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Meta debuts new VR headset

At the Meta Connect virtual event this week, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the Meta Quest Pro, which he hopes will help drive his metaverse ambitions, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg describes the metaverse as “a set of interconnected digital spaces that will let you do things you can’t do in the physical world and connect more deeply with the people who matter most”. However, it is a vision that has been hamstrung by the limitations of virtual reality headsets. As a result, most metaverse expressions are browser-based virtual worlds that one can navigate on any screen, without additional equipment.

At this week’s Meta Connect virtual event, he unveiled the device that he hopes will drive his metaverse ambition forward: the Meta Quest Pro. Aside from finally killing off the Oculus brand of VR headsets, which were led by the Oculus Quest, it introduces a new high-end line of advanced headsets.

A steady release of glimpses at the device over the past year, under the codename Project Cambria, teeased details like high-resolution sensors, eye-tracking and sharp visuals, but that is the least one would expect from a new high-end device. Even the introduction of natural facial expressions “to help your avatar reflect you more naturally in VR” is an innovation one would expect to make the metaverse a workable concept.

What may not be so workable is the price: $1,500, or more than R27,000 in South African money, places it beyond the reach of all but the well-off and the elite. 

Meta acknowledged this in the announcement at Meta Connect that its virtual world, Meta Horizon Worlds, will be made available on other platforms, so that one will be able to use a phone or laptop to visit friends hanging out in VR. 

“If you’re watching a comedy show for example, you’ll be able to send the link to your friends so they can join without a headset, no matter where they are,” the company says on its blog. “Making these virtual worlds accessible through any device takes their ability to connect people to another level. Worlds on the web is going to be the first way a lot of people around the world experience a virtual world. And while the web doesn’t give the full VR experience, it opens it to an entirely new population of developers, creators, and people.”

What do you get for your money? It comes with Touch Pro controllers, stylus tips, partial light blockers, and a charging dock. Meta provided the following information on its tech specs:

  • “The first-ever device powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ platform
  • 12GB of RAM
  • 256GB of storage
  • 10 high-resolution sensors
  • Pancake lenses that fold light several times over, reducing the depth of the optical module by 40% while providing clear and sharp visuals
  • Eye tracking and Natural Facial Expressions for improved social presence
  • Color Passthrough for improved mixed reality experiences
  • Backwards compatible with the Meta Quest 2 catalog, so you can enjoy a wide range of VR games and experiences on day one
  • Two LCD displays that use local dimming and quantum dot technology to provide richer and more vivid colors
  • Custom local dimming tech, powered by specialized backlight hardware and accompanying software algorithms, which can control more than 500 individual LED blocks independently, giving the displays 75% more contrast than Meta Quest 2
  • 37% more pixels per inch than Meta Quest 2
  • Re-engineered Touch Pro controllers with sensors of their own for more accurate tracking and a full 360-degree range of motion, plus our new TruTouch Haptics system to provide a wider and more precise range of feedback, plus rechargeable batteries
  • Our slimmest and most balanced VR headset yet.”

The appeal of the headsets will be found mainly among gamers for now, and the pricing will keep it from becoming a standard social or work tool. Meta’s numbers on VR game sales tell the story:

“To date, over $1.5 billion has been spent on games and apps in the Meta Quest Store. We now have 33 titles that have made over $10 million in gross revenue, and the number of apps that have made over $5 million in gross revenue has doubled since last year, now at 55. And that success isn’t limited to the top developers. Of the 400+ apps on the Meta Quest Store, roughly one-third are making revenue in the millions.

“The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners has surpassed $50 million in revenue on the Meta Quest Platform alone—nearly double its revenue on all other platforms. It took just 24 hours for Zenith: The Last City to make its first $1 million in revenue on the Meta Quest Store, while Resident Evil 4 made its first $2 million in its first 24 hours. Blade & Sorcery: Nomad cleared its first $1 million in revenue in two days, while a number of other devs have hit the same milestone in as little as three days.”

* The Meta Quest Pro can be pre-ordered now at the Meta Store and will ship on 25 October.

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