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The Meta Quest 3: Meta‘s Big Bet on the Future of VR

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has made no secret of its ambitions to bring virtual and augmented reality into the mainstream through its Reality Labs division. The upcoming Meta Quest 3 headset represents the company‘s biggest leap towards making this a reality (pun intended).

The Road to the Quest 3

When the original Oculus Quest launched in 2019, it was a revelation – an all-in-one, completely wireless VR headset with built-in tracking that gave users a console-quality experience without any cables or external sensors. It was a glimpse of the future of consumer VR.

The follow up Meta Quest 2 further improved the specs with a sharper display, improved processors and redesigned controllers. With over 15 million units sold to date, the Quest 2 has dominated headset sales and introduced countless new users to VR.

Yet there was always a sense that the Quest 2 was setting the stage for something much more transformative down the line.

Meta‘s Market Positioning

Meta has established early leadership in the still-nascent VR/AR market. According to IDC, Meta led the virtual reality (VR) headset market in 2022 with a 75% share of shipments.

VR Headset Shipments and Market Share 2022. Source: IDC

However, Apple and Sony are poised to bite into Meta‘s share over the next few years as the market expands to nearly 65 million shipments globally by 2026.

Global VR Headset Shipment Forecast. Source: IDC

The Quest 3 will be crucial for Meta to defend market share when new compelling offerings from Apple, Sony, HTC and others hit the market.

Enter the Meta Quest 3

After months of leaks and speculation, Meta finally teased the upcoming Meta Quest 3 headset in September 2022, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing a release in Q4 2023.

So what can we expect from this sequel based on credible rumors and Meta‘s history?

Cutting Edge XR2 Gen 2 Processing

The Quest 3 is rumored to run on Qualcomm‘s yet-to-be-announced Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chip built on the 4nm process for significantly improved performance and efficiency.

Technical Comparison:

Component XR2 Gen 1 (Quest 2) XR2 Gen 2 (Expected – Quest 3)
Process 7nm 4nm
CPU Cores 1x Prime Core (2.84GHz) + 3x Performance Cores (2.42GHz) + 4x Efficiency Cores (1.8GHz) Expected 30% perf boost
GPU Cores Adreno 650 GPU @ 672 MHz Expected 2X pixel throughput
AI Engine Hexagon 698 Snapdragon SRIA – New dedicated AI acceleration

This generational upgrade unlocks the potential for PS5-quality graphics in a mobile form factor. Leading VR publication RoadToVR claims the XR2 Gen 2 could "spark a second renaissance for VR".

The processing advancements open the doors for more complex simulations in industrial training applications. Or highly detailed avatars and environments for the metaverse. Enterprise, education and healthcare sectors have already begun adoption – IDC estimates 2 million headsets were purchased by these sectors in 2022. The Quest 3 could rapidly accelerate this.

Best-in-Class Displays

While the Quest 2 boosted resolution to 1832×1920 per eye, reports point to 2160×2160 mini-LED panels with mutiple dimming zones for the Quest 3 – bringing clarity closer to 4K displays.

This is enabled by cutting edge optics and lenses engineered for next-gen VR. The lenses are made up of multiple plastic composite elements designed to optimize field of view while minimizing distortion.

Meta Reality Labs researcher Douglas Lanman explained some of these techniques in an IEEE paper last year – including layered displays with dynamic focal tuning to accurately replicate how human vision works.

This could make the Quest 3 one of the crispest headsets in the market outside of niche enterprise products.

Redesigned Form Factor and Ergonomics

Part of the evolution in display technology is allowing for much slimmer and lighter headsets. Rumors estimate up to 40% reduction in size compared to Quest 2.

New front-facing cameras allow for mixed reality and pass-through video at a reported resolution of 1440p – a huge upgrade from Quest 2‘s 640×480 black & white feeds.

The redesigned Touch controllers promise to be ergonomic, intuitive and bring more of that VR magic through haptic feedback. Per IEEE Spectrum, researchers are experimenting with linear resonant actuators (LRAs) for fine-tuned vibration patterns mimicking actual shapes, textures and forces.

Eye and face tracking based on four ultra wide cameras with deep neural networks could also allow for responsive avatars and interactions. Meta shared research last year which showed >200 points of eye-tracking even accounting for rapid saccades and other live human behavior.

Unlocking Lifelike Social Connection

That covers the core specs, but what does it really enable consumers, businesses and creators to do?

Here‘s a glimpse:

Social Experiences

  • Lifelike avatar representations of real identities and expressions
  • Emotive conversations where users feel co-presence with others
  • Fluid user-generated worlds vs static 3D environments
  • Rich spatialized audio for deeper engagement

Training & Education

  • Muscle memory development in safe simulations before real-world practice
  • Analysis of minute details not possible in traditional learning
  • Complete analysis of decisions through simulated outcomes

Healthcare

  • Cognitive and motor assessments through precise tracking
  • Pain reduction through immersive distraction therapy
  • Psychoeducation by inhabiting perspectives of patients

Entertainment

  • Unbound Metaverse events with real-time graphics
  • Directed and emergent storytelling woven into worlds
  • Game experiences indistinguishable from reality

And this just scratches the surface of a device 5x more powerful than its predecessor, especially when paired with future haptic gloves, suits and other peripherals.

The Outlook for Mainstream Adoption

The Quest 3 announcement comes at a time when interest in VR/AR is hitting an inflection point.

Per Neilsen surveys in early 2023, close to 40% of respondents are interested in purchasing a VR device in the next year. With the Quest 2 selling remarkably well through 2022, the Quest 3 is launching into a market primed for its capabilities.

Sony continues to drive adoption with PS VR2 later this year. Apple is prepping its own offering by 2024.

Yet Meta has the first-mover advantage by strategically hitting shelves in late 2023 before these competitors enter the race – combined with an expected price point of $499, far more affordable than luxury competitors.

The pieces are perfectly lined up for Meta to take the lead. But sustained success will depend on Quest 3 sales and usage.

This isn‘t just another hardware launch for Meta, but the culmination of over $15B+ investment into Reality Labs and vision for the next era of computing.

The Quest 3 needs to sell mainstream consumers on VR being integral to how they work, play and connect if Meta‘s version of the metaverse is to materialize.