When it comes to virtual reality headsets, there are two main types after the collapse of smartphone-based headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream: lightweight standalone systems like the Quest 2 and more advanced PC-based systems like the Vive Pro 2 and Valve Index.
Meta’s new Quest Pro is an attempt to merge the benefits of these two designs into a single, high-performance headset without sacrificing comfort. Meta is so confident in its next headset, the Quest Pro, that the company’s head of product management, Rupa Rao, called it the “beginning of an evolution in VR” before a demo session for the press.
It will be the first fully-featured immersive computer platform, making the metaverse possible. Now that I’ve had a chance to check it out for myself, I can understand where they’re coming from with their assurance.
The Quest Pro is an advanced version of the Quest 2 with much-improved hardware. Meta claims that the Quest Pro’s 50 per cent improved performance over the Quest 2 is due to the device’s first-in-class Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ CPU, 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and 90Hz refresh rate.
However, one of the finest features of the Quest 2 for me is how cosy it is. It requires a significantly larger battery to accommodate its higher horsepower. Meta employed a curved cell that is embedded in the Quest Pro’s headband in place of a bulky power pack at the front, which would have thrown off the headset’s centre of gravity.
The headset is quite easy to put on since it is worn more like a visor than a helmet.
The decision to make it possible to sneak a glimpse at meatspace with your peripheral vision was made on purpose by Meta.
The company’s work was motivated in part by the desire to develop a system that facilitates simultaneous virtual and real-world interaction. However, full light blockers are available for an additional $50, and side-mounted blinders are included in the box if you prefer that kind of viewing.
Altering the contour of your body is a breeze as well. The headband may be adjusted using a dial located in the rear. You may adjust the eyecups left or right independently to change your IPD (interpupillary distance). While the Quest Pro isn’t nearly as light as the Quest 2, its optics are significantly smaller because of the use of innovative pancake optics rather than the more conventional fresnel lenses.
Meanwhile, the Quest Pro outperforms both the Quest 2 (1440 x 1600 per eye) and the Valve Index (1600 x 1200 per eye) in terms of pixel density, while it still falls short of the Vive Pro 2 (2448 x 2448 per eye).
Visuals are impressive even without a very high PPI. Using a wireless headset that doesn’t require a PC, Meta has successfully reduced the screen door effect to an almost negligible level. Great resolution and high-quality visuals are combined with a battery life of around an hour and a half. In addition, the Quest Pro may be charged via the included cable for those who desire even longer VR experiences.
Five external cameras and five inside cameras make up the total of 10 sensors on the Quest Pro. The external sensors have a dual purpose: they enable full-colour passthrough (the Quest 2’s beta version of this feature is just black-and-white), so you can view the world around you without taking off the headset.
This facilitates a more seamless transition between virtual reality and the real world. And Meta’s passthrough is rather clear, making even tiny items like keyboard keys simple to make out (though not necessarily the letters printed on them).
Scene understanding, a feature of Meta’s presence platform, is bolstered by the outside cameras. With the help of scene understanding, the outside sensors of the Quest Pro can identify commonplace items like walls, desks, tables, etc. Despite its apparent simplicity, this has significant consequences. I used the Painting VR software to make my own personal Bob Ross, and then I hung the painting on a wall in the room so that anybody who came in could enjoy it.
Scene understanding also enables the headset to detect objects like a keyboard, allowing you to set up numerous virtual displays in Meta’s Horizon Workrooms office programme while still being able to pound on actual keys.
This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for virtual work collaboration. Because it is integrated into Meta’s presence platform, developers can simply utilise related APIs to support the technology in their apps, and scene understanding seems like a crucial component of Meta’s endeavour to merge VR with the real world.
While doing so, the Quest Pro’s internal sensors will monitor your head and face motions. Foveated rendering is made possible by this, allowing the headset to display high-quality images in the centre of your field of view while reducing the performance of the graphics in your periphery.
I realise this may seem eerie, but eye and face tracking really improves the VR experience when interacting with other people.
The ability to interpret facial emotions and realistic head and eye movements just made dialogue feel more natural, which was something I immediately observed during my first trial of the Quest Pro in Horizon Workrooms, where another representative from Meta was exhibiting different functions.
I could just nod my head in response to yes questions and the other person would assume I was agreeing and move on. This eliminates a significant social barrier to virtual reality adoption: the discomfort of engaging with strangers online.
More than just making avatars look more real, the Quest Pro’s face and eye-tracking may be utilised in games for things like motion capture or generating alien monsters using your own motions. In addition, developers may tweak a few simple parameters to get even more extreme results. Again, the development tools are readily available because eye and face tracking is already an integral part of Meta’s presence platform.
Compared to rivals employing conventional fresnel lenses, Meta’s headset is 40 per cent thinner because of the use of innovative pancake optics.
Sam Rutherford / Engadget
In addition to the headgear, Meta also rethought the Quest Pro’s controllers, which are, as a bonus, compatible with the original Quest. No longer will you need the bulky loops utilised by the Quest 2’s joysticks, since the new controllers have sensors integrated into them to follow your motions instead of depending on headset cameras.
That said, the sensors also enable finger and hand tracking that is far more exact. And it simply seems to function. It seemed quite natural to use the Quest Pro’s controls for activities like painting and grabbing virtual things. Games like Jenga and Operation were playable in a demo. Also, the responsiveness of the controls made the need to remove bricks without bringing down the tower very real.
After two hours of demos spanning seven or eight apps, I was really pleased. On a standalone system with these visuals, the Quest Pro is easily the most comfortable virtual reality headset I have experienced.
Putting on and taking off the headset was no more of a hassle than donning a hat, and inserting my hands through the protective covers on the controllers was reminiscent of using a Wiimote or Nintendo Switch Joy-Con. And keep in mind that this is all coming from a wireless, wire-free headset, so there’s no need to worry about hooking it up to a nearby, (likely pricey) computer with a discrete graphics processing unit (GPU).
Nevertheless, there are a few minor issues I have with the Quest Pro. Better hand straps, like the ones on the Valve Index’s joysticks, would make it far less of a hassle to switch between button presses and finger movements. It also has a hefty price tag of $1,500.
The amount of technology contained therein makes the asking price reasonable in my opinion. However, it’s five times the cost of a Quest 2, so it’ll take a lot more convincing for the average customer to shell out that much cash for a headset that isn’t quite there yet.
Additionally, it is important to remember that Meta is still very much in the process of expanding into a unified virtual environment that users will enjoy exploring. The fact that even some of the company’s own workers have been avoiding Horizon Worlds because of bugs and quality control difficulties further adds to the urgency of this matter.
However, I feel that all the major hardware issues have been resolved after reading Meta’s responses to them. With the use of face and eye-tracking technology, virtual reality discussions can feel more real. Improved finger and hand tracking facilitate the manipulation of virtual objects.
As a bonus, the complete setup is intuitive and includes a standalone headset that is both light and comfortable, while also providing superior images to most of the tethered alternatives available (apart from extremely pricey enterprise choices like Varjo’s VR-3 and the like). The headset is equipped with a wireless charging port that, while a little finicky to operate, makes it simple to keep the headset charged and ready for use at any time.
After trying out the Quest Pro, I’m convinced that this is the VR headset Meta needs to deliver a top-notch experience while designing new software and settings. I’m not sure if this will be enough to get people to give up their jobs and move into VR full-time, but the Quest Pro certainly looks like a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to allowing the Metaverse.
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