Meta Cambria, Quest 3: What to expect from Meta’s next VR headset

That Oculus Quest 2 (now called Meta Quest 2) has become a surprisingly successful virtual reality headset and remains ours Favorite VR device although he is almost two years old. What will Meta, the former Facebook, do for its encore? According to a recent report by The Information, the company is expected to release four new headsets over the next few years. A headset announced last year called “Project Cambria‘ is on deck for 2022, but don’t expect it to be a true Quest 2 sequel.

Instead, Project Cambria appears to be a far more expensive and advanced breed of AR/VR hybrid headset, a bridge device that could be an amazing VR device but could also enable mixed reality by combining real world video with VR via enhanced cameras.

Cambria will also add new sensor technology (particularly eye tracking) that could open up new possibilities for interacting in VR and animating your avatar. But this eye tracking also raises questions about privacy.

Standalone, like the Quest 2

Yes, Cambria appears to be a standalone device like Quest 2. However, also like Quest 2, expect it to be able to optionally connect to PCs and to some extent phones. Early reported design mockups show a design that appears to be smaller than the Quest 2, but according to the latest reports from The Information, a larger battery could mean more weight. Meta has already confirmed that the headset will be more compact where the lenses meet the face, using “pancake lenses” that can compress the distance needed to create convincing 3D effects.

The larger battery appears to be able to sit on the back of the headset, creating a design more akin to Microsoft’s hololens 2, an augmented reality headset, as Meta’s existing Oculus VR glasses. VR devices like that HTC Vive Focus 3 (and Meta’s own Battery strap accessories for Quest 2) also place batteries on the back of the headset.

While more recent reports like that of The Information Cambria are calling it a “laptop for your face”, suggesting more standalone performance, expect the headset to be able to connect to computers for more powerful applications, much like the Quest 2 can currently.

More sensors

Mark Zuckerberg, in a Conversation with CNET Last year told me that a Pro version of the Quest would focus on more sensor technology. Eye and face tracking are well known, but it’s possible Cambria will allow for more health and fitness tracking. Fitness has been a key focus for Meta’s VR platforms, and the company has already acquired one Subscription Fitness Service that measures heart rate via a paired Apple Watch. (That OculusMove App syncs with Apple Health.) Meta is also reportedly working on that own smart watch.

How will it mix reality?

Project Cambria’s enhanced external cameras capture passthrough color video and display it on the headset’s internal display. The Quest 2 can also “see through” and show the outside world, but in a grainy black-and-white video feed. The Quest 2 overlays this feed with some VR, such as B. Boundaries of space, creating a kind of mixed reality. Expect Meta Cambria to make this much more realistic.

I have already tried An example of this technology is a very high quality VR headset made by a Finnish company called Varjo. The Varjo XR-3 uses lidar and cameras to scan the real world; it then layers VR in a way that can look almost as convincing as the effects in AR headsets from Microsoft and Magic Leap. I would expect Meta Cambria to attempt something very similar.

Metas aspirations for future AR glasses haven’t been realized yet, but Cambria could end up being a toolkit for developers to create AR-style experiences that could also use hand (and eye) tracking.

Another look at Project Cambria.

Facebook’s next VR headset will have face tracking and eye tracking.


How does eye tracking work?

We don’t know the specifics, but most eye-tracking features in VR work in a similar way: infrared cameras measure eye movement, while some trackers also take pictures of your eye. Eye tracking does some pretty useful things: Foveated rendering can produce better graphics with less processing power by showing only the highest-resolution detail where your eye’s fovea is looking, potentially meaning better battery life or performance in a smaller headset .

Eye tracking can also be used to provide more realistic eye contact for avatars and combine with hand tracking and controllers to improve control accuracy. It could even mean better accessibility for people who don’t have full mobility and only use eye control to operate the VR interface.

Meta appears to be adding face tracking cameras as well as eye tracking that could be used to map emotions and facial expressions into avatars. But all this tracking comes with additional privacy issues. While Meta has promised transparency and limits on the use of tracking data, Facebook’s story from user Data Abuse leaves many concerns.

Chances are it won’t be so much a gaming console

If the Cambria headset goes over $800, there’s no way it’s going to be as popular as the Quest 2 is now. Meta seems to imply that’s not the point of Cambria, meaning game developers may not be as focused on the new hardware.

Facebook has funded many gaming and art projects on its VR platforms in the past, but it sounds like Cambria isn’t about to re-debut games. Instead, Meta will likely focus on a wide range of business, exercise, fitness, and AR crossover apps to help build metaverse visions. With that in mind, current Quest 2 owners might already have the best VR gaming console for a while (at least until the PlayStation VR 2 arrives).

The Information’s most recent report on the Meta Cambria reiterates that this headset’s greatest strengths – better screen resolution, eye-tracking, passthrough mixed reality – will be tools to advance Meta’s vision for work and the future of VR. Watch out for competing high-end VR and AR products like Vive Focus 3, Hololens 2 and Varjo’s headsets where professional applications are the clear goal. Meta has had great success appealing to gamers, but convincing workplaces to adopt its technology will be more difficult.

The Quest 2 and controllers

Released in 2020, the Quest 2 remains one of our favorite headsets. It may not be replaced before 2023.

Scott Stein/CNET

Should you buy a Quest 2 now or wait for a future Quest 3?

A true sequel to Quest 2 may not appear until 2023, according to recent reports. The Quest 3 is expected to be a headset that would compete and potentially replace the Quest 2 at the same price point, but not this year. However, Cambria is not expected to be that headset. If the Cambria headset is as expensive as Meta says, it probably won’t even compete with the Quest 2 for most buyers. Instead, it may be more about pushing more advanced features (eye-tracking, mixed reality, better display quality) that could later flow into cheaper products.

Keeping the concepts of “Cambria” and “Quest 3” separate in your mind will help you plan your purchasing decisions. Cambria may only appeal to enthusiasts and professionals with money to spend. I don’t expect a VR headset to match Quest 2’s $300 price anytime soon.

The Quest 2 is still a fantastic headset for its price, and Meta regularly updates the software with new features. Unless you’re a pro who wants a top-end headset at all costs, you probably don’t have to wait for what Cambria will be later this year. However, if you have a PlayStation 5, you might want to wait and see what the PlayStation VR2 is like. Meta Cambria, Quest 3: What to expect from Meta’s next VR headset

Chris Barrese

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