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

the Oculus Quest 2 (now called Meta Quest 2) has become a surprisingly successful virtual reality headset and remains our favorite VR device despite being almost two years old. What will Meta, the old Facebook, do for its recall? The company is expected to launch four new headsets over the next few years, according to a recent report from Information. A helmet announced last year called “Cambria Projectis slated for 2022, but don’t expect it to be a true sequel to Quest 2.

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

Cambria will also add new sensor technology (including, eye tracking) which could introduce new possibilities of interaction in VR and animation of your avatar. But this eye tracking also raises questions about data privacy.

Autonomous, like the Quest 2

Yes, Cambria appears to be a standalone device like Quest 2. But, just like Quest 2, expect it to eventually connect to PCs and, to some extent, phones. Early reported design mockups show a design that looks 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 compelling 3D effects.

The larger battery looks like it can sit on the back of the headset, creating a design that looks more like Microsoft’s Hololens 2, an augmented reality headset, than Meta’s existing Oculus VR glasses. VR devices like the HTC Vive Focus 3 (and that of Meta battery strap accessory for Quest 2) also place the batteries in the back of the helmet.

While recent reports like those from The Information call Cambria a “laptop for your face”, suggesting more autonomous power, expect the headset to connect to computers for more powerful applications, just like the Quest 2 can do it right now.

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 already known, but it’s possible that Cambria will allow for better health and fitness tracking. Fitness has been a major focus for Meta’s VR platforms, and the company has already acquired a fitness subscription service that measures heart rate via a paired Apple Watch. (The Moving Oculus app syncs with Apple Health.) Meta is also reportedly working on its own smart watch.

How will he mix up reality?

Project Cambria’s enhanced external cameras will capture passthrough color video, displaying it on the headset’s internal display. The Quest 2 can “see through” and also show the outside world, but in a grainy black and white video stream. The Quest 2 overlays some VR with this flow, like room boundaries, creating a type of mixed reality. Expect Meta Cambria to do this much more realistically.

I have already tried an example of this technology on a very high-end 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 on top of it in a way that can look almost as convincing as the effects of AR headsets made by Microsoft and Magic Leap. I would expect Meta Cambria to try something very similar.

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

cambria-facebook

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

Facebook

How will eye tracking work?

We don’t know the specifics, but most VR eye trackers work the same way: infrared cameras measure eye movement, while some trackers also capture images of your eye. Eye tracking does a few pretty useful things: foveal rendering can create better graphics with less processing power by showing only the highest resolution detail where the fovea of ​​your eyes is looking, which potentially means better battery life battery or performance in a smaller headset.

Eye tracking can also be used to create 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, using only visual controls to operate the VR interface.

Meta appears to be adding face tracking cameras as well as eye tracking, which could be used to map emotions and facial expressions in avatars. But all of this tracking comes with additional questions about privacy. While Meta promised transparency and limits on the use of tracking data, Facebook the story of user Data abuse leaves many worries.

Chances are it’s not as much of a game console

If the Cambria headset is over $800, there’s no way it’s going to be as popular as the Quest 2 now. Meta seems to hint that this isn’t what Cambria is all about, which means game developers may not be as focused on new hardware.

Facebook has a history of funding lots of game and art projects on its VR platforms, but it looks like Cambria isn’t about to debut. Games. Instead, Meta will likely focus on a wide range of business, training, fitness, and crossover AR apps to help build its metaverse visions. In that sense, current Quest 2 owners might already have the best VR gaming console for quite some time (until the PlayStation VR 2 arrives, at least).

The Information’s latest report on the Meta Cambria reinforces that the headset’s greatest strengths – better display resolution, eye tracking, passthrough mixed reality – will be tools to advance Meta’s vision for work and the future of virtual reality. Look to competing high-end VR and AR products like the Vive Focus 3, Hololens 2 and Varjo headsets, where professional uses are clearly the focus. Meta has had a lot of success with gamers, but it will have a harder time convincing workplaces to adopt its technology.

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The Quest 2, released in 2020, is still one of our favorite headsets. It might not be replaced until 2023.

Scott Stein/CNET

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

A true successor to the Quest 2 may not arrive until 2023, according to recent reports. This Quest 3 should be a headset that will compete for the same price as the Quest 2, and eventually replace it, but not this year. Cambria, however, shouldn’t be that helmet. 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 eventually trickle down to more affordable products later on.

Keep the concepts of “Cambria” and “Quest 3” separate in your head, and it will help you plan your buying decisions. Cambria may only end up attracting avid and professional users with money to spend. I don’t expect a VR headset to compete with the Quest 2’s $300 price tag anytime soon.

The Quest 2 is still a fantastic headset for its price, and Meta continues to update the software regularly with new features. Unless you’re a professional looking for a top-of-the-line headset at all costs, you probably don’t need to wait for what Cambria eventually becomes later this year. However, if you have a PlayStation 5, you might want to wait and see what the PlayStation VR 2 is like.

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