Meta’s latest offering, the Meta Quest 3, takes mixed reality to the next level, but will consumers embrace the concept?

Meta, the tech giant formerly known as Facebook, has unveiled its latest immersive tech products, ushering in the next generation of wearable technology. The centerpiece of this announcement is the Meta Quest 3, the successor to its popular Quest series, accompanied by an update to the Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses.

A Glimpse into Mixed Reality

One of the standout features of the Meta Quest 3 is its focus on mixed reality, which seamlessly blends virtual elements with the real world. During the demonstration, Meta showcased various applications and games that exemplify this merging of realities. In one scenario, the headset simulated an alien invasion, blurring the boundaries between the virtual and physical environments. Another experience transported users to an abandoned space station, completely disconnecting them from the physical world Meta had created for the demonstration.

As someone relatively new to the concept of the metaverse, adapting to this technology took some time. After removing the headset, there was a sense of disorientation, akin to the feeling of being on a rolling ship. The Meta Quest 3 inherits key features from its premium Pro model, including an enhanced display and the ability to navigate menus with hand gestures. However, certain features, such as eye-tracking and rechargeable controllers, are excluded to keep costs down, emphasizing Meta’s commitment to accessibility.

The Competitive Landscape

In terms of pricing, the Meta Quest 3 appears competitive compared to rivals like the HTC Vive Pro 2 and the PSVR2. Yet, it raises questions about the overarching purpose of the ‘Metaverse,’ given Meta’s substantial investment of over $36 billion in research and development—significantly more than Apple’s expenditure on inventing the iPhone.

When questioned about this disparity, a Meta spokesperson defended their focus on AI development, asserting that they are engaged in different but equally valuable pursuits compared to competitors like Microsoft and Google. It remains to be seen if Meta’s investments will yield the anticipated results.

Ray-Ban Stories 2.0

In addition to the Meta Quest 3, Meta has also upgraded its Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses. These glasses do not project images but instead capture them using two discreet cameras embedded in the frame. This update follows a lukewarm reception of the previous generation, with reports indicating that many users stopped using them shortly after purchase.

The new version boasts improved cameras, microphones, and built-in speakers, making them potentially appealing to content creators. However, the decision to limit video recording to portrait mode may be a polarizing move for some users, particularly those accustomed to landscape recording.

The built-in speakers provide good-quality Bluetooth audio playback, although performance diminishes at maximum volume. The charging case appears conventional but may pose a challenge for individuals with red/green color blindness due to indistinguishable indicators.

Meta’s Vision for the Future

Meta’s ultimate goal is to marry the display technology from the Quest series with the camera capabilities of the Ray-Ban Stories. Mark Zuckerberg has expressed his ambition to develop smart glasses that offer both functionalities, although this vision may require several generations of technological advancements.

In the current landscape, Meta’s latest offerings inject a sense of competition and innovation into the market. However, questions about the Metaverse’s purpose and widespread acceptance linger, making the path forward uncertain.