Mixed-reality madness —

Meta beats Apple to the mixed-reality punch with $499 Quest 3 coming this fall

Quest 2's starting price is also going back down to $299.

Meta has lifted the lid on its Quest 3 headset. Starting at $499 for 128GB, the device aims to push users beyond virtual reality, carrying a heightened focus on mixed reality. We're not getting full details until the Meta Connect event on September 27. But Mark Zuckerberg and friends were happy to preview the headset today, four days before Apple kicks off its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), where it's expected to reveal its own mixed-reality headset.

Quest 3 specs: What we know so far

Whether you heard it on Meta's blog, Facebook, or Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg's own Instagram, we now have the broad strokes of the next Quest, which Meta says it'll release sometime this fall.

Meta is promising a 40 percent slimmer optic profile compared to the Quest 2, discounting any facial inserts.

It didn't specify further ergonomic improvements for the goggles. However, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman said he went hands-on with a prototype and that the Quest 3's strap seemed stronger than the flimsy iteration on the Quest 2. He also claimed that the upcoming headset has a physical interpupillary distance adjuster.

Meta is claiming double the GPU performance of the Quest 2, thanks to a next-generation Snapdragon chip. The Quest 2 uses a Snapdragon XR2, which is based on the Snapdragon 865 architecture. Gurman cited "speedier performance" as one of the biggest takeaways from his prototype demo. Meta is also upping the resolution of the pancake optics displays but didn't provide an exact spec.

No more tracking rings

Looking more like Quest Touch Pro controllers than traditional Quest controllers, the Quest 3's controllers abandon the "halo" construction that Oculus controllers have used to house infrared sensors since the first Rift. I'll sort of miss the old look, but this is supposed to make the controllers feel more natural, since most people's hands lack large, protruding circles.

The controllers also have the same haptic feedback of Touch Pro controllers, which were originally released for the top-of-the-line Quest Pro but were eventually updated to work with the cheaper Quest 2 (Touch Pro controllers will work with the Quest 3, too).

You could go sans controller with the Quest 3, thanks to Direct Touch, but only for basic input, like making menu selections by tapping your finger or typing on a virtual keyboard. Since Meta only announced the Direct Touch in February, we're still waiting to see what developers may make of it.

Not just a VR headset

As Meta continues trying to get people to care about "Meta Reality," it's arming the Quest 3 with a greater mixed-reality focus through both capabilities and marketing. Meta wants people to use the headset to play virtual tabletop games on an actual table, for example, or use an app and the Quest 3 to envision a living room makeover. And Meta's announcement calls the Quest 3 its first "mass market offering to deliver both cutting-edge VR and MR experiences in a single device."

"These new experiences go beyond today’s mixed reality by intelligently understanding and responding to objects in your physical space and allowing you to navigate that space in natural, intuitive ways that were nearly impossible before," Meta's blog claims, while emphasizing "high-fidelity color passthrough, innovative machine learning, and spatial understanding."

To do this, the Quest 3 will have two 4MB RGB cameras and, for the first time, a depth sensor. Meta is claiming "10x more pixels in passthrough compared to Quest 2."

"Due to the dual RGB color cameras, video passthrough on the Quest 3 presented colors more accurately and offered an almost lifelike rendering of the real world. I was even able to use my phone while wearing the headset, something that often feels impossible on a Quest 2," Gurman said of his prototype demo, calling it a "night-and-day improvement over the Quest 2."

This all makes the Quest 3 Meta's most mixed-reality-y headset yet, but it's far from on par with what we're expecting from Apple. The Quest 3 is a consumer headset, and Apple's long-awaited mixed-reality headset is expected to initially target developers and influencers who can help build the platform and more consumer-friendly products in future years. Some, like Gurman, even expect the headset to have a dozen cameras compared to the Quest 3's dual setup.

Channel Ars Technica