Meta plans to release its first pair of smart glasses with a display in 2025 along with a smartwatch with a neural interface designed to control it, the edge to learn. Meanwhile, the first pair of full-fledged augmented reality glasses, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicts will eventually be used as widely as cellphones, is planned for 2027.
Details were shared with thousands of employees at Meta Reality Labs on Tuesday during a presentation of a roadmap for its AR and VR efforts shared with the edge. Altogether, they show how Meta plans to continue investing in consumer hardware after a series of broader cost and setbacks across the company. A Meta spokesperson declined to comment for this story.
In terms of the VR roadmap, employees have been told that the Quest 3 flagship Meta headset coming later this year will be twice as thin, at least twice as powerful, and cost just over $400. It will prominently display mixed reality experiences that don’t completely immerse the wearer, thanks to the front-facing cameras that pass through real-world video. Meta has sold nearly 20 million Quest headsets to date, Mark Rapkin, the company’s vice president of virtual reality, told employees during the presentation.
(I’ll get more from this meeting and my thoughts on the Meta roadmap in Thursday’s issue of my newsletter command line.)
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Meta’s main challenge with Quest 3, which is internally codenamed Stinson, will be getting people to pay “a little more” money than Quest 2 currently costs, according to Rabkin. “We have to get enthusiasts excited about this,” he told employees Tuesday. “We have to prove to people that all of this power, all of these new features are worth it.”
Meta has sold nearly 20 million Quest headphones to date
Mixed reality will be a huge selling point, and Rabkin said there will be a new “smart guardian” to help wearers navigate the real world while they’re wearing the device. “The main North Star of the team has been from the moment I put on this headset, Mixed Reality has to make it better, easier and more natural,” he said. “You can walk through your house effortlessly knowing you can see well. You can put your fasteners and stuff on your desktop. You can have your coffee. You can stay there longer.”
There will be 41 new apps and games shipped for Quest 3, Rabkin said, including new mixed reality experiences to take advantage of the updated hardware. In 2024, he said, Meta plans to ship an “accessible” headset codenamed Ventura. “The goal of this headset is very simple: pack the biggest punch possible at the most attractive price point in the consumer VR market.”
Rabkin did not say if the second generation Meta Quest Pro was the last, which he received poor reviews from the edge and others, anytime soon. The closest to what looks like a successor will be a “future exit” after Ventura in 2024, when Meta plans a more advanced codenamed La Jolla headset featuring photorealistic coding avatars.
“We want to make it the highest fidelity for work use and really make nail work and scripts and things like that,” Rabkin said of La Jolla. “We want to take a lot of the ergonomic things from the Quest Pro and how it sits on your head and the split structure and bring that in for comfort.”
At the same time, I acknowledge that the current mission is struggling to keep new users engaged. “Right now, we’re in our third year of Quest 2,” he told the staff. “Unfortunately, the new collections coming in, the people who bought them last Christmas, weren’t interested in them” or shared like “those who bought them early.”
Rabkin pushed employees to make sharing VR content to other platforms “trivial”, redesigned the Quest Store to make it more “dynamic”, and gave developers the ability to do things like automated upgrades.
The current mission is struggling to keep new users engaged
He said, “We need to get better at growth, retention, and resurrection.” “We need to get better at social communication and make these things more reliable and intuitive so that people can rely on them.”
Even with these difficulties, Meta built an early lead in virtual reality hardware. But the big fluctuations over the coming years speak of the serious competition that is about to arrive. Apple is expected to announce a virtual reality headset sometime this year, while Sony has just released the PSVR 2, which has been well received by gamers. Meanwhile, Apple, Google, Snap, and others are racing toward something bigger: augmented reality glasses—and this is where Meta hopes its early efforts in the mixed reality space will really pay off.
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Aside from the Quest lineup, the Meta also has thousands of employees building futuristic AR glasses and wrist devices to control them. The main difference from virtual reality is that the company intends to eventually wear AR glasses throughout the day as an alternative to smartphones. Zuckerberg called it the “Holy Grail” that will redefine our relationship with technology by the end of this decade.
During Tuesday’s roadmap presentation, Alex Himmel, the company’s vice president of augmented reality, laid out a plan for a range of devices through 2027. The first launch will come this fall with the second generation of Meta smart glasses with a camera released in 2021 with Luxottica, the parent company. for Ray-Ban.
In 2025, Himmel said, the third generation of smart glasses will ship with a display he dubbed a “viewfinder” to display incoming text messages, scan QR codes, and translate text from another language in real time. The glasses come with a “neural interface” bar that allows the wearer to control the glasses through hand movements, such as sliding fingers over an imaginary D-pad. Eventually, he said, the band will allow the wearer to use a virtual keyboard and type the same words in the exact minute that cellphones allow.
The smartwatch will integrate with Meta’s social media apps and provide health and fitness features
Hemel confirmed that while Meta has prepared its plans for a smartwatch with a detachable display and cameras, it is still working on another smartwatch to accompany the 2025 glasses.
“We don’t want people to have to choose between an input device on their wrist and the smartwatch functionality they like,” he said. “So we’re building a watch of neural interfaces. Number one, this device will do the input: input to control your glasses, inputs to control the functions of your wrist, inputs to control the world around you.”
Himmel showed staff a demonstration of the glasses, during a video call, the cameras on the glasses would show the wearer’s front view at the same time as a selfie from the camera on the watch. The smartwatch will be an optional upgrade from the dual nerve band that came with the glasses, he said, and will also integrate with Meta social media apps like WhatsApp and offer health and fitness features.
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The Meta’s first true pair of augmented reality glasses, which the company developed in-house for 8 years under the codename Orion, are more technically advanced, expensive, and designed to project high-quality 3D images of avatars onto the real world. There will be an “internal launch” of employees to test the glasses in 2024, according to Himmel. A version won’t be released to the public until 2027, when Meta will launch what Himel called its “Innovation” line of augmented reality glasses for early adopters along with the “Scale” line of less advanced smart glasses and the second generation of its Neural smartwatch.
Himmel modeled the market opportunity around the nearly two billion pairs of eyeglasses and hundreds of millions of smartwatches sold each year. “If we can put a great product on the shelves at a great price at the right value, we think we can get into these upgrade cycles and generate significant growth in our devices,” he told Chamber. “We have to submit.”
“Work unlike anything we’ve seen on mobile phones before”
Meta plans to build on its current advertising business model to help it make money from these future devices. Himmel said the company believes it can generate higher average income per user than it currently makes on social media, thanks to a combination of selling virtual goods and optional extras like cloud backups and augmented reality ads.
“We should be able to run a pretty good advertising business,” he said. “I think it’s easy to imagine how ads will look in the space when you have the augmented reality glasses on. Our ability to track conversions, where there’s been a lot of focus as a company, also has to get close to 100 percent.”
“If we get anything close to the expectations,” he said, “it will be a colossal feat.” “A work unlike anything we’ve seen on mobile phones before.”
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