Burlingame, United States – Good news, readers: after using nearly every VR headset made in the past seven years, including Mark Zuckerberg’s latest $1500 Meta goggles, I’ve seen the best of what the Metaverse could offer.
Yes, the best is already here and has been for some time.
These are video games.
Zuckerberg and other tech leaders want us to buy these gadgets to live out their fantasy that the Metaverse will be an immersive virtual world where we shop, socialize and work. But consumers don’t have to follow the whims of business leaders.
Gaming has been the most compelling use of these headsets since the Oculus Rift arrived in 2016. The introduction of this contraption, a clunky headset that plugs into a personal computer, ushered in the reality mainstream virtual reality, and the first wave of apps were geared towards that kind of entertainment. Based on extensive testing of this device, as well as the myriad of competitors that followed and the new Meta Quest Pro to be released this week, it seems safe to conclude that the technology has found its sweet spot.
Headsets are immersive and portable video game consoles. People should buy them for the same reasons they get PlayStations and Nintendos: to be entertained and to find brief escapes from the real world – not to live out the wacky dreams of tech leaders.
Meta envisions high-resolution headsets, new enterprise-focused software, and super-fast internet connections will transform the way we work, collaborate, and create art. In company jargon, the Quest Pro could unlock “net new use cases.” Still, when asked, product executives couldn’t name a “killer app” for the whimsical new headgear.
“We’ll learn with the developers once the device hits the market,” said Anand Dass, director of metaverse content at Meta, during a product briefing this month.
In other words, Meta’s selling point for the Quest Pro is the potential for it to be life-changing by enabling tasks that previously couldn’t be done. It’s a powerful and compelling narrative, but it’s a vision that has yet to be realized.
There’s a valuable lesson amid all the hype surrounding virtual glasses (augmented, mixed, whatever you want to call it): we shouldn’t spend our money on a company’s hopes and promises for what a technology could become . We should buy these helmets for what they currently do. And from what I’ve seen, for the foreseeable future the Meta Quest Pro will be primarily a gaming device. (I predict the same outcome for Apple’s headset due to be unveiled next year.)
After removing the headset and returning to reality-reality, I could only imagine wanting to use these new features to play games.
At Meta’s office in Burlingame, Calif., I strapped on the Quest Pro to see what was new. Meta highlighted three features: the headset’s high-definition image, which receives four times the pixels of its predecessor, the $400 Quest 2; the range of in-helmet cameras, which can now create real-time rendering of your facial expressions and eye movements; and new motion controllers with improved pressure sensitivity so you can gently squeeze a virtual object or grab it aggressively.
Meta employees and app developers gave me a tour of an hour-long software tailor-made for the headset. I created a digital avatar of my face that mimicked my smiles and frowns as I raised a curious eyebrow. I made 3D drawings and threw virtual darts.
I found the improved graphics and controllers impressive (and my animated avatar a bit creepy), but after removing the headset and coming back to reality, I could only imagine wanting to use these new features to play games. .
My favorite VR game, Blaston, which came out in 2020 and involves players shooting each other in a virtual arena, would likely benefit from improved motion controllers to make the trigger presses for the various guns more realistic. PokerStars VR, where players gather around a virtual card table to play Texas Hold’em, would be more fun if we could capture each player’s facial expressions.
At the end of the demo, I also doubted that I could work with this headset. In a promotional video for the product, Meta suggested the Quest Pro could be a multitasker for workers juggling meetings while scrolling through emails and other tasks. But the device’s battery only lasts one to two hours, according to Meta. (The headset can still be used while plugged in, but using a computer is less hassle.)
An hour or two of battery life is enough for one thing, though. You guessed it: games.
This is the reality on which we must base our purchasing decisions. Even Meta doesn’t seem to believe that many people will buy the Quest Pro. He said the target audience for the device would be early adopters, designers and businesses. If you fall into one of these camps, I recommend a wait-and-see approach to assessing whether useful virtual reality applications become available for your profession.
The company left a more obvious niche off its target list: hardcore gamers willing to spend big bucks on every new gaming hardware. They’re in for a treat. In addition to providing access to high resolution VR games designed for the Quest Pro, the headset will work with hundreds of games already designed for the Quest 2.
A lot of these older Quest 2 titles are pretty good. Games that get your heart pumping and sweaty, like Beat Saber and FitXR, both of which involve swinging your arms to punch things, are a godsend in an age when people have to wear smartwatches to remind them to sleep. get up.
None of this – a first impression that the Quest Pro will be ideal for playing games and will be used primarily for entertainment – isn’t a bad thing. The fact that we can get visually stunning and immersive gaming in a lightweight, wireless headset means virtual reality has come a long way in less than a decade. For now, that’s the only reason to buy one.
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