Oct 11 (Reuters) – Meta Platforms (META.O) on Tuesday unveiled its Quest Pro virtual and mixed reality headset, marking a milestone for chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s breakthrough into the high-end market for extended reality computing devices .
The headset, showcased at Meta’s annual Connect conference, will hit shelves Oct. 25 for $1,500 and will offer consumers a way to interact with virtual creations superimposed on a full-color view of the physical world. surrounded.
The launch is a milestone for Zuckerberg, who last year announced plans for the device – then called Project Cambria – at the same time he changed his company’s name from Facebook to Meta to signal his intention to refocus the social media giant into a business. which leverages a shared immersive computing experience known as the Metaverse.
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Zuckerberg has since invested billions of dollars in this vision. Reality Labs, the Meta unit responsible for bringing the Metaverse to life, lost $10.2 billion in 2021 and has lost nearly $6 billion so far this year.
In a speech at the event, Zuckerberg, recorded partly on video and partly as an avatar, said he expects the blending of the physical and digital worlds will lead to new uses. computer science.
“You’re going to see entirely new categories of things being built,” he said.
The Quest Pro features several upgrades over Meta’s existing Quest 2 headset, which overwhelmingly dominates the consumer VR market.
Most strikingly, it has outward-facing cameras that capture a sort of 3D live feed of the physical environment around a wearer, enabling mixed reality novelties like the ability to hang a virtual painting on a real-world wall or bouncing a virtual ball off a real board.
The Quest 2, on the other hand, offers a more rudimentary grayscale version of this technology, called passthrough.
The Quest Pro feels lighter and slimmer than its predecessors, with thin crepe lenses and a relocated battery that sits at the rear of the headset, distributing its weight more evenly while reducing the overall bulk.
For fully immersive virtual reality, Meta has added tracking sensors to the Quest Pro that can replicate users’ eye movements and facial expressions, creating the feeling that avatars are making eye contact.
Meta markets the Quest Pro as a productivity device, aimed at designers, architects and other creative professionals.
In addition to offering its own Horizon social and workspace platforms, the company has also made available virtual versions of Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) work products like Word, Outlook and Teams, a partnership the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, joined Zuckerberg to announce.
Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist whose writings on the metaverse have drawn praise from Zuckerberg, said he considers such partnerships important because they suggest companies’ commitment to interoperability, or the idea that different systems should connect to each other.
“There’s a lot of skepticism in the market about whether an open, interoperable metaverse is even possible, let alone likely,” he said, noting that Microsoft and Meta compete on multiple products in the space. of extended reality.
During a preview of Quest Pro a few days before its launch, Meta gave reporters a taste of the kind of user he had in mind for his productivity pitch by showcasing apps like Tribe XR, a virtual training environment. for DJs.
Tribe XR is already available in VR, but a demo showed how passthrough technology can allow DJs to use the app to play gigs in the real world, as it means they can look beyond their virtual equipment the real partygoers.
Meta plans to sell the Quest Pro in consumer channels to begin with, while adding enterprise-level features such as mobile device management, authentication and premium support services next year. said the leaders during the press event.
They said the device is meant to complement rather than replace the entry-level Quest 2, which retails for $399.99.
For now, that means Quest Pro shuts down before activating the complex business applications that Meta has suggested it wants its metaverse technology to support.
The company is still working on a mixed reality experience for its Horizon Workrooms app that would make a person’s avatar look like they’re in a real-world conference room with other users, which it calls Magic Rooms. .
He also plans to add legs to his avatars, which are currently displayed from the waist down, Zuckerberg said.
Still, the Quest Pro’s price puts it well below the cost of existing enterprise-focused devices like Microsoft’s Hololens 2, which launched for commercial use in 2019 and is already in operating rooms and in the factories.
An entry-level Hololens 2 sells for $3,500.
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Reporting by Katie Paul in Palo Alto, California. Editing by Kenneth Li, Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis
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