Mixed reality headset manufacturers seem to be faced with a choice: do it well or do it cheap. Apple Vision Pro starts at $3,500 and is definitely not cheap. However, those who have tried Vision Pro agree that the experience is technologically impressive.
Can the same be said about Meta's new Quest 3 mixed reality headset? The $500 XR headset is, of course, only loosely defined as cheap due to Apple's hard-to-understand pricing. However, is it possible to sell mixed reality at literally a fraction of the price of Vision Pro and still make the experience compelling?
Meta Mixed Reality Reviews
The phrase “mixed reality” appears a dozen times in CNET's review of Meta Quest 3. For context, Meta Quest 2 offers a TV version of mixed reality from the early '60s. That is, it only displayed your surroundings in grayscale with low accuracy. Quest 3 adds some color.
So how? Here's a summary of the review:
Results vary. The color cameras are better than the Quest 2 and even Meta's more expensive Quest Pro (a headset that, other than the eye-tracking feature, is now irrelevant). But they're not as good as what I saw during a demo of Apple's Vision Pro headset earlier this year. They are good enough to see around and even read something on a phone or watch by squinting slightly. […]
The layered mixed reality graphics effect works well enough to be convincing, but it's far from perfect. Virtual things can be located “behind” recognized objects and furniture that are networked, but sometimes they overlap in strange ways.
So, mixed reality in Meta 3 mostly works, but is it useful? ?
But what is it used for? Ah, that's the question. Right now there are some fun but gimmicky games with mixed reality modes that make things look like they're in your room with you. There are creative apps, some still optimized for the Quest Pro with less mixed reality capabilities, that allow you to create creative work or designs in your own space. For example, VR drawing works with a virtual easel, or there are apps like Figmin XR that allow you to draw in the air. Tribe is a DJ app where you can still see your surroundings. The smart app PianoVision lets you learn to play the piano by tapping on the table.
It looks like the verdict is still out. Well, not if you ask The Verge:
The problem is that Quest 3 has almost nothing interesting in mixed reality. The most interesting MR experience I've ever had was First Encounters, a mini-game where tiny aliens that look like Kush balls make holes in your room and try to attack you while you're trying to catch them. It's fun, silly and really makes you feel like your house has been crashed into by an alien ship. It's much more fun to play First Encounters in your basement than in a pure VR space. But First Encounters is a demo experience that will teach you how to use mixed reality! This is a bad sign that this is the best thing on the platform. Almost everything else I've tried has been fun but simple – like cubism, a puzzle game – or essentially a tech demo.
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I have no interest in virtual reality and will absolutely not defend the meta or any meta hardware that I haven't tried… but looking at it objectively there are a lot of problems when comparing these two devices right now, especially with the way they were made reviews.
With Meta Quest 3, reviewers can test independently, without supervision. The fact that these reviews were made by tech journalists who were allowed to play with them as they wished is bound to expose some shortcomings that weren't apparent during the careful announcement – the quality of the video delivery, the uselessness of the apps, the quality of the mixed reality. overlays, etc.
As for Vision Pro… we don't know what it will be like in the real world. The only experimental reviews we received were from a carefully selected 30-minute demo to a select group of people. We don't know how it will handle video in low light, we don't know how well it will handle any third party apps, we don't know what it will be like to use it for more than 30 days. minutes, etc.
I'm not saying the Quest is great or the Vision Pro is terrible… I'm just saying it's unreasonable to make the “you have free rein” comparison. to test this in every possible way,” from a real-life review to a curated demo, “we're going to walk you through a scenario that we know works really well.”
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Meanwhile, TechCrunch describes Meta's mixed reality as “darker and lower resolution” than real reality.
Passthrough gets better every year, but no one wearing the headset will be fooled into thinking it's transparent. Passthrough is darker and lower resolution than reality. There is a slight delay and the image may sometimes appear distorted. However, your eyes and brain adapt quite quickly, and the effect is much better than using standalone VR. It's significantly better in terms of situational awareness, and the built-in depth sensors do a good job of identifying landmarks and obstacles where the graphics might get mixed up.
Come to think of it, that's about as easy to describe as my aging eyes see reality. You may need to look no further than the title of the UploadVR Quest 3 review to judge the mixed reality version of the Meta: an excellent virtual reality headset with barely passable mixed reality.
Meta's Reality Check
Gee, it's almost like Meta is making its marginally improved virtual reality headset seem like something that should be compared with Apple Vision Pro. Here we have what Apple is positioning as the next evolution of computing, and a virtual reality headset that Apple emphatically did not make.
The reality, I think, is that no consumer should have to weigh these two factors. products as competing purchases. The Meta wants to get into a fight that it can win on price, but there doesn't seem to be any such fight in reality. One product is literally built for mixed reality, and the other is Meta Quest 3.