Meta Quest 3 convinced me to love VR by downplaying the metaverseReading Time: 3 minutes
Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the Meta Quest 3 VR headset on stage at Meta’s Connect event in California today, but I was lucky enough to get a chance to try it out last week in San Francisco. The Meta Quest 3 is similar to its two predecessors, and borrows a lot from the much more expensive Meta Quest Pro, but it improves upon all of the above in some key ways, and the result is something genuinely new and improved that stands to create a much larger tent for virtual and mixed reality in general
The things I did on the Meta Quest 3 weren’t astoundingly different from things I’ve tried in VR before: For reference, I’ve owned both the original Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive, as well as the first-generation Quest. I skipped the second iteration, mostly because those other three devices, which in total represent a fairly significant costs, spent a huge amount of time either collecting dust on a shelf, or squirrelled away into a closet to hide my great shame about how little I used them. The OG Quest also scratched my glasses but that’s another story.
What surprised me about Meta Quest 3 was how much I immediately enjoyed using it. I thought my heart was hardened against VR honestly, and irreversibly so. Donning this headset immediately started to thaw my feelings, however, in part because the form factor is actually much-improved, with a lighter, more balanced design that is super easy to adjust and that wears much more naturally than previous generations. The headset also has built-in fine adjustment not only for pupillary distance, but for lens depth, which lets you make sure your own glasses will never experience the conflict mine did with Quest 1.
Software and system setup is also greatly improved, and the passthrough, while not as hyper-real as Apple’s Vision Pro by all accounts, is very, very good for most uses. It feels seamless to switch between a mixed and fully immersive view, and to interact with people around you. Meta has cut some corners vs. Apple, like using a simple breathing white LED to show when passthrough is active to those around you, vs. photorealistic renderings of your eyes, but it’s remarkably good for something that costs nearly 7x less.
My first actual mixed reality experience was a multiplayer game that allowed up to four players to join in and participate in a Smash-type 3D platform combat game, and it was actually incredibly fun. I played with a Meta handler as well as another journalist, and I trounced them both soundly. I won’t mention the other journalist to spare him the embarrassment.
Later, I got to try out a longer, more varied demo with a lot of different test experiences, including some showing mixed reality, and some showing more fully immersive experiences that were more similar to what I’ve tried before with past headsets. All were impressive, and even the full VR was much better than it has been due to the improved visual quality and processing power of this generation.
What was maybe the best part about all of these demos, and about Zuck’s presentation of the Quest 3 overall, was that no one in the demo room ever mentioned the ‘metaverse,’ and Mark only said the word twice during the entire keynote today – the first time 34 minutes into the presentation and long after the Quest 3 segment, and then again in passing about five minutes later.
The metaverse as a concept almost became Meta’s Titanic iceberg – a threatening, implacable inevitability that seemed to inspire more dread than excitement and optimism. No one like the idea of being plugged into a virtual world controlled by Facebook and Zuckerberg to live out the rest of their lives as digitally being deprived of senses and exposed, not infrequently, to nausea-inducing stimuli.
This time around, Meta clearly wanted to keep things light and fun, and additive to your existing, fulfilling life. What’s more impressive – they pretty much pulled that off!
I’m back in as a fan and user of VR thanks to the Quest 3, and excited to see where things go from here. That’s a very different place from where I was this time last year.
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