Facebook parent Meta debuts US$1,500 virtual reality headset targeting professionals, remote workers using Microsoft platforms
- The Meta Quest Pro is the company’s latest offering in a product line previously marketed as Oculus
- With the new device, Meta is seeking to broaden its audience and transcend the notion that virtual reality is primarily the realm of gamers
The new headset is also much pricier than its predecessor – it will cost US$1,500, or three times the price of the Quest 2 – in part because the company is targeting more serious working professionals.
“It’s work-focused,” Meta chief executive Zuckerberg told a small group of reporters in late September. “The ideal customers for this [are] gonna be either people who just want the highest-end VR device – so enthusiasts, prosumer-type folks – or people who are trying to get work done.”
Some of the Quest Pro’s new features are built for this work-focused audience, and would be particularly useful for people taking meetings in VR while working remotely.
The device includes face- and eye-tracking, which can be used to humanise avatars so that conversations in VR feel more personal. It also has what Meta calls a “full-colour mixed reality experience”, which uses cameras on the outside the headset to let people see the world around them and overlay graphics while wearing the device. The Quest 2 also has this mixed-reality feature, but only in black and white.
Meta is also launching new “self-tracking” controllers alongside its new headset, which means each controller has built-in sensors that can “track their position in 3D space independent of the headset”, according to Meta’s blog post about the product.
Meta and Zuckerberg have been teasing the Quest Pro for months, and many of the gadget’s details leaked ahead of Tuesday’s announcement at the company’s annual Meta Connect conference in New York.
Someday users may access the metaverse as digital avatars through devices like the Quest Pro, and eventually through augmented reality glasses intended to look like ordinary reading spectacles.
That vision is still far off – and costing Meta tens of billions of dollars in the interim. The company said investments in its Reality Labs division, which is responsible for building the metaverse, cut operating profits by US$10 billion in 2021. Meta’s shares have tumbled more than 60 per cent this year.
Despite buy-in from some of the world’s biggest tech companies, many observers have raised doubts as to whether Zuckerberg’s vision is even possible. After the Meta chief executive recently posted a picture of his own avatar to his Facebook page, he was mocked ruthlessly by people who felt the image looked amateur.
Zuckerberg quickly ordered up a more advanced version, and Meta is creating much more sophisticated-looking avatars than the one Zuckerberg initially posted. Some of the new avatars, for example, have legs as Zuckerberg showed them on Tuesday – a notable change from previous ones that drew ridicule for looking like floating cartoon torsos.
Meta is building other technology besides headsets that will play into this vision. While some advances, like the full-colour mixed reality and facial-tracking technology, are already available, a lot of the innovations are much further off.
That category includes things like easy-to-use 3D scanning so people can photograph or take a video of personal items and quickly upload digital versions of those items to a virtual world. It also includes improved spatial audio so that conversations happening in the metaverse will have the same acoustic feel as those in real life.
Meta is also working on a wristband that can detect neurological signals in humans and turn those signals into outputs on a digital screen. The technology essentially turns the human hand into a remote control, a helpful tool when trying to operate a pair of smart glasses.
Zuckerberg showed this technology to a group of reporters in late September from one of Meta’s office buildings near Seattle. The wristband is bulky right now, he acknowledged, but eventually he thinks it will be stylish enough that people always wear it to control the devices around them.
“I think in the future people will use this to control their phones and computers and all this other stuff,” Zuckerberg said. “You’ll just have a little band around your wrist.”
“It’s not that far off,” he added. “It’s not this year, but it’s not that far off.”
The Quest Pro went on sale on Tuesday and Meta will begin shipping the device on October 25.