Thoughts on Quest 3
The good, the bad, and the meh
Quest 3 is coming out in a month, three years after the launch of Quest 2 and in the midst of Quest Pro's failure and Vision Pro's hype. The trend is a move to mixed reality devices where two RGB cameras capture the world around you and show it via virtual reality displays. Mixed reality aims to fix the main issue with VR: being isolated. Now we can bring virtual elements to the real world.
Palmer Luckey has said for years that the price doesn't matter if the content isn't good enough. Most people won't use a headset even if it's free — the price hike won't help either. Quest 2 came at $299 during a time when standalone content was improving; it was a big level up in users after selling 20m devices. Now we get a more expensive device while the content remains similar.
Quest 3 comes with a 30% higher resolution display. It will still be on the same level as Quest 2 and Pro, and far away from the 4k per eye on AVP (Apple Vision Pro). All this at around $500. But the big question is if the price-features balance is enough to open the XR market to a larger group of people.
I don't think that will be the case. The minimum resolution to make text readable without straining our eyes is around 4k per eye and Quest 3 will be 2k. Being able to read unlocks the professional use case where one can work on most things in mixed reality. For now, Quest 3 will have to stick to existing verticals like gaming, fitness and social apps.
The extra resolution won't be enough for a new experience, but maybe the extra power and the depth sensor will. The chipset is 2x as powerful which can bring bigger games and more populated virtual worlds. There's no doubt that games today are more enticing than those from 10 years ago; while a good game designer can provide a lot of fun with small resources, more resources are always better.My favourite VR games — Half-Life Alyx, No Man's Sky, and Skyrim — are PC VR only and I can't wait to run those kinds of experiences on a standalone device.
At the last moment, Meta decided to remove the depth sensor on Quest Pro. This ended up being a mistake, as the mixed reality offered on a supposedly professional device was subpar. AVP followed the alternative route: throw in all the high-quality sensors necessary for the best possible consumer experience today, including a depth sensor and LiDAR. People who have tried it say that it reaches the minimum bar to make the real world seem real. Quest 3 will also include a depth sensor but at a much cheaper price. The mixed reality experience should be good, but it's left to see how close it gets to AVP.
The depth sensor could make passthrough good enough for daily use. There are currently a lot of distortions in passthrough and an extremely low resolution. You can't read text and much less see screens clearly. For great experiences, we want mixed reality apps to understand the environment and interact with it. With Quest 2 and Pro, users need to define their room walls and furniture manually. It's a long process with a lot of friction. Thanks to the depth sensor, Quest 3 can now do this on the fly.
I still have a lot of doubts about the actual implementation. The sensors on Quest 3 are likely less refined than those on AVP due to a much lower price.Meta is also historically bad with software — they release cool features that seem a prototype at most. I don't expect the transition from the real world to passthrough to be as seamless as AVP nor will objects stay attached to the real world without some drift.
The main criticism of AVP is that the comfort is not there for extended play sessions. Even if the hardware allows people to be in VR for hours, if the headset is heavy it will hurt necks and faces. Quest 3, being a cheaper device, won't provide any step forward in this regard.
AVP's hype could make Quest 3 a stepping stone until Apple makes a consumer device. New creators and users will take another look at the XR landscape and decide to join in. Many, while looking up to Apple's vision, may not afford it and start playing out with Meta's offering instead. While Quest 3 won't offer a mixed reality experience that is as detailed as AVP, it will be good enough to prototype and launch the same kind of applications. Quest will also have a bigger user base, so companies aiming for mixed reality can launch on both AVP and Quest to enlarge their TAM.
With time, developer studios have gained experience with VR content and have had more time to create bigger titles. I expect to see the biggest games launched on standalone to coincide with the Quest 3's timeline. Some like GTA San Andreas have already been announced, but we will also see smaller studios that have been working on their game for multiple years to make the most of the extra capabilities.
While I don't think Quest 3 will be a game-changer, it will be a solid stepping stone. One can never guess which game or application will suddenly attract a surge of new people to a platform. Nor can we guess which hardware feature will lead to that piece of content. Passthrough mixed reality is the next big attempt, and Quest 3 brings it to the masses. The jury is still out on how well-implemented it will be, but we'll start seeing new categories of applications on both the Quest Store and Vision Pro.
SkarredGhost discussed in a recent post that a slow cycle is coming up. Seeing the current state of XR content and upcoming headsets, I couldn't agree more. No expected improvement is good enough to burst the gates open to tens of millions of new users. But with new features, more competition, and the experience only gained with time, it's getting easier for creators to make more compelling applications. I still believe we aren't making the most of the existing capabilities and there's a lot of joy we can provide to users. Quest 3 is a linear improvement in the right direction.
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Karl Guttag goes deep into HMD optics to explain that we may need more than 4k per eye to avoid eye strain.
Except those creatives that thrive under dire limitations.
I'm not sure why Apple added Lidar and how its absence on Quest 3 can affect the mixed reality experience.
Total Addressable Market.
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