Meta Quest 3 is likely moving to mixed reality

Meta Quest 3 is likely going full mixed reality - and rightfully so

Picture: Facebook

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Meta Quest 3 could dispense with eye tracking and instead focus on mixed reality. Is this a good decision on Meta’s part?

This week the plans for Meta Quest 3 were leaked. VR leaker Brad Lynch posted the footage in a YouTube video along with additional information from sources close to the company. Lynch had previously leaked construction plans for the Meta Quest Pro, which later turned out to be genuine.

Still, caution is in order: the new images could be one of many prototypes for the Meta Quest 3, which isn’t necessarily the device that’s likely to launch next year. Meta itself has yet to announce a successor for Meta Quest 2.

Meta Quest 3: A Necessary Compromise

If this is indeed Meta Quest 3, it signals a surprising turn in Meta’s VR strategy. While Zuckerberg said again in the spring that eye and face tracking would have top priority for the “next quest,” the construction plans speak a different language.

The device does away with the sensors inside the helmet and instead relies on four exterior cameras and a depth sensor. Meta thus favors mixed reality and hand tracking to the detriment of eye tracking and more credible social interactions, at least for Meta Quest 3.

Meta Quest Pro doesn’t have to make such technical compromises, as it can cost several times more than Meta Quest 3. Pancake lenses, five new sensors and a next-gen SoC – there’s probably no room for eye and face tracking in the cheapest headset.

What is eye and face tracking used for?

It’s a painful compromise, but one that Meta Quest 3’s target audience will overcome. What exactly will they lose, the great mass of VR users?

On the one hand, gaze controlled interactionsAnd on the other hand, more realistic avatars which can make eye contact and mirror the facial expressions of their users.

CAD-Bauplan zeigt die Vorderseite von Meta Quest 3 mit Passthrough-Sensortechnik.CAD-Bauplan zeigt die Vorderseite von Meta Quest 3 mit Passthrough-Sensortechnik.

The front of the Meta Quest 3 with two black and white and color cameras and a depth sensor. | Image: SadlyitsBradley

The former is not a killer feature, the latter only comes into play in social VR apps. However, social experiences and multiplayer games now account for more than half of usage time, as Meta recently revealed. A trend that eye and face tracking could further accelerate.

Of course, there’s the foveal rendering, which could be suppressed by the lack of eye tracking. At the moment, however, it’s still unclear if the rendering technology really brings benefits to standalone headsets. Hope is sparked by a firmware discovery that suggests Meta Quest Pro supports foveal rendering or related rendering technology.


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Mixed reality takes precedence

The advantages of mixed reality and manual tracking are now clear: the two technologies lower the barriers to entry and make virtual reality accessible to as many people as possible. And that’s exactly what Meta Quest 3 is.

Mixed reality makes it easy to switch between digital and physical reality and blurs boundaries, while hand tracking encourages short sessions and daily headset use.

CAD-Bauplan zeigt die Innenseite von Meta Quest 3.CAD-Bauplan zeigt die Innenseite von Meta Quest 3.

This render shows that the alleged Meta Quest 3 does not include sensors for eye and face tracking. | Image: SadlyitsBradley

Mixed reality and hand tracking will open up new application scenarios for virtual reality and augmented reality. The first passes through the integration of the environment and the second through new types of interaction.

Mixed reality, in particular, will grow in importance over time and will in many ways form the basis for future AR headsets. And these are the holy grail of Meta.

“Meta Quest Plus”: extra eye and face tracking?

So there’s more strategy behind Meta’s alleged Quest 3 design than one would assume at first glance, and that lends even more credence to the leak. Eye and face recognition are not yet abandoned.

For one, the Meta Quest Pro will support this technology. On the other hand, Meta could launch a Meta Quest More in 2023 or 2024 which additionally offers eye and face tracking and is priced between Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro. According to a leaked roadmap, Meta is planning two new Quest headsets over the next two years, so a Meta Quest Plus would make perfect sense.

For fans of social VR experiences, then there would be an upgrade option that wouldn’t hit the wallet as hard as Meta’s premium headset. This would make all target groups happy.

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