Meta Planning a Cheaper and “Accessible” Headset in 2024
The Verge’s Alex Heath reports that Meta is planning to release a cheaper and more “accessible” headset next year, based on information from a leaked roadmap.
The report states that Meta executives did an internal presentation for their new Quest headsets, one of which is a ‘Lite’ version that will be released next year. The presentation also covered Augmented Reality glasses slated for 2027 and a neural interface smartwatch.
According to The Verge report, Meta’s Vice President for VR Mark Rabkin told staff that the goal of the cheaper headset would be to “pack the biggest punch we can at the most attractive price point” for the consumer virtual reality market.
This is not the first time the company is doing a cheaper stripped-down virtual reality headset. In 2018, then as Facebook, it released the $200 standalone Oculus Go virtual reality headset without positional tracking which was designed for seated use. The Oculus Go had fixed lenses along with a basic rotational laser pointer remote. In 2020, the Oculus Go was withdrawn from the market and Facebook vowed that all subsequent headsets would feature positional tracking.
It isn’t apparent, yet, how different the 2024 headset would be from the Quest 3 headset set to launch later this year. Meta has said the Quest 3 headset will cost more than $400, the price of its main consumer headset at the moment which has shipped tens of millions of units. It will be interesting to see the kind of features that Meta will add or truncate to realize a lower price point.
Opting to build a new and cheaper consumer headset just a year after the launch of another consumer headset suggests that Meta will be making some tradeoffs. The upcoming Meta Quest 3 headset launching this year will feature adjustable lens operation so the 2024 headset could feature a fixed lens as a cost-cutting measure which would provide some users with a visual experience that is less comfortable than that of the Quest 3. However, the blur may not be as bad thanks to the use of pancake lenses which accommodates eye alignment better.
The 2024 headset could also feature fewer or lower-quality mixed reality sensors to cut costs. However, stripping down these features will likely hinder Meta’s objective of delivering high-quality hand-tracking, and rather than increasing accessibility of the hardware, the no-frills approach may end up limiting the market for the mixed reality experiences that Meta is keen on pushing.
The Verge report doesn’t reveal the name of the headset to be released in 2024 which will effectively be a ‘Lite’ version of the Quest 3 headset. It is currently codenamed Ventura, according to the report.
There isn’t even a guarantee that the headset might see the light of day. It is customary for hardware companies, particularly in emerging sectors such as XR, to cancel development projects midway, for various reasons.
According to Meta’s VR roadmap, the flagship Quest 3 headset set to launch later in the year will be two times as thin and at least twice as powerful. It will also cost slightly over the $400 Quest 2 headset.
The front-facing cameras in the Quest 3 headset will give it mixed reality functions just like the Quest Pro headset where the cameras deliver a color passthrough video feed of the real world. Rabkin told Meta employees that the company had sold close to 20 million units of the Quest headsets so far.
Meta Smart Glasses Slated for 2025
The report also says that Meta’s first smartglasses with displays are scheduled for 2025. These will be launched alongside a neural interface smartwatch used to control them.
Meta is also planning its first fully-fledged augmented reality glasses for 2027. Zuckerberg has predicted these glasses will be used as widely as mobile phones.
The roadmap presented to Meta staff shows the company is still keen on investing in consumer hardware even after seeing some setbacks and making cutbacks in its spending in recent months.