Meta Platforms Inc. introduced its latest lineup of head-worn devices, staking fresh claim to the virtual- and augmented-reality industry just ahead of Apple Inc. pushing into the market.
(Bloomberg) — Meta Platforms Inc. introduced its latest lineup of head-worn devices, staking fresh claim to the virtual- and augmented-reality industry just ahead of Apple Inc. pushing into the market.
The company officially unveiled the Quest 3 headset on Wednesday, raising the price by $200 to $500, at its annual Connect developers conference. It also introduced second-generation smart glasses that it developed with luxury sunglass maker Ray-Ban.
The Quest 3, which was previewed by Meta earlier this year after Bloomberg published a hands-on review of the device, offers improved performance over the Quest 2 from 2020. It also marks a pivot from VR to mixed reality, which melds virtual and augmented reality.
It’s a high-stakes moment for Meta’s hardware business. Though the company has dominated VR goggles for years, Apple is poised to release its Vision Pro headset in the coming months, setting up a showdown. Like the Quest 3, the Vision Pro is a mixed-reality headset — though one with exclusive Apple technology and content. The Vision Pro will have Apple’s marketing muscle behind it, but also a much higher price: $3,499.
In addition to the competitive pressure, Meta also has struggled to sell consumers on the metaverse — a collection of interlocking online worlds that make use of its headsets.
The social-media giant embraced the concept of the metaverse in 2021, going so far as to change its name from Facebook to Meta. But after headset sales and usage stagnated, the company shifted its focus toward artificial intelligence and more-marketable technologies. Meta now touts its headsets as gaming and productivity tools — similar to how Apple is expected to market the Vision Pro.
For now, Meta remains far and away the industry leader in headsets, holding nearly half the market, according to Counterpoint Research. But it’s been a money-losing proposition for the company. The big question is whether mainstream consumers will finally embrace the products.
The Quest 3 is the latest attempt to broaden the technology’s appeal. Users of the headset will be able to transition between VR and mixed reality, known as XR, with a double tap on the side of the device. A wearer could use the more immersive VR option when watching a movie or playing a game and then move to XR mode when browsing the web and looking at photos. In that situation, the data and images will be overlaid on top of the real-world views surrounding the user.
The Quest 3 features 30% higher resolution, new lenses and a faster chip from Qualcomm Inc. There also are dual-color pass-through cameras, which let users see the world around them.
The latest headset has double the processing power of the Quest 2, allowing for improved graphics rendering, smoother operation, and faster speeds when loading apps. It’s also thinner than the Quest 2 and adds improved speakers as well as new controllers.
The device looks similar to the previous version but has three sensors on the front. The left and right modules are cameras, while the center sensor is a new component for determining where objects and walls are located within a user’s room. This allows the device to automatically place virtual guardrails so a user doesn’t, say, walk into a table. It also can be used for gaming, such as one title that allows players to shoot items on a wall.
After struggling to make money in VR headsets, Meta is seeking to generate a profit from the Quest 3. It’s raising the price of the device by 67% for a model with 128 gigabytes of storage. The Menlo Park, California-based company is also offering a $650 version with 512 gigabytes of space. The Quest 3 goes on sale Oct. 10.
Boosting prices in the face of sluggish sales is a gamble for Meta. It’s failed to attract consumers to its upscale model, the Quest Pro, which costs $1,000. But all the products in its lineup will cost a fraction of Apple’s new Vision Pro, which is due in early 2024.
In addition to XR, Meta is banking on new software to lure users. The company has partnered with Microsoft Corp. to let the device stream games from the Xbox Cloud Gaming service.
Meta also rolled out a second version of its smart glasses co-developed with Luxottica Group SA’s Ray-Ban. The last version wasn’t a hit, but Meta hopes to attract consumers with something that looks more like regular spectacles.
The latest version offers new frame options, as well as improved speakers and better cameras. Unlike the sci-fi vision of smart glasses — with augmented reality that can show digital content — this product is less ambitious. It’s focused on taking pictures, filming video, making calls and listening to music.
The new models come in two styles — Wayfarer and Headliner — and offer a choice of standard, polarized, transition and prescription lenses. The $299 glasses also have different size and color options, such as glossy, matte black and a new transparent version that shows off the internal electronics.
The new models include a 12-megapixel camera and five microphones. That compares with dual 5-megapixel sensors and three microphones on the prior version.
(Updates with Ray-Ban product starting in second paragraph.)
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