Meta plans to release its first smart glasses with a display in 2025, along with a smartwatch with a neural interface designed to control them, The Verge has learned. Meanwhile, the first full-fledged AR glasses are slated for 2027, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg has predicted will eventually be as widespread as cell phones.
The details were shared with thousands of employees at Meta’s Reality Labs division on Tuesday during a roadmap presentation of its AR and VR endeavors shared with The Verge. Overall, they show how Meta plans to continue investing in consumer hardware after a series of setbacks and broader cost cutting across the company. A spokesman for Meta declined to comment on this story.
Regarding the VR roadmap, staff have been told that Meta’s flagship Quest 3 headset, due out later this year, will be two times thinner, at least twice as powerful, and cost a little more than the $400 Quest 2. Like that Recently announced Quest Pro will highlight mixed reality experiences that don’t fully immerse the wearer, thanks to front-facing cameras that loop through real-world video. Meta has sold nearly 20 million Quest headsets to date, Mark Rabkin, the company’s vice president of VR, told employees during the presentation.
(I’ll share more about this meeting and my thoughts on Meta’s roadmap in Thursday’s Command Line newsletter.)
Three new Quest models
The Meta Quest 2 released in 2020. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
Meta’s biggest challenge with Quest 3, internally codenamed Stinson, will be convincing people to pay “a little more” money than the existing Quest 2 cost, according to Rabkin. “We have to get the enthusiasts excited about it,” he told employees on Tuesday. “We have to show people that all this power, all these new features, are worth it.”
Meta has sold nearly 20 million Quest headsets to date
Mixed reality will be a big selling point, and Rabkin said there will be a new “smart guardian” to help wearers navigate the real world while wearing the device. “The main North Star for the team was that from the moment you put this headset on, the mixed reality needs to feel better, easier and more natural,” he said. “You can walk around your house with ease, knowing you can see perfectly. You can place anchors and things on your desktop. You can take your coffee. You can stay there much longer.”
There will be 41 new apps and games for the Quest 3, including new mixed reality experiences to take advantage of the updated hardware, Rabkin said. In 2024, he said Meta plans to ship a more “accessible” headset, codenamed Ventura. “The goal for this headset is very simple: to achieve the highest possible performance at the most attractive price point in the VR consumer market.”
Rabkin hasn’t said if a second-gen of the recently released Meta Quest Pro, which has received poor reviews from The Verge and others, is coming any time soon. What sounds like a sequel is most likely to come after Ventura in 2024, when Meta plans its most advanced headset, codenamed La Jolla, with photorealistic codec avatars.
“We want to get higher definition for work and really get to the point of work, text and things like that,” Rabkin said of La Jolla. “We want to take a lot of the comfort aspects of Quest Pro and how it sits on your head and the split architecture and bring that in for more comfort.”
Meanwhile, he acknowledged that the current quest is struggling to engage new users. “Right now we’re in Quest 2’s third year,” he told staff. “And unfortunately, the newer cohorts that are coming in, the people who bought it last Christmas, just aren’t as interested” or engaged as “the ones who bought it early.”
Rabkin urged staff to make sharing VR content on other platforms “trivial,” redesign the Quest Store to make it “more dynamic,” and allow developers to do things like automated promotions.
The current quest is struggling to keep new users engaged
“We need to get better at growth, maintenance and resurrection,” he said. “We need to get more social and actually make these things more reliable and intuitive for people to rely on.”
Despite these issues, Meta built an early lead in virtual reality hardware. But its wide swings over the coming years speak to the serious competition that is about to arrive. Apple is expected to announce a high-end virtual reality headset later this year, while Sony just released the well-received PSVR 2 for console gamers. Meanwhile, Apple, Google, Snap, and others are racing toward something even bigger: augmented reality glasses — and this is where Meta is hoping its early efforts in mixed reality will really pay off.
AR glasses and neural interfaces
A demo from late 2021 shows how Meta envisions AR glasses could work to let someone play chess with a hologram. Image: Meta
Aside from the Quest series, Meta also has thousands of collaborators building future AR glasses and wrist devices to control them. The key difference from VR is that the company intends to eventually wear AR glasses throughout the day as a replacement for smartphones. Zuckerberg has called it the “Holy Grail” device that will “redefine our relationship with technology” by the end of this decade.
During Tuesday’s roadmap presentation, Alex Himel, the company’s vice president of AR, laid out the plan for a variety of devices by 2027. The first launch will come this fall with the second generation of Meta’s camera-equipped smart glasses, which launched in 2021 at Ray-Ban’s parent company Luxottica.
In 2025, Himel said, third-generation smart glasses will come with a display he dubbed “viewfinders” to view incoming text messages, scan QR codes, and translate text from another language in real time. The goggles come with a “neural interface” strap that allows the wearer to control the goggles with hand movements, e.g. B. by swiping your fingers on an imaginary control pad. Finally, he said the band will allow the wearer to use a virtual keyboard and type at the same words per minute as cell phones allow.
The smartwatch will integrate with Meta’s social media apps and offer health and fitness features
While Meta has finalized its plans for a smartwatch with a detachable display and cameras, it’s still working on another smartwatch to accompany its 2025 goggles, confirmed Himel.
“We don’t want people to have to choose between an input device on their wrist and a smartwatch functionality they’ve come to love,” he said. “So we build a clock with neural interfaces. First, this device will take input: input to control your glasses, input to control functionality on your wrist, and input to control the world around you.”
Himel showed employees a demo of the glasses where, during a video call, the cameras on the glasses showed the wearer’s frontal perspective while simultaneously showing a selfie view from the camera on the watch. He said the smartwatch will be an optional upgrade from a paired neural band that comes with the glasses and will also integrate with Meta’s social media apps like WhatsApp and offer health and fitness features.
Released in 2021, the Ray-Ban Stories by Meta has two cameras for taking photos and videos. Photo by Amanda Lopez for The Verge
Meta’s first true AR glasses, which the company has been developing in-house for 8 years under the codename Orion, are more technologically advanced, more expensive and designed to project high-quality holograms of avatars into the real world. According to Himel, there will be an “internal start” for employees to test the glasses in 2024. A version won’t be released to the public until 2027, when Meta will launch what Himel calls an “innovation” line of AR glasses for early adopters alongside a “Scale” line of less advanced smart glasses and the second generation of their neural glasses becomes smart watch.
Himel framed the market opportunity surrounding the nearly two billion regular glasses and hundreds of millions of smartwatches sold each year. “If we can put a great product on the shelves at a great price with the right value, we believe we can get into those upgrade cycles and have big growth in our devices,” he told the space. “It’s up to us to deliver.”
“A deal like we’ve never seen in mobile phones”
Meta plans to rely on its existing advertising business model to monetize these future devices. Himel said the company believes it can generate higher average revenue per user than it currently does on social media thanks to a combination of selling virtual goods, optional add-ons like cloud backups, and AR ads.
“We should be able to run a very good ad business,” he said. “I think it’s easy to imagine how advertising would appear in space wearing AR glasses. Our ability to track conversions, which we have valued as a company, should also be close to 100 percent.”
“If we even come close to meeting projections, it’s going to be a huge deal,” he said. “A deal like we’ve never seen on mobile phones before.”
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