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Meta's hotly anticipated Meta Quest Pro headset has made its official debut. The device we finally got to see in detail matches the teased Project Cambria prototypes Meta had shown off in the past, as well as the leaked Meta Quest Pro prototype that was left at a hotel some weeks back. While the hardware fulfilled expectations, Meta's goals for it may come as a surprise to some.
The company is clearly aiming the Quest Pro, especially in its early days, squarely at business and enterprise users. Meta's ambitions revolve around "collaboration and productivity," with the Quest Pro's new full-color AR capabilities powering a massive shift toward virtual workspaces, conference rooms, and collaborative design projects. To expand this effort, the company is bringing in Microsoft, Accenture, and others to create instant integration with well-known productivity solutions like Microsoft Teams.
While this leaves the home VR user and gamer out in the cold for now, the technology on display here could just as easily power their entertainment as it could an executive's next board meeting. So, let's look at what Meta has included in its most "Pro" headset yet to see what's ahead for business users in the short term and VR gamers somewhere down the road.
Quest Pro hardware
The new device's hardware is at the heart of its expanded capabilities and Meta's goals for its metaverse as a whole. While just about every aspect of the headset got an upgrade from the hardware found in the Quest 2, some components are more important than others. We're going to highlight the most pivotal below.
This new visual hardware uses a completely new visual stack. Unlike the thick, heavier Fresnel lenses and displays in the Quest 2, these slimmer optics provide 75% more contrast, 33% more pixels per inch in resolution, and a 40% slimmer profile. This reduces headset thickness and weight, while also removing unwanted visual effects like "god rays," or unintentional beams of light caused by optics, while also making text and details clearer. This last point is extremely important as Meta begins trying to convince the world that VR headsets really are a viable way of getting work done.
Full-color mixed reality
Speaking of getting work done, the Quest Pro is designed to work much better with AR (Augmented Reality) titles by way of its full-color pass through cameras that capture four times as many pixels as the Quest 2's. These allow you to do everything from running an entire virtual workspace that overlays your real-world desk, to collaborating with others by interacting with a virtual prototype you can all see, to navigating virtual exhibits in a real space.
This is a new feature that tracks not only the user's eyes, but also their facial expressions. The former makes VR more comfortable by allowing the headset to naturally integrate your gaze into what you see in the headset, making it feel closer to real life. On the other hand, expression tracking lets your social experiences step a bit further out of the uncanny valley by matching your avatar's facial expressions and reactions to yours. Meta hopes this will make its Horizon Worlds and other social experiences more natural.
This one's pretty simple, but might be the biggest convenience upgrade. The Quest Pro now supports a new charging dock that will top up not only the headset itself, but also its controllers as well.
Modular, open design
Most headsets, the Quest 2 included, attempted to block out as much light as possible. The Quest Pro steps away from that for certain use cases by keeping your peripheral vision open during AR experiences. But, if you're doing something that needs full immersion, you can also use the "magnetic partial light blockers" included in the box to get your focus dialed in.
The new controllers included with the Quest Pro were redesigned to be more balanced and ergonomic, while employing smaller sensors and gaining self-tracking of 360-degrees of motion. For the VR collaborator, the controllers now also include a modular stylus tip at the bottom that works like a virtual marker in compatible virtual spaces. This will like you write on a virtual whiteboard, draw in space, or perform other interactive activities.
Pricing and availability
The Quest Pro is launching as a tool for professionals, and it shows in its pricing. The headset will retail for $1,499. Pre-orders are open today, and are expected to begin shipping out to customers on October 25.
The Quest Pro is launching for, as Meta put it, "people like architects, engineers, builders, creators, and designers." Of course, much of the technology we now use on a daily basis began as something meant for enterprises, professionals, and even the military. Specialized tech has a way of trickling down to the general public, and I wouldn't expect the technology in the Quest Pro to take very long to make that transition.
It's possible that Meta could just shift its marketing strategy, drop the price a bit, and plop the same headset down as a fully-realized consumer VR solution. Or, Mark Zuckerberg's choice to refer to the Quest Pro as the "first in a new line of advanced headsets" could mean we won't have very long to wait before an entirely new, gamer-centric model comes around with similar hardware.
In either case, VR companies like Pico continue expanding across the globe. Meta might feel comfortable now sitting on its laurels in the US. But, it's only a matter of time before its perch is threatened by hardware like the Pico 4. The competing headset includes some of the same hardware as the Quest Pro (and sells for under $500) while being aimed at gamers from the get-go. We'll have to wait and see how Meta reacts, and whether it will continue focusing on the enterprise, on gamers, or split its attention to both.