Mark Zuckerberg has staked everything that his company has to offer on the success of the metaverse. Last year, he rebranded Facebook as Meta, and so far in 2018, he has invested $10 billion in Meta’s Reality Labs, which is the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality development organization. Even though there was a lot of pressure to reduce the amount of investment and put more of a focus on the primary advertising business, Reality Labs was not reduced particularly severely during this week’s massive layoffs at Meta.
As a result, the Quest Pro, which is Meta’s latest virtual reality headset, is under a great deal of scrutiny. It is supposed to be able to host meetings, take the place of large monitors, and produce a longer-lasting sense of connection to other people while they are in VR, but it has to start delivering on a massive list of promises about the future of work. The Quest 2 game console that Meta created has had some level of success, but the Quest Pro, which retails for $1,499 and is supposed to be compatible with software developed by Microsoft, marks the beginning of a new generation of personal computers.
The Quest Pro suffers from a number of shortcomings, which is unfortunate. It is a device that appears to have been released without a plan or purpose, showcasing VR’s ongoing shortcomings while failing to make good use of VR’s capabilities, and it is capped off with some software that is unredeemably terrible. There is a possibility that we are witnessing a road plan for the future of Meta, but for the time being, it is not a particularly enjoyable place to be. And if it stays there for a significant amount of time, the metaverse will be in jeopardy.
The Quest 2 will still be available for purchase independently from the Meta Quest Pro, which is a high-end alternative to the Quest 2. It is a virtual reality headset that is self-contained and has improved internal specifications, as well as two important new features: mixed reality with a full-color video stream, and face tracking using cameras that face inward. Meta envisions the Quest Pro as a virtual office where users can meet up with their coworkers and shift between fully immersive VR and a restricted type of augmented reality (AR).
Although Meta has referred to the Quest as a “VR Nintendo Switch,” the company is adapting the Quest Pro for a market that is able to purchase a more expensive headset, beginning with the way it appears and how it fits. The Quest Pro is a menacing-looking chunk of black plastic that has been polished to a mirror finish. It has a black plastic halo that sits around your head and tightens via a wheel at the rear, just like the first PlayStation VR did. This replaces the cotton straps that come with the Quest 2, which are found on the Quest 2. The headset weighs 722 grams, which is more than the Quest 2’s weight of 503 grams. However, the weight of the headset has been redistributed so that it is less front-heavy by moving the battery to the back of the device.
Following a Quest Pro demonstration, I fell in love with this design, and I believe that it still has some redeeming qualities. The basic Quest 2 strap system, which sometimes gave the impression that it was about to slip off, is replaced by a strap system that fits the headset more firmly. My long hair is not going to get caught in any of the velcro because there is none.
But ever since I tried out the Quest Pro for the first time, the experience has only been more frustrating. The ring rests almost all of its considerable weight on my high forehead, which can occasionally cause a tingling or numbing sensation throughout the perimeter of my hairline. Although I get a somewhat better sensation when I keep the fit a little bit loose, doing so makes the headset less stable whether I’m playing games or participating in other high-intensity activities. It is a worse experience than the Quest 2 with its optional Elite Strap, which includes an over-the-head strap for balance and yet leaves the Quest 2 around 100 grams lighter than the Quest Pro. This is because the over-the-head strap is included with the Quest 2’s Elite Strap.
Although the battery doesn’t last quite as long as it does in the Quest 2, I had a hard time using the Quest Pro for long enough to completely drain the battery.
Meta has also compromised in terms of the hardware it uses. For example, the face mask of this headset is not as deep as the one on the Quest 2, and as a result, you will have a better view of the real world around you even when wearing it. If you want to block out even more light, you can either clip on a set of magnetic silicone wings that are included in the package and function like blinders, or you can purchase a separate mask for $49 that blocks out virtually all light. That’s a wonderful bit of versatility to have, but the headgear in its default setting continuously made me queasy. I believe this was caused by the frequent visual clash between the real and virtual worlds. (My coworker and supervisor Nilay Patel, who uses Quest 2 on a regular basis, encountered the identical issues.) Once I put the blinders on, I had no problems, but I’m expecting that some people won’t make it to that stage; they’ll have motion sickness and decide that virtual reality isn’t for them. I had no problems once I put the blinders on.
Meta promises that the Quest Pro’s battery would only last between one and two hours, whereas the Quest 2’s battery will last between two and three. This is another disadvantage of the Quest Pro. During my testing, the battery lasted significantly longer than I had anticipated; on average, a single charge would last me slightly more than two hours. In most cases, however, this argument was rendered moot by the fact that I was unable to keep the headset on my head for that long without taking a break.
In addition to that, I have a few nitpicky concerns. Because the power button for the Quest Pro is located on the underside of the device, next to the left temple, I have a tendency to inadvertently put the headset to sleep whenever I try to change its fit. On the other side of the device is a volume rocker that is an annoyingly shallow sliver that is difficult to press. The Quest Pro comes with software that features a “fit adjustment” warning, which will assist you in adjusting the focus wheel and lens distance so that you can see more clearly. However, it is quite sensitive, as evidenced by the fact that it prompts me to readjust my headset each time I run a new application. Additionally, it requires actions that aren’t truly feasible, such as turning the depth wheel further than it is able to spin.
There aren’t many shining stars in the industrial design, but the new controllers and charging method for Meta are two of them. The original Oculus Touch controllers had half-moon-shaped LED bands on them, and the cameras on the headset followed their movement. The controllers now come equipped with their very own built-in cameras, which are capable of operating independently from the tracking provided by the headset. When you first pick up the new Quest controllers, it may take a few seconds for them to calibrate, which is the only significant change I’ve noticed between them and the previous ones. The tracking on the old Quest controllers was outstanding. In the meanwhile, removing the bands from the controllers makes them significantly more compact. As a result, when you place your hands together, the controllers will no longer awkwardly collide with each other.
In addition, the AA batteries that were previously housed within the controllers have been changed with rechargeable cells that are integrated in. When you’re not using the controllers, you can place them on a charging dock that comes packaged with the headset. (A USB-C cable can also be used to charge the headset in an indirect fashion.) The technique of attaching the controllers and headset to the magnetic ports on the dock requires some finesse at first, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it will save you the hassle of having to keep a different wire for each individual piece of hardware. Even though the rechargeable batteries don’t have the same lifespan as disposable ones — I could get weeks of use out of the Quest 2 controllers, but the Quest Pro controllers only gave me a session that lasted closer to three to four hours — the dock makes it easy to keep the controllers charged alongside the headset while you’re using them. In addition, similar to the Quest 2, you may utilize hand tracking to navigate the primary user interface and certain applications.
It is already possible to purchase a set of Pro controllers and use them in conjunction with the Quest 2, despite the fact that the controllers on their own come with a hefty price tag of $299 each. I really hope these improvements are incorporated into all subsequent iterations of the Quest headset. However, other than that, it is difficult to consider the Quest Pro a clear advance from the Quest 2.
The requirements have been raised, indeed. The Quest Pro has a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Plus processor, as opposed to the non-plus XR2 processor found in the Quest 2, and it comes in a single model with 256GB of storage, as opposed to 128GB and 256GB options seen in the Quest 2. However, it is likely that the majority of developers will continue building to the specifications of the Quest 2, which means it is doubtful that you will get large exclusive games on the Quest Pro, which isn’t built for gaming anyhow. Because of the way the headset fit, gaming was difficult. I’ve had a lot of fun playing The Quest 2 for extended stretches at a time. The screen is not meaningfully upgraded in any way by the Quest Pro, which is another highly crucial component.
The resolution of the Quest Pro is almost the same as that of the Quest 2, which is 1832 × 1920 pixels. Each eye on the Quest Pro has 1800 x 1920 pixels. In principle, it offers superior contrast and a very slightly higher pixel density per eye, but when I compared both devices side-by-side, I found it difficult to distinguish between the two. It is still grainy enough that photos may be seen clearly, but small text is unclear due to the grain. The field of view, which is comparable to that of the Quest 2, measures 106 degrees horizontally and 96 degrees vertically, and it provides an experience that is completely usable but a little goggle-like.
Given the enormous price gap between the two headsets, I am unable to suggest the Quest Pro to the typical VR user as a better alternative to Meta’s older gear. The Quest 3 will be released in 2023, and it is highly likely that it will have some form of internal changes at a price that is nearly probably lower than that of the Pro. Face tracking and color passthrough video are currently the features that set the Quest Pro apart from the Quest 2; however, while I can see the potential of both of these features, Meta still hasn’t quite figured out what they’re good for. Consequently, the Quest Pro is currently priced higher than the Quest 2.
Displaying a live video stream of the outside world through a headset, passthrough video is a technology that bridges the gap between traditional virtual reality and augmented reality glasses like HoloLens. It has a number of advantages over augmented reality glasses that are currently on the market, including (usually) a broader field of view and virtual objects that appear to be entirely solid rather than continuing to be partially see-through. This makes it possible to have things like virtual large-screen displays that sit in front of your face while you work in an otherwise open office.
Meta’s ambitions for their virtual office are hampered by the weight and graininess of the Quest Pro, and Horizon Workrooms brings them to a complete halt.
However, Meta’s color passthrough does not even come close to representing the world as it actually is. The poor display on the Quest Pro causes video recordings to appear blurry. The feed is cloudy when the light levels are low, washed out or flickering when the light levels are high, and sometimes extremely vivid when the light levels are in between. It is nearly impossible to read the screens of real-world devices such as phones or computers through it. It is a good system for dipping into the physical world while you are having a conversation or getting a cup of coffee, but it is not significantly more helpful (or enjoyable) than the black-and-white passthrough that is available in the Quest 2 game.
The Quest Pro was meant to contain a depth sensor, which would have allowed it to map actual space and given the headset some situational awareness. However, the depth sensor was never implemented. In the end, Meta decided against pursuing the notion, which severely restricts the capabilities of the headset. The Quest Pro includes some fully functional augmented reality applications, such as a painting tool that enables you to pin your creations to the walls of your actual homes. However, in order to accomplish this, you will need to use a cumbersome room setup tool to manually draw the locations of the walls. This tool is distinct from the guardian system, which is responsible for indicating your available space in a room.
The capabilities of the camera that faces inward are even more astounding. I found the face tracking to be limiting and peculiar; it was unable to reflect expressions such as when I was biting my lip, and it seemed to be under the impression that my eyes were half-closed for the most of the time. (Since I am a white lady with rather average-looking features, this is not an illustration of computer vision’s ongoing difficulties interpreting the faces of people of color.) When it does function, though, it brings a new and exciting dimension of realism to the virtual interactions that are taking place. On top of the head and hand motion that VR headsets already permit, you can suddenly see when someone is smiling or appearing perplexed.
Eye tracking, on the other hand, enables foveated rendering, which allows applications to display virtual objects in more detail. This is accomplished by simply drawing the pixels in front of your eyes in a sharper fashion. Given that the Quest is still powered by a mobile processor with restricted processing capacity, this functionality holds a lot of promise, particularly for gaming.
However, the application of this is restricted at the moment. The game Red Matter 2 is the only known application for Meta that uses foveated rendering. It renders at a high resolution in the Quest Pro, although it is still hindered by the inherent graininess. The face tracking feature is most useful in Horizon, which is a social platform developed by Meta. Horizon features a personal office environment known as Workrooms as well as a Roblox-style gaming “metaverse” known as Worlds. Both the Quest 2 and the Quest Pro have access to the Worlds and Workrooms content packs, but the Workrooms content pack is geared more toward Pro users. And there’s just no sugarcoating it: it’s one of the worst apps I’ve ever used. There’s no other way to phrase it.
For years, Meta has been adding social networking bloat to the entire Quest platform. This will culminate in the forced connection of a Facebook account in the year 2020, followed by the connection of a new Meta account system in the year 2022. (If you want to avoid having to set up an additional password, you can log into your Meta account using Facebook instead, which is something I find more convenient but also extremely redundant.)
This configuration has been promoted by Meta as a means of achieving seamless social integration. But in reality, it’s a convoluted palimpsest that doesn’t even perform things you’d fairly expect it to do, and this is something that is particularly obvious in Workrooms. Workrooms is a social app in the sense that it was designed to facilitate meetings amongst coworkers; but, unlike Facebook or Meta, it does not make use of your current social network. It requires you to check in with a different web app in order to set up meetings using email invitations, and then you have to switch back to the headset in order to access the sessions.
Commercial virtual reality is already a well-defined submarket, and Meta may find a place for itself there.
After that, the Workrooms experience is mostly determined by random chance, and this holds true even after a full year of the platform’s availability. It is possible that your coworkers will receive the invitation, or it is possible that you will have to manually find a link and email it to them, which may or may not allow them to join the event. After what seems like an endless loading screen, you may eventually be able to join the virtual area, but other times you may be forced to exit and restart the process multiple times. It’s the equivalent of spinning a roulette wheel built by Franz Kafka, with the grand prize being a high-end Zoom conference as the winner’s reward.
The personal office component of Workrooms is a little bit superior, mostly due to the fact that it is simpler. As was just mentioned, this function gives you the ability to install remote desktop software on your Mac or PC, after which you may project the contents of your actual computer onto as many as three virtual large displays that are contained within the headset. However, the Quest Pro hardware is not yet suitable for use in an office setting full-time. The weight prevents it from being comfortable, and the screen renders the writing on websites and apps extremely unclear. During this review, I swore to myself that I would use the headset as a full-time computing device. However, I only managed to use it for about a day before I had to cut back to using it for shorter sessions because it was just too painful for both my head and my eyes.
In addition, Workrooms are an essential component of the Meta Quest Pro gameplay approach. One of the few uses for a VR headgear that even doubters of the technology have mentioned to me is for viewing VR content on large screens. The rise of remote work has resulted in the emergence of a significant new industry: virtual meetings. Although there is already a market for enterprise virtual reality, which is based on services such as 3D visualization and workplace training, Meta is wasting a significant amount on the concept of trying to convince the average office worker to use a headset.
It’s possible that the impending software collaborations that Meta has lined up, including one with Microsoft, may help attract users. The pricing of the Quest Pro is not unreasonable for businesses, as it is on pace with other enterprise headsets such as HTC’s Vive Focus 3 and less expensive than the Varjo professional portfolio of products. But for those specialized enterprise markets, I’m not convinced that the Quest Pro’s additional features will be that much of a draw either — and the headset does not include some useful features that you’d find in alternatives like the Vive Focus, such as swappable batteries. For example, the Quest Pro doesn’t include any of these features.
The consumer VR industry is still in its early stages, and Meta has always had to make concessions with the headsets it produces. On the other hand, it will typically offer something that is beyond them. The first version of the Oculus Rift launched with games that highlighted the sheer wonder of looking around in a virtual reality space despite the fact that it did not include motion controllers and had an elaborate tracking setup. The first Quest had limited graphic power, but it offered a catalog of experiences that worked great with wireless VR and motion controllers. This was a significant improvement over the previous Quest. These headphones had functionality that was unrivaled by anything else available on the market.
The Quest Pro lacks any of that careful management that the other versions have. It is being promoted for uses that its technology is not yet capable of making fun, and it offers capabilities that are technically new but does a poor job of showing those features. Even when they were performing poorly, previous Meta headsets had a magical quality to them. When I use the Quest Pro, it just feels like more labor.
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Nalani Rodriguez, a writer who is always seeking new ways to push the limits of what's possible with my words and explore the complexities of the human experience. I believe that writing is not just about expressing oneself, but about exploring the world and the human experience in all its forms and complexities. I strive to create stories that are both challenging and thought-provoking, that reveal the beauty and complexity of the world and the human experience. I believe that writing has the power to connect us with others, to bring us closer together, and to help us understand ourselves and the world around us.