech device meant to have functionality that rivals a computer. In his keynote speech on Tuesday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the new device “the next major step for virtual reality” and “a major milestone in building the metaverse.”
“We’re in a moment now where many of the technologies that will power the metaverse are starting to take off,” Zuckerberg told Connect.
Zuckerberg is betting that one day, AR/VR devices will become as ubiquitous as cell phones or laptops, and the Quest Pro is an important way for the company to demonstrate the promise of that vision. The Quest Pro is Meta’s first “mixed reality” device — meaning you can see virtual objects overlaid on your everyday real-life environment, as opposed to pure VR where you’re completely cut off from reality. The physical headset is designed to fit more comfortably on your head and features inward-facing eye-tracking sensors so your avatars in the metaverse can naturally mimic your facial expressions.
These are clear improvements over Meta’s existing VR/AR products. But there’s one major hurdle that could prevent Quest Pro from fulfilling Zuckerberg’s ambitions to take his transformative design mainstream: price. The Quest Pro costs almost $1,500. This is a price that is out of reach for many everyday consumers, especially in a time of economic downturn. That’s a 275 percent increase in price over the last AR/VR release, the Quest 2.
That’s why Meta is selling its new AR/VR device as a work product, for people like architects, product designers and molecular chemists who might be willing to pay for a high-powered tool. Many of these professionals use 3D modeling in their daily tasks which could justify the cost of the headset. It’s also why Meta announced partnerships with Adobe to put its 3D design software into VR, as well as Microsoft to put its entire line of office products into Quest Pro.
At the Meta Connect presentation on Tuesday, the company gave some examples of how some companies are already using its AR/VR products, including shoe companies Puma and New Balance designing products in VR and pharmaceutical company Novartis doing nanomolecular design with the technology.
But if Meta is pitching its marquee matte finish as a high-end product for the industry’s skilled tradesmen, where does that leave everyone else? If the metaverse is going to be the next wave of computing akin to the modern Internet or mobile phone, as Zuckerberg envisions, then it needs a critical mass of users — not just a small group of professional users using it for industry-specific applications.
Early smartphones, or proto-smartphones like the iPhone and BlackBerry, were also prohibitively expensive for many everyday consumers at first, but eventually wireless carriers began to help subsidize their access. And the usefulness of these phones for a wide variety of occupations and interests (like being able, for the first time, to check email on the go or combine an mp3 player with a phone) made them worth the cost — which, for The iPhone has indeed grown over time. For Meta’s AR/VR products, there is no external network provider subsidizing this point, and the use cases are not as strong for everyday users. This could change in the future, however, if the use cases for AR/VR become more compelling in both work and social settings.
To Meta’s credit, AR/VR manufacturing is expensive. And Meta has, to date, produced some of the most affordable AR/VR headsets on the market. Zuckerberg recently told The Verge that the the company’s strategy is not to monetize AR/VR hardware, and many assumed it was selling its other AR/VR product, the Quest 2, at a loss for $399. (Before August, it was $299 — making it several hundred dollars cheaper than some of its top competitors.)
But the Quest Pro, like many emerging technologies, faces other hurdles — like the fact that it can only be used for about one to two hours on a full charge, making it difficult to use outside of the home or office where there’s a charging station. . handy. And the fact that his avatars don’t yet have all the convincing properties of normal human life, like legs (Zuckerberg has promised them at some point in the near future).
But the biggest challenge for Meta will be its accessibility. The personal computer, the internet and the mobile phone revolutionized society. But these devices began to drastically reshape the way we communicate as soon as they were affordable and affordable enough to become mainstream. Meta said on Tuesday that it is serious about improving the quality of the technology it offers in VR/AR, even if it has a long way to go. But it faces an even more pressing challenge: We’re not yet at the point where the products that come closest to achieving the metaverse vision are at a justifiable price point for the everyday user.