Meta Quest 3 probably goes full mixed reality

Meta Quest 3 is likely going full mixed reality - and rightly so

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Meta Quest 3 could do without eye tracking and rely on mixed reality instead. Is this a good decision on Meta’s part?

Meta Quest 3 blueprints were leaked this week. VR leaker Brad Lynch published the images in a YouTube video along with more information from sources close to the company. Lynch had already leaked the Meta Quest Pro blueprints, which later turned out to be authentic.

Still, caution is advised: the new images could be one of several prototypes of the Meta Quest 3, which isn’t necessarily the device expected to launch next year. Meta itself hasn’t announced a sequel to Meta Quest 2 yet.

Meta Quest 3: A Necessary Compromise

If this is indeed Meta Quest 3, it points to a surprising twist in Meta’s VR strategy. While Zuckerberg said in the spring that eye and face tracking were top priorities for the “next quest,” the blueprints speak a different language.

The device dispenses with the sensors inside the headset and uses it instead four outdoor cameras and a depth sensor. So Meta is prioritizing mixed reality and hand tracking at the expense of eye tracking and more believable social interactions, at least for Meta Quest 3.

Meta Quest Pro doesn’t have to make such technical compromises, because it may cost many times more than Meta Quest 3. Pancake lenses, five new sensors and a next-gen SoC – there’s probably no room for eye and face tracking in the cheaper headset .

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What is the point of eye and face tracking?

It’s a painful trade-off, but one that Meta Quest 3’s target audience will get over. What exactly are they losing, the vast majority of VR users?

On the one hand, Gaze Controlled Interactionsand on the other hand more realistic avatars that can make eye contact and reflect the facial expressions of their users.

CAD schematic shows front of Meta Quest 3 with passthrough sensor technology.

The front of the Meta Quest 3 with two black and white and color cameras and a depth sensor. | Image: SadlyitsBradley

The former isn’t a killer feature, the latter is only used in social VR apps. However, social experiences and multiplayer games now account for more than half of usage time, as Meta recently revealed. A trend that eye and face tracking could further accelerate.

Of course, there’s foveated rendering that could be removed by the lack of eye tracking. However, it is currently still unclear whether the rendering technology really brings advantages for standalone headsets. Hope is raised by a firmware find that suggests Meta Quest Pro supports foveated rendering or a related rendering technology.


Mixed reality takes precedence

The advantages of mixed reality and hand tracking are now obvious: Both technologies lowering the barriers to entry and making virtual reality accessible to the masses. And that’s what Meta Quest 3 is all about.

Mixed reality facilitates switching between digital and physical reality, blurring the lines, while hand tracking encourages short sessions and daily headset use.

CAD blueprint showing the inside of Meta Quest 3.

This render shows that the supposed Meta Quest 3 does not include eye and face tracking sensors. | Image: SadlyitsBradley

Both mixed reality and hand tracking will open up new application scenarios for VR and AR. The former happens through the integration of the environment, the latter through novel interactions.

Mixed reality in particular will gain in importance over time and will in many ways form the basis for upcoming AR headsets. And that’s Meta’s holy grail.

“Meta Quest Plus”: eye and face tracking for an extra charge?

So there’s more strategy behind Meta’s alleged Quest 3 design than meets the eye, and that adds even more credence to the leak. Eye and face recognition is far from being written off.

On the one hand, Meta Quest Pro will support this technology. On the other hand, Meta could launch one MetaQuest Plus in 2023 or 2024, which adds eye and face tracking and is priced between Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro. According to a leaked roadmap, Meta is planning two new Quest headsets in the next two years, so a Meta Quest Plus would make perfect sense.

For fans of social VR experiences, there would then be an upgrade option that wouldn’t be as hard on the wallet as Meta’s premium headset. That would please all target groups.